Are you planning to take pictures of the eclipse on Monday? Can I suggest that you use your smart phone or camera in a completely different way? Let the experts take professional images of the eclipse. There will be plenty you can purchase or download for free from the internet. Instead of using your iPhone or camera to capture a itsy bitsy out-of-focus picture to the eclipse, why not take pictures of the stunned looks on everyone’s face as they watch the eclipse take place?
When people have the chance to witness something extraordinary, they experience a heightened awareness of mystery and beauty that is enhanced when we’re in a group setting. This normally occurs in nature, when we gaze upon such majestic scenes as the Grand Canyon, a waterfall or even a magnificent sunset. But it can also take place in an amazing cathedral like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome or St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, or a painting like the Mona Lisa or Rembrandt’s Night Watch. I’m sure you’ve experienced this feeling many times yourself (or, at least I hope you have).
Scientists actually call this heightened appreciation of beauty and mystery a state of awe. No, really. Scientists at the University of California in Berkeley (where else?) and other institutions are actually looking into the feeling, which they say leads to greater humility, curiosity, innovation, creativity and a desire to contribute to your community or the world.
Scale is the key to experiencing this state of being. In essence, it happens because you realize that you’re just a tiny little part of the world, the universe, God’s plan. In fact, awe is a way of experiencing God in a first-hand, personal kind of way.
Those researchers at UC Berkeley call it “vastness,” which refers to “anything that is experienced as being much larger than the self, or the self’s ordinary level of experience or frame of reference.” And if you think about it, that’s what’s going to happen when the moon, which is 239,000 miles away moves in front of the sun, which is 93,000,000 miles away, obliterating the orb of the sun and putting the sun’s corona on full and glorious display.
Experiencing awe is wonderful. But it’s a rare and beautiful thing to experience awe with others. Your iPhone or camera cannot possibly capture an image that will allow you to replicate or relive the awe you’re likely to experience when the eclipse occurs, but it can enable you to remember the awe you and the people you were with if you take pictures of that.
Hey, I don’t need an excuse to take selfies. You probably don’t either. But the eclipse on Monday is tailor-made for selfies and people pictures. I’ll share mine, if you do too. Let’s trade shots following the eclipse. Who knows, there might even be a painting to two in the pictures we take!