Eclipse : Big Deal?
There was a solar eclipse yesterday. Traditionally, the Chinese (and even Indians) call the phenomenon ‘the heavenly dog eating the sun’. (Hmmm…. why would a humongous dog in the sky devour it so slowly? How does the single bite’s size increase? And if it took bites at it, how does it spit it out whole?) What surprises me is that some older folks who do not understand it as simply the moon passing before the sun expect to be able to see some dog. The ancients would create a din by banging pots and pans to scare the dog away. And hey! It always works! Long live the myth of the heavenly dog! The other ‘camp’ I come across, who also do not understand the phenomenon, are uninterested. ‘Can see eclipse? So? What will happen? Will the world end?’ It made me wonder if there is such thing as a Middle Way of ‘healthy interest’ in eclipses.
As usual, eclipses always make it to the news. The media will tell you when it’s calculated to occur and how many more years you would have to wait if you miss this cosmic event. (It’s not that cosmic really… it’s just some simple activity in our spatial neighbourhood called the solar system.) By the way, the next time you can see it in Singapore is 10 – 15 years later. Sometimes, you’re ‘pressured’ to feel like a fool for missing an eclipse. But as someone who had seen both solar and lunar eclipses, it’s actually not worth the hype. It just something huge and round (that appears small) casting a huge silhouette in front of something huge and round (that also appears small)!
I’ve seen a solar eclipse with binoculars using this trick. (For a lunar eclipse, you can look at it directly, with or without binoculars or a scope.) Here’s a simpler trick for viewing solar eclipses without blinding yourself – use two strips of old film negatives doubled up as your ‘shades’ and you can see the eclipse in action clearly. (Yes, normal shades don’t offer enough protection.) There’s really no need to visit an observatory, as what you’ll see is simply a bigger image of the sun becoming a thinner crescent in time… before ‘recovering’. The above picture is a poorly focused one on the sun, as ‘seen’ through film. Accura snapped one with his camera set to black and white mode, through film as filters. This is how it looks like. (By the way, I discourage buying new film in this digital age, because photo film is not vegan; it contains gelatin from pigs and cows.)
I used to dream of becoming an astronomer, till I discovered I was talentless at maths, that my infatuation with the cosmos is more in terms of the abstract beauty of celestial bodies, than the equations through which they are formed and dissolved. (Yup, I should had studied the arts instead of science.) I always wanted to experience a full solar eclipse that lasted a substantially long duration – more for psychological reasons than astronomical ones. I want to observe how those who are unaware of the eclipse would react. It is said that nocturnal insects would wake up and make their mating sounds because they assume it’s night! How would surprised humans behave? Some will be afraid, some curious, some fascinated, some non-chalant… How would uninformed parents explain the sudden darkness to their kids?
Okay, ’nuff said. Here is the real Dharma part to share… Those who know basic astrophysics would know that light from the sun takes 8.3333333…. minutes to reach Earth. Though the maximum eclipsing yesterday was forecast to occur at 5.49 pm, it really happened at around 5.41pm; eight plus minutes ago. That is a pretty long lag. The truth is, even the light from the computer screen you are looking at now took some time to travel to your eyes. As such, we are always looking at the past, even if the time-lag seems negligible. We are presently living in the past! We don’t really experience life in a totally ‘live’ or real-time manner – unless we are liberated from the constraints of time and space. When fully enlightened, one’s universal body (Dharmakaya) is able to be at all points in space concurrently. (Paradoxically, real-time takes no time!)
The Mind in the Three Periods of Time Cannot be Grasped
The Late Planet Pluto’s Silent Dharma