Every Christmas my father would unleash his operatic voice in his signature solo: "The Holy City." And he'd always add dramatic pop to the verse that begins:
The sun grew dark with mystery
The morn was cold and chill
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.
Last Monday, the sun actually did grow dark, but not so much with mystery nowadays. As with so much today, science has exposed the natural clockworks that once passed for spontaneous magic. We marvel. But we no longer panic.
I was golfing with my buddy Max when the otherworldly light hit the course. We commented, then played on without looking up. I did muse, however, over what the ancients would have made of the moment. They would have panicked, I'm sure. For no reason, the sun took back its life-giving light. No more crops. No more vision. No more warmth. To people 1,000 years ago, it would have felt like a curse.
My wife was at Brigham Young University for Education Week, sitting in the classroom of our family friend Tyler Griffin. She said the scene at the school was like a very slow, well-ordered fire drill. People went outside, took a look around, then returned to their seats.
My point is, we've learned what not to fear. We no longer fear natural wonders in the sky. The problem is, we don't know what is worth fearing. We struggle to distinguish what's deadly from what's benign.
We're not even sure that tuning in to spiritual light itself is worth our efforts.
"Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice," Robert Frost wrote.
But Frost missed a third option.
Some say the world will end when the inner light that guides us becomes so hidden it is eclipsed by darkness.
We're smart enough to know a solar eclipse won't destroy our souls.
We're just not sure what will.
We know that plants, people and porcupines all die when they don't get light. Maybe that should be our first clue. Maybe, with luck, last Monday's eclipse will remind us there are many different types of light and many kinds of eclipses.
A solar eclipse might not kill us.
But an eclipse of our inner light may well do us in.
But like the ancients, we won't see that inner eclipse coming. We'll just stew and fret and worry when it does.