Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
Not long ago, people across the country put their lives on hold for a few minutes, gathered with friends and strangers, and gazed into the heavens to see something that happens here only every few decades — a total solar eclipse. The moon passed between the Earth and the sun in the North American sky. From the perspective of some observers, the sun was completely eclipsed, and day turned to night for a brief, stunning moment.
What was it that made the eclipse such a powerful experience for those who witnessed it? For some, it served as a reminder of how truly beautiful the heavens are. Sun up, sun down, day in and day out — we don't even think about it, but the universe functions like clockwork.
Perhaps it takes something like an eclipse for us to even notice these remarkable, heavenly spheres. But the sun and the moon, the Earth and the stars continue to shine and rotate and move throughout space. This truly is an astonishing universe.
But then, at least part of the significance of this event came not from what we saw in the sky but what we saw around us. Something wonderful happens when we gather to experience something sublime and transcendent together. Our sights and our thoughts are lifted beyond the here and now, beyond the barriers that divide us. We are reminded that we all live and breathe on the same magnificent planet, with plenty of common experiences that bind us together.
Just as we don't appreciate the sun until it's gone for a moment, we sometimes don't really appreciate our loved ones, our health and our blessings, our neighbors and communities, until something changes. The recent eclipse gave us an opportunity to reflect on this beautiful universe, the people in it, and our shared humanity. But let's not wait another several decades for the next opportunity.
We can look up to heaven and look to each other a little more and glory in our wonderful world and the people in it. Amazing things can happen in the heavens and in our hearts if we look for them.