C-Force: Seeing the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8 Could Be Life-Changing

: Chuck Norris on

As you likely have heard, read or witnessed, the first lunar eclipse of 2024, which also occurred during a full moon, took place last Monday, March 25. According to EarthSky, it was projected to be visible "in Japan, the eastern half of Australia, North and South America, western Africa and western Europe." As spectacular as it may have been for those who witnessed it, it was but a prelude to the bigger show: a total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8.

Seems like there is nothing quite like the profound effects such an event have on people witnessing a solar eclipse, especially when it comes to inducing a state of "awe." Maria Monroy is a postdoctoral associate in the department of psychology at Yale University and the lead author of a forthcoming study on the psychological effects of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, in Salem, Oregon. According to National Geographic's Kathleen Rellihan, during the study Monroy was particularly focused on "how awe makes people more prosocial -- acting to benefit others rather than themselves. Studies have already shown the connections between awe and curiosity, and Monroy's surveys taken after the 2017 eclipse showed that the more awe people felt during the eclipse, the more curious and connected they felt about others."

According to Hope Reese in a New York Times article, Dacher Keltner, a psychologist and the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that awe is "simpler than we think -- and accessible to everyone." Many things can trigger a sense of awe, from seeing your child's first steps to observing a vast natural wonder.

"Dr. Keltner writes that awe is critical to our well-being -- just like joy, contentment? and love," Reese writes. Research suggests it has tremendous health benefits that include "calming down our nervous system and triggering the release of oxytocin, the 'love' hormone that promotes trust and bonding."

Kelter is considered a pioneer in the "science of awe." Reese writes that his research has shown "awe activates the vagal nerves, clusters of neurons in the spinal cord that regulate various bodily functions, and slows our heart rate, relieves digestion? and deepens breathing. ... Many of us have a critical voice in our head, telling us we're not smart, beautiful or rich enough. Awe seems to quiet this negative self-talk, Dr. Keltner said, by deactivating the default mode network, the part of the cortex involved in how we perceive ourselves."

Reese notes that Keltner "is especially critical in the age of social media." According to Keltner, "We are at this cultural moment of narcissism and self-shame and criticism and entitlement; awe gets us out of that."

"Experts say standing under the shadow of the moon leaves us awestruck, more connected to the wonders of our world and the people we share it with," Rellihan writes.

Witnessing an eclipse can bring people together and change how they see the world. The Southwest Texas town of Uvalde is a good example of this. It was in the path of the annular solar eclipse that took place last year on Oct. 14 and will be in the eclipse's path of totality for the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8. This year's eclipse day will be held at the Solar Eclipse Village in Garner State Park and is the primary eclipse outreach event for Uvalde County. A big celebration is being planned, including live broadcasts of the event.

"We all need to experience it," says "eclipse chaser" Kate Russo, a clinical psychologist who helped create the Solar Eclipse Village as a community gathering space. "Russo's first total solar eclipse experience in 1999 was such a life-altering event she knew immediately she had to see one again," Rellihan writes. She is now considered a leader in the study of the effects that eclipses have on humans and has authored several books on the subject. She conducted a pilot project that was the first study to monitor physical reactions to an eclipse. By measuring high-amplitude, low-frequency brain waves, Russo demonstrated a state of "heightened introspection" among study participants.


"Awe is quite a complex emotion," Russo explains to National Geographic. "It feels like you're in the presence of something greater than yourselves. And awe challenges how you think about things in the world. ... Awe gets us out of our own heads. When you experience awe during totality (in an eclipse), or even a little awe at sunrise (and) sunset, you step out of that default mode network and instead of interpreting everything from your own perspective, you lose yourself a little bit.

"We share our greatest moments of awe with others in 'collective effervescence.' Just as a starling murmuration in the sky moves as one, during totality the crowd behaves as one. ... Fans chanting during sports games or singing along during music concerts are other examples of this collective energy. The crowd is one; you are part of the moment."

Uvalde will not be the only Texas town observing and celebrating the solar eclipse on April 8. As recently reported by USA Today, in Gatesville, Texas, "members of Coryell Community Church will congregate at the campus' hilltop site where a trio of 70-foot crosses tower over the city of 17,000, 38 miles west of Waco.

"The region lies in the center of the approaching solar eclipse's path of totality, the last such event to affect the contiguous United States until 2044. ... Coryell's 'Eclipse of the Crosses' family gathering will feature live music, games, and worship."

Mark Horowitz, chief operating officer for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo, says, "Some people believe (this event) is a time for prayer and introspection." Says Eric Moffett, Coryell's lead pastor, "An eclipse is yet another opportunity to witness the handiwork of God that exists in the universe." And according to USA Today, astronomy professor Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University says "witnessing a solar eclipse ... can provide a spiritual experience, even for those who aren't necessarily religious."


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