The Physiology of Wonder: An Eclipse Reflection

The Physiology of Wonder: An Eclipse Reflection April 10, 2024

The Physiology of Wonder

An Eclipse Reflection

The experience of the eclipse is something I will never forget. The memory of that event will stay with me always. I have never seen anything like that before. The feelings it evoked, however, were very familiar.

We have all had experiences with the unexpected and the unexplainable. Many of us are taught at an early age to rationalize away those experiences with a shake of the head, and subtle denial, and the comfort of the status quo.

As a younger person, I saw a limited number of unusual phenomena. In college, I had an out of body experience. I found myself surrounded by a greenish light and I said to myself “I am out!,” and with that realization, the experience was over.

Different experiences

Earlier in my life, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that lived in the next block. I spoke with her, but she did not respond. She looked at me, and gave me a spark plug, and walked away in the dusk. I found out the next day, that she had died in a fire in her garage the day before I saw her. I kept the spark plug for many, many years.

On another occasion, flying from the Keys north into Florida, I saw a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, and I remember the experience of seeing this rocket rise through the clouds with a flame trailing behind it.

As I became aware of the household spirits around me, I awoke to an apparition in my bedroom. It was a spirit or an entity, not exactly a corporeal being, but a substantial being, nonetheless. When I looked at my cat on the bed, she was looking at the entity as well, and she was scared.

Non-ordinal reality

Each one of these experiences was brief and unexpected, They left a mark on my memory, and on my soul, if I may. Castaneda would have used the term “non-ordinal reality.” That describes the experience to a “T.” In every case, it happened, I experienced it, but it was not an ordinary experience.

The difference with the eclipse is that we were all aware that it was coming. It was not a random, unexplainable event, totally out of the blue. With eclipse glasses in hand, I watched the moon move from southeast to northwest across the face of the sun.

As totality neared, I noticed the quality of the sunlight changed. It became lighter, less substantial just perhaps, more ethereal. As the Moon made its final movement over the Sun, I was shocked by the rapidity of the onset of darkness.

As I looked up, I saw a sight that I pray I will never forget. The Sun had been swallowed by the sky.  The vision that I experienced was incredible, and if I may, truly otherworldly. I can only imagine what the ancients would have thought of it. I wish my mother, who just passed on 2/29, could have seen it.

Somehow, I believe, she did.

A different physiology

Yet something else occurred to me as I watched the Moon rule the sky, with a show that is truly second to none. As with all those other occurrences, unusual, arcane, or mundane, they were all accompanied by a strange sense, an unusual and unique reaction. That reaction I call “the physiology of wonder.”

The physiology of wonder is so powerful and so unique because it represents the body’s reaction to something truly wonderous. Since most of these experiences are not planned and are very fleeting, that sense, that physiology only happens for a moment.

When the eclipse happened yesterday, and I had 113 seconds to experience that feeling. I understood – and remembered – that this given feeling has accompanied all the non-ordinal experiences I have encountered.

There are many physiologies: that feeling at the top of the big drop of the roller coaster, that feeling as one dives off the high board, the feeling of newfound love, the sensation of wonder when the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon.

I like to think that this physiology represents a true openness, an acknowledgement of awe and wonder. This is a profound feeling, one not driven by electricity or any other man-made agent. It is the pure awe and joy and wonder that comes from experiencing the beauty and the wonder of the unknown, as a learning experience, and as a religious event.

I can understand why people travel great distances to see the eclipse. I was blessed – by the Gods – with the ability to see one. If the Gods are kind, I will get to see another. Armed with my glasses and the knowledge of what is to come, I will await the physiology of wonder with an open heart and an eager soul.


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