The Accidental Tourist

Text: Ecclesiastes 1:1-9 (“there is nothing new under the sun”)

As summer draws to a close, I look back on the season. Already this morning we have talked about the big hit of the summer here in Edmonton — the Accidental Beach.

Another major draw for tourists this summer was the total solar eclipse on August 21, one that carved a path across the United States. Did anyone here travel to Oregon or Idaho to experience the eclipse?

The eclipse came to my mind when I read today’s passage from Ecclesiastes and its famous line, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes fits uneasily in Bible, I believe. As with the first nine verses we just heard, much of it is cynical and world-weary. “Meaningless. Meaningless. All is meaningless” the author begins. There may be wisdom in Ecclesiastes, but it is a wisdom that seems removed from the hope and joy preachers are supposed to proclaim in temple, synagogue, and church.

Unhappily, sometimes we may resonate with the cynicism of Ecclesiastes. As we get older, the ceaseless rounds of the seasons might start to bore us. What is the point, we may ask, if we just die in the end? And hasn’t it all happened before?

Children, of course, provide an antidote to this kind of disenchantment. To children, anything can appear magical — the colours of the leaves in autumn, the first snow of the season, stories told around dining tables at Thanksgiving, the candlelight of Christmas, and so on. To children, everything can seem awesome.

But what about us older folk? In a world filled with news and neuroses that reinforce our inner cynic, we may struggle to keep alive a sense of wonder and enchantment.

It can help to stop and pay attention, I believe. When we put down our phones and just sit and breathe, we might discover again the beauty of family members or the wonder of a night sky.

This is the enchantment of the daily and the ordinary; and this is all that we need. But there is also the extraordinary; and it is in the category of the extraordinary into which solar eclipses fall.

I have yet to experience a total solar eclipse, but after hearing a TED Talk on eclipses two weeks ago, doing so has climbed to the top of my bucket list. In a moment, I am going to play a video of that TED Talk.

I heard this talk at the opening session of the “Ever Wonder” Conference on Friday September 1 at Southminster-Steinhauer United Church. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I apologize for how washed out the video appears on this sunny morning. But happily, I believe that the audio is more important the visuals . . .

You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse”

David Baron is not a spiritual person. But his words on the impact of seeing a total eclipse, resonate with the path I try to follow.

When experiencing an eclipse, David feels viscerally connected to the universe; his empathy increases; his ego dissolves; time seems to stop; and he feels less afraid.

Baron’s outlook on life was wonderfully changed after experiencing an eclipse, and I am sure others of us might be similarly affected. But as he says, it is not just eclipses that affect such change. For us, it might be parenting, or helping to build a movement for social justice, or singing in a church choir. There are innumerable experiences which can remind us our connection to the universe and the Source of Love we call God.

In the 1980’s novel and movie “The Accidental Tourist” the protagonist writes travel guides for reluctant business travelers on how to avoid unpleasantness and difficulty. But in the face of tragedy and grief, and in a relationship with a passionate and difficult woman, he stops being so protective, and he opens himself more to the mysteries and enchantments of life and love. My prayer is that something similar will happen to us all.

There may be nothing new under the sun. But what there is under, within, and all around the sun is more than enough.

So, may our daily-ness be constantly interrupted by accidental beaches, glorious celestial phenomena, and deep relationships that remind us of our connections to the cosmos and to the eternal moment of God’s Love.



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