Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Faith Works 8-19-17

Faith Works 8-19-17

Jeff Gill


Four hundred times, times two



It's one of those elements of the created order that's enough to make you think about a Creator: our Moon is four hundred times smaller than the Sun, which is four hundred times farther from the Earth than the nearer orbiting body.


So while they are massively different in size, from the surface of our planet every so often the looping paths of lunar orbits intersect the apparent course of the Sun across our daytime sky: a lunar eclipse. And they perfectly match in our sky.


Well, sometimes. In some places. On Monday, in the afternoon, it's gonna get dark. Ish. We are not in the path of "totality" but we're near enough to get some observable impact, between 1 and 3:45 or so, with the greatest dark shadow cast for a few minutes around 2:30 pm. Even in the path of totality, the full darkness in daylight will only last two minutes or so . . . but what a two minutes! Stars will appear in the sky, bird song will stop and crickets start calling.


There are many devices and special glasses available to allow you to safely watch the progress of the moon's face across the radiant surface of the sun, but I've often "observed" eclipses simply by taking two index cards, punch a circular hole in one, and go outside, turning your back on the sun. With it shining over your shoulder, hold the card with the hole in it up, and get the spot of light to shine on the second card – you will see the circle begin to have an arc cut across the side of the brightness, and at 2:30 on Monday you will see all but a crescent obscured. Whatever you do, don't look directly at the sun, on an eclipse day or any day.


Eclipses were part of the astronomy and often the spirituality of many ancient cultures, and when you experience one, it makes sense. The sun is the source of life, as any farmer or gardener knows; the regularity of the sun may shorten and lengthen, and that annual cycle between solstices with the mid-point equinox is part of many worldviews and ritual calendars. For the sun to suddenly stop shining is . . . terrifying. It implies it could happen again, for longer; it undermines the existential confidence we bring to each sunset that in the east the sun will rise again.


The ability to predict an eclipse is a mathematical and astronomical achievement that tells a culture they're figuring out some data that's central to the working of the cosmos, even as those of us without the math know to respect the ability of those predictions, when they dramatically but simply come to pass.


It becomes a metaphor for many things, spiritually and culturally. Not inaccurately people have talked about an "eclipse" of American values in Charlottesville last weekend, a darkening of the usual light and warmth by some intervening stony obstacle that we don't think should be able to obscure that which normally guides our path.


It can also be encouraging to remember that an eclipse is, at essence, an illusion. The moon is not shutting down the light, it's just getting in the way for a little while. It's not a dragon eating the sun, nor a crack in the universe, it's just a shadow which passes as quickly as it comes.


Mark Twain made a whole tale out of a Connecticut Yankee being cast through time into King Arthur's court, carrying an almanac; Bing Crosby played him in the movie of the same, and was able to bamboozle the king and court by using his ability to predict the eclipse as leverage to imply he had much more power than he did. He could predict, but he could not compel.


The racist mob that came together under the pretext of a statue and other cultural debates was trying to make their influence appear, by torchlight and implication, larger than it is, more lasting than it will be. Their swastika flags and Nazi salutes are a blot, a shadow on the nation, but their dark impact is only lasting if we let it be one.


In this case, we can speed the sun itself. We can be light ourselves, and fling the shadows of hate and intolerance out and away from where we stand. May we shine, together, always.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he will be outside on Monday afternoon watching the day battle against the darkness. Tell him about your experience with shadows and light at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 8-17-17

Notes From My Knapsack 8-17-17

Jeff Gill


Other ideas for the fire station



Apparently there is some interest in moving our current fire station from its charming location on N. Prospect St.


In one way or another, change is gonna come (as the song says), since the current facility is greatly in need of significant upgrade. So the one constructive piece of counsel I have for township and village residents and officials is that this isn't about "stay" or "go" but where the fire service should "be" in the near future. It will, beyond doubt, be in a new facility not too many years hence. Will that new facility be on the current footprint, or in some new location entirely: that's the question.


One proposed location has some controversy about traffic and watercourses and emergency preparedness already around it. But I started wondering, sitting on my porch perhaps sitting a little too close to the citronella candle, about other options we might have for our proud and historic fire fighters to operate out of.


It occurred to me that across the street, the hill of which Prospect is named (some call it all College Hill now, but historically the eastern promontory was Prospect Hill and the western, where the academic quad is, was the part labeled College Hill), offers an interesting alternative.


Tunnels could be bored into Prospect Hill, and spring loaded ejection systems could launch fully prepared crews off into a system of ramps and overshoots to miss the traffic lights on Broadway. My son had a toy car set which worked rather well with fire trucks launched out of a mountainside, and the excitement can be mitigated with safety harnesses and such, I'm sure. An underground lair with a pole connecting two levels is always a popular bas of operations for most important rapid response units on television and in the movies, so there must be plans out there to build them.


Likewise, SHIELD has helicarrier technology which allows a platform to hover over an area, with some ability to move the entire HQ from one location to another. A helicarrier fire station with four large turbofan lift units could generally operate over the backstreet parking area behind the current station, and with minimal damage to trees and satellite dishes be moved wholesale to one end of the village or another, lowering the units on repellor platforms.  When I was younger, I could have sworn SHIELD had refueling craft to supply the helicarrier, but in today's movies it seems to be a mix between Stark Industries arc reactors and solar panels.


Either way, if it's good enough for Nick Fury, it should be good enough for our fire crews.


Competition also could create some interesting benefits: what about two smaller stations at either far end of the village, and they race to see which crew arrives first, getting a bonus for their speed (losing points for hitting any cars or pedestrians along the way).


Those are some of my thoughts about fire station location; I may need to get a new citronella candle, too.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he likes his front porch. Maybe too much. Tell him where you think the fire station should be at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.