While eating dinner, my four-year-old son asks me why forks don’t have faces.
“Why do you think you have a face?” I ask him.
“So that I can see,” he replies. “And so I can smell and taste,” he excitedly adds. “And I have hair to protect my head so, um, the sun won’t burn it.”
“But why do you think your mouth is below your nose and your nose is below your eyes and your eyes are below you hair? And why do you think they’re all arranged in a way that’s so cute?” I press.
He raises his eyebrows and shrugs his shoulders.
“Oh, I know!” he smiles, “it’s because the Earth spins around the sun!”
Just then, the sunlight illuminating the giant maple tree outside the window disappears and a shadow blankets the house. Only a soft and distant glow remains.
There is not a cloud in the sky and the sun will not set for another two hours.
Above us, in the vast emptiness of space, the cold and dark moon slides quietly across the raging flames of the mighty sun. Three celestial bodies, invisibly bound together, millions of miles apart, are perfectly aligned. It is a rare and magnificent occurrence that so beautifully showcases the rare and magnificent occurrence that is our existence.
That we find ourselves in this awkward position as thinking, loving, conscious beings who yearn for meaning and significance, clinging tenuously to a planet traveling sixty-seven thousand miles per hour through nothingness, at the behest of an unimaginably large nuclear reactor that burns our skin, blinds us if we look at it and will eventually vaporize us in a blink of an eye. That we exist, that we are here under these mysterious and painfully temporary circumstances is a premise that captures our imagination, contributes to our suffering and leaves us with the urgent, blessed choice of how to spend the precious time we are here, on this planet, in this body.
Watching our little moon, our trusted friend we take for granted, quietly creep across the giant ball of fire in the sky, my son runs across the house yelling, “Mommy, it’s happening now! It’s blocking the sun! It’s a ring of fire!”
The moon pauses for one glorious moment in the center of the sun, encircled perfectly by sizzling tails and hissing whips, affirming to those of us basking in its shadow that we are alive.
Neil is a full-time dad, writer and recovering criminal defense lawyer. He lives in Mill Valley with his wife and two kids.