One of the articles I read in the days following the recent solar eclipse commented on the novelty of looking upward, spending time noticing the sky. I found myself recalling how quickly my neck muscles cramped as I watched the eclipse, a testimony to the rarity with which I gaze upward for more than a few moments at a time.
For all the celebrity worship our culture encourages, all our fascination with power, our drive to be upwardly mobile in our lives, we seldom actually look up. To look up implies I am down here somewhere, a lower creature, less significant, lacking power in comparison to whoever or whatever I am looking up to see. None of those are feelings I usually care to cultivate; I prefer to be the person above others, the one superior, more powerful.
Yet as we collectively watched the solar eclipse, I heard no one around me griping about having to look up to see the drama unfolding in the heavens. Instead of the behaviors that often accompany an experience of looking up, in which I might criticize the superior person as not being all that impressive, might try to take him/her down a peg or two, we looked up with fascination, in wonder, immersed for a time in the unfamiliar feeling of reverence and awe that comes when we know ourselves to be smaller and less significant because we are in the presence of something grand and greater than us, outside our control.
In the days since the eclipse I have tried to develop a habit of looking up, noticing the sky and clouds and moon and stars for a few moments each day. My hope is that by the time the next eclipse comes I will have strengthened my neck muscles enough to be able to watch the eclipse without cramping—and that an ongoing practice of looking up might remind me of all that is greater than my small concerns, that I live in the midst of a beautiful universe that is daily inviting me to know my place in the unfolding mystery.