It may have been a mere two-minute blackout on August 21, 2017, but it effectively stopped most everyone from doing what they were doing. Before a scientific explanation of eclipses became available, people were literally afraid of what it could portend. Today, the mysteriousness of eclipses have faded, but that does not stop many from building up its hype into a crescendo for all sorts of reasons. For most people, it is just an excuse to get together and have some fun. But what would happen if we had no sun?

First of all, the sun is indispensable to us and all life forms. The sun’s role in the production of chlorophyll through photosynthesis cannot be overemphasized. Without the sun, there would be no plants and vegetables. It follows that all other living forms that depend on plants and vegetables for food would not exist. The sun also provides us with regular days, continued by a regular year. That is, the sun’s gravity keeps the path of orbit for our earth and other planets in the solar system as we know it intact. Finally, the sun also provides us with light and warmth. If the sun were taken away from us, scientists say that the average surface temperature would immediately drop to 0 degrees F. After a year, the temperature would drop to -100 degrees F. By this time, the top layers of the ocean would freeze over. It is theorized that the earth’s temperature would stabilize at -400 degrees F if we somehow lost our sun. At -400 degrees F, the atmosphere would freeze and disintegrate, exposing any existing life forms to lethal cosmic radiation. In these ways, the sun’s role in terms of the existence of everything on earth is paramount.

We need and love the sun. It is obvious why the eclipse would be one of the biggest events this year. As the day of the eclipse approached, I suddenly had the urge to get on the bandwagon. By the time that I had tried to purchase those special glasses to view the eclipse, they were sold out. I looked online. With everything being “fake” these days, there were fake glasses being sold as well. These are glasses that are not compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards for viewing the sun. As it turns out, people later came forward to complain about pain in their eyes and blurred vision. People who viewed the eclipse improperly could have been experiencing retinopathy which is retinal damage associated with the exposure to the sun’s radiation, a problem that could lead to permanent damage to one’s eyesight.

It is hard to believe how something that we all love and cannot live without could also cause harm to us. As difficult as it seems, everything that exists in our world has a bias. If we do not make an attempt to understand something comprehensively, it can lead to patches of misinformation. If our knowledge of something is insufficient, and we do not know how to enhance its positive qualities, it can result in negative effects. The sun’s role in our survival is powerful, but if we do not understand how to harness this power, it can be debilitating. The use of chlorine is another good example. Chlorine is beneficial in taking out stains from our white clothing. Summer would not be summer, if there were no swimming pools. And, swimming pools without chlorine would be unsanitary. As beneficial as chlorine can be, it can also prove to be harmful if we breathe its fumes in excess, or if we happen to consume concentrated amounts by accident. Most people are afraid of snakes. This is understandable because many snakes are venomous. However, it is interesting that scientists who studied snake venom were able to synthesize them, such that it is now used as the active ingredient in what are called ACE inhibitors. The venom taken from Brazilian pit vipers contain a protein that prevents a compound called anglotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) from functioning correctly. A synthesis of this viper’s venomous protein is the active substance used to treat high blood pressure today. It also decreases the incidence of strokes, kidney diseases, and diabetes.

One cannot benefit from ACE inhibitors and hate snakes at the same time. Snakes are indeed a part of our world, whose hidden benefits are overshadowed by its fearful reputation. Everything that exists in our world has many facets to them. It is important to accept them in their totality. The Buddha was always careful not to make generalizations. To see as the Buddha sees, one must develop patience and a breadth of mind to make observations from many angles. A small variation in one’s perspective or grasp can offer dramatically different postures from which to make the right decisions.

(Eisei Ikenaga)