"What if: the primitive perspective is as
true as the scientific perspective and the world is filled with
signs, messages and miracles?"
— William W.
Keen, MD; "I Believe in God and in Evolution," 1922
So there I was, very early Tuesday morning,
wrapped in my oversize plaid robe, standing on my front walk
under the evergreen trees, sipping hot chocolate from my "We
love our grandma" mug, watching the moon go into eclipse through
the nearly winter clouds.
This was the first time since 1638 that an
eclipse of the moon occurred on the winter solstice. That last
date was, according to historians Priscilla Lord and Virginia
Gamage, three years after the Massachusetts General Court named
Marblehead a separate plantation "to punish Salem for its
reluctance to banish the dissident Roger Williams."
If the sky was clear, colonials on the North
Shore might have noticed the eclipse; if the night was stormy,
like this year, they might have ascribed Earth's shadow to
passing clouds. Perhaps the Naumkeags, who summered on my street
but moved inland during the winter, would have been paying more
attention to nature's signs and portents and been properly awed.
The twins, who love their grandma, could have
been watching the eclipse in Las Vegas, where they and their
parents had joined their Grumpaw and their cousins for a family
holiday, except it was raining there. My ex-husband was
e-mailing me photos of the kids at the arcades and ignoring my
suggestion to wake the entire family at midnight and take them
to the roof of the hotel or, better yet, out into the desert,
just in case the clouds parted there, too, for a portentous
I am so grateful that he and his wife, who
live in New Jersey, planned this family trip, as it helped
discourage our son from having Christmas in Baja California as
usual. The Mexican vacation home was an excellent investment
until the drug cartels took over the border. Christmas does not
prevent evil, as we know from the story of King Herod killing
baby boys to prevent a new, prophesied "king" from growing up in
his Middle Eastern territory.
Speaking of New Jersey, that state's
governor, Chris Christie, was on "60 Minutes" last Sunday,
featured in a frightening segment about the possibly pending
collapse of some states and communities from the weight of their
Which reminds me: Lo, an angel appeared
Tuesday from on high to note my error in last week's column: The
baby Jesus, were he born here this year, would owe not $22,000,
but roughly twice that amount, in national debt.
Actually, it wasn't an angel, it was Avi
Nelson who caught the mistake. I think I got the number from a
column written in 2003 instead of 2010. I should note that the
$45,000 doesn't include the national unfunded liabilities like
Social Security and Medicare. Happy birthday, baby Jesus.
I celebrate His birthday, along with the
winter solstice, evolution and miracles in general. An amazing
article in the new National Geographic shows photos of the black
hole, named Sagittarius A*, at the center of our galaxy. Turns
out that the darkness is not eating the Milky Way as quickly as
had been thought, and might not swallow us at all. Isn't this a
great "scientific message"?
Also read an article about the recent
discovery of a life form at Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevadas
(near where the grandma-loving twins live) that does not contain
all the elements that science had thought were required for
According to NASA, "the little bacterial
microbes found at Mono Lake use five of the usual six building
blocks of life — carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur.
Instead of phosphorus, the Mono Lake life-forms use the usually
poisonous arsenic to build their DNA."
Wow! Life from poison. Like good from evil,
isn't this a hopeful Christmas message? Maybe Mexico will
prevail over the drug cartels, and fix its economy, ending
While waiting for the eclipse, I watched
"Endgame" on PBS, about the apartheid negotiations in South
Africa that ended white rule without the long-feared bloodbath.
At the end of the film, there was a note stating that the same
successful negotiating process used in South Africa is being
tried by Sinn Fein negotiators with Hamas in the Middle East.
I remember when peace in Northern Ireland
seemed as impossible as success in South Africa, or the Balkans.
And yet, as with Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism, the darkness
did not prevail.
Perhaps, with both the scientific and
religious perspectives, this is the message of Christmas,
validated by new scientific discoveries, as well as the
traditional story of the Nativity. Problems can be solved; wars
can be won; dissidents, from Roger Williams to William Keen to
reformers like Gov. Christie to determined negotiators around
the world, can prevail; and hope can shine through the clouds of
disillusionment and despair.
The moon was not swallowed by the dark, our
galaxy may not be swallowed by a black hole, there may someday
be peace on Earth to men of good will.