Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Haley Reading Group: “Astonish Me: Anticipating an Eclipse in the Age of Information”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2018)]

In “Astonish Me: Anticipating an Eclipse in the Age of Information,” Susannah Felt meditates on the looming eclipse and the meaning behind it. She compares the difference in preparation for eclipse saying that while people in this millennium celebrate by throwing viewing parties and selling T-shirts, “centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom—or a moment of great discovery” (246).

Felt focuses on how with information provided by science, society’s view of the world shifts while also diminishing the wonder and fear attached to discovery and surprise. For Felt, tracking the exact moment of an eclipse and breaking it down into our science feels like “a hubristic offense” (246). Felt uses the article to question the best way to restore “some measure of its power and surprise,” in a world where information is often at everyone’s fingertips.

In one word, what's one useful idea or way of thinking did you gain by reading the article? Why is that word or concept important to you as a result of what you read? 

60 comments:

Crystal R. said...

Present. That is the one word that came to mind when reading this article. I chose this word because the author, Susannah Felts, said, "My family beside me, all of us growing a little older as the shadow hits us and we listen to the birds ceasing to sing," and then, "It will be my parents' last eclipse; it will...and 57 seconds," (247). When she said this, it showed me how important it is to be present in each moment because it could be some of our last like this is her parents' last eclipse they'll witness. And also to never take time or people for granted because so much could happen in those two minutes of an eclipse or any time of the day.

Crystal R.

Youssef H said...

The one word i would use ti take away from reading this article is foreshadow. As felts was describing how she would embrace the moment the eclipse was taking place. She realized that certain phenomena are not predictable which should encourage others to not take many things for granted.

Anonymous said...

Reflection is a useful idea I gained from reading the article. Felts helped me to understand why it is important to live in the moment and reflect on what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling. Sometimes we place too much emphasis on knowledge and don't rely as much on our own experience. Taking a time to live in the moment and reflect on that moment can be just as helpful to us as taking in information and gaining knowledge.

Marina T.

Kenisha Townsend said...

If I had to pick one word for an idea I gained from this article, I would choose "simplification".In the article, it mentions how trying to break down what is actually happening during an eclipse to knowledge humans can understand is like an offense to what actually occurs during an eclipse (p.246). This is important to me, because I have witnessed how meaning and the emotion associated with an event can be lost when simplifying things.

LaTrina Brown said...

Anticipation. I gained that word from this article because the time of the eclipse was very cliff-hanging. The author says "Two minutes, a lifetime, the overlapping of lives. Our threaded-together fates still largely unknown." (p.247) This stood out to me because the eclipse was so anticipating and people could not wait to experience something that would happen once in a lifetime such as it.

Isaiah J. said...

Reality. In reality, there really is no reason for an eclipse to be more shocking or wondrous than it is, besides its rarity. This rarity is enough to remind us of the value of relationships, and I think that's good enough. There is no reason why it should change our lives more than that.

-Isaiah J.

Aleeya Barrolle said...

Experience is a useful idea that I gained by the reading of Astonish Me: Anticipating an Eclipse in the Age of Information. In the article, it said, “And I write this wanting to know: How did you and you and you experience the eclipse?” (247). This part from the article reminds me that people still want to hear and share their own experiences about specific days that made history.

-Aleeya B.

A. Robinson said...

The one word I would use to describe this reading would be "real". It all just seems incredibly relatable. Especially when she talks about how it will be her parents last eclipse and just that we don't appreciate the value of the moments that we should cherish. She really emphasizes that anything could happen in the span of 2 minutes, or an eclipse.
Alexis R.

Devin Ellis-Martin said...

Advancement is the one word I would use in my reaction to this reading. I think that, as a society, we have advanced greatly towards a better good for us, as a whole. Whether it is information being able to accessed at the click of a button or the creation of new medicine to battle disease. I would argue that most, if not all, advancements made, have done us a positive service.

Unknown said...

Present. This is the word that comes to mind. The author talks about how the eclipse,"It will be my parents' last eclipse;it will be my daughter's last" (247). Living in the present is what is important because nothing in life is certain and tomorrow is not promised.

Madalynn M.

Samantha A. said...

Reminisce would be the perfect word to describe my thought process after reading this article.Throughout "Astonish Me: Anticipating an Eclipse in the Age of Information," Felts reminisced on her experience of an eclipse and how the experience of an eclipse changed completely over the years, which made reminisce on various experiences that have changed over the years. For example, the experience of the internet was completely different when it first came out as people had no idea of what all it could do. The experience is different now, because generations have grown up with the internet and are learning about all it can do.

-Samantha A.

Kyla Tinsley said...

Change is the word I would use after reading this article. How we experience and think of an eclipse nowadays differs from how people used to experience and think of an eclipse in the past. Nowadays we look forward to an eclipse and cherish the memories of such an experience, while in the past people used to think the world was ending and would be relieved when such an experience was over. This shows how our attitudes towards certain events shift throughout time, whether it be a positive shift or a negative one.

-Kyla Tinsley

Linda H. said...

The word that came to mind when reading the passage was bewilderment. On page 246 she writes "Still, I can't stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom - or a moment of great discovery." Just imagining that I lived with little to know knowledge of science and all of a sudden the sun disappears during the day behind the moon making the world dark briefly, I can feel a sense of bewilderment and a little fear. I think even in the modern world we are still at awe in the phenomenon of the eclipse.

-Linda Hawkins

Alexis said...

One word that I took away from reading this article is aware. I I took this word away because throughout the article the author discussed how the majority of people were going to celebrate and watch the eclipse by paying for souvenirs and going to certain events instead of actually living in the moment. This concept of awareness is important because it reminds you in this electronic day and age to put your phone down and take some time to actually take in your surroundings and the beauty of life.

- Alexis S.

Mackenzie Cohoon said...

The word that comes to mind after reading the article is progression. In the article, the author stated that she hoped to "kindle the awe that too much knowledge, or the flurry of public celebration might just stamp out"(247).I feel like we as humans are so caught up in the act of progression, and moving forward, that we forget about the purity that comes with discovering something for the first time, and not having any prior knowledge of it at all. We are so obsessed with progression, and that might be the very t hing that actually keeps us from progressing even more.

-Mackenzie Cohoon

Thomas Siganga said...

The words that I came to my mind was overall knowledge. The thought of people being afraid of the eclipses centuries ago is intriguing. This supports the thought of people being more knowledgeable about what occurs on the earth. Now with the knowledge of the eclipse, people are calm instead of seeing this thing as a sign of doom. The overall knowledge of events in nature have caused people to react more calmly by events in nature versus the many centuries ago.

-Thomas Siganga

Daeja Daniels said...

Of all the words the one that I felt was most fitting was forecast. Throughout the author was forecasting this event. For someone to experience and eclipse is a great event. An eclipse doesn't happen for very long and is rare. The author even states this by saying, Two minutes, a lifetime, the overlapping of lives. Our threaded-together fates still largely unknown." (p.247) Here she emphasis how important this one moment is and leads up to it throughout.

Zuriah Harkins said...

The word "prospect" describes a new way of thinking I gained by reading the article. As a society, I think it's important for us to be informed on various things, and recent developments in science and technology have made that possible. However, the article reminded me that sometimes it's also acceptable to live in the moment, and to walk into situations not knowing what to expect. The feelings that we experience while we take on these opportunities are not something that we should try to suppress or avoid, but instead, we should learn to embrace them.

Zuriah H.

Kalonji said...

When Felts wrote, "My family beside me, all of us growing a little older as the shadow hits us and we listen to the birds cease to sing." The word that came to me was "inconstant". Even in a moment of awe where it seems like everything has paused, the moment that Felt depicted was a reminder that, in the natural world, there is no such thing constant, meaning that everyone and everything is always changing. One awe-inspiring moment will eventually be followed by another. How will we have progressed between them?

Jovahna Williams said...

Time. This article mainly focuses on the aspect of time and uses the eclipse as a topic of interest. As time changes the coming of the eclipse has changed the way people view the world. As Felt mentions people early on used to view the eclipse as a sign of danger or the end of life. It left people before us wondering what truly would happen before, during, and after the eclipse. The sense of wonder made it all to exciting for people early on, causing uproar and worrisome whispers. Now as time has passed and since we now know that the eclipse is just a natural rare occurrence, the way people view it has changed entirely. The fear and wonder about the eclipse has diminished and people now use it as a way to fill their pockets with extra change instead of cowering in fear inside their houses in order to avoid it. As time changes and new evidence for natural occurrences arise, the way people will view these occurrences will change as well. For better or for worse is debatable depending on how you personally view the world around you.
Jovahna W.

Samontriona P. said...

Togetherness is the first word that came to mind when reading this article. Felts stated, "Still, I can't stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom (246). Today the total eclipse is something that brings everyone together for one purpose. On August 21, many students and professors were gathered on campus here at SIUE. One of my professors allowed us to leave class early just to see it. That shows society's growth with time in regards to the eclipse.

Unknown said...

Predictable. On page 246 when she talks about the different places that are holding viewing parties and the vendors that are going to be selling things during the eclipse. It made me think about how correct her view of that event will be. A lot of the time that we have a once in a lifetime thing happen around the world people are always going to want to profit from that instead of actually enjoying it.


- Tara T.

Justin Jubert said...

The word "lifetime" resonated with me because of the fragility of it. As people, we use the phrase "I don't have time" often, which I find interesting because time is merely a concept that really has us. The author stated, "It will be my parent's last eclipse; it will be my daughter's first" (247). Time should be valued because it is unchangeable and has sovereignty over us. Our entire life is but a fraction of a second when compared to the age of our universe, so it is important to live every day like your last because it can be gone forever in an instant.

KaelynB said...

One word I would use would be revelation. She writes about how people used to view the eclipse as "a sign of panic- doom..."(247). I use this word because in the dictionary it means something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized. People view these types of events very differently. In the article she talks about how some people use it as a family event, a way to make money, and for some people it is deeply spiritual. An eclipse it a weird thing for most of us to imagine, let alone see first hand. It is such a strange experience for all of us to see whether it be online or in person.

Zaria Whitlock said...

Consciousness. The word that this article makes me think of is consciousness; I believe Felt makes it clear that because of the abundance of information we have access to we do not value the amazing things that we experience. Similar to the idea of how in the past an eclipse would cause panic and now we see it as another day that is not necessarily important we fail to be conscious of how important each moment is in our lives. Because we have access to so much information there is no longer an element of surprise when it comes to historical moments. We have the ability to know what, when, how, why something will happen before we ever have the experience we no longer our conscious of how the information era has eradicated the importance of experiencing before we gain knowledge. Now we typically find a bunch of information then experience an event which by then it does not hold as much sentimental value because we knew what to expect. We need to be aware of these important moments and take in every bit of the experience firsthand rather than allowing the experience to be ruined by information we found on the internet.

-Zaria W.

Anonymous said...

This article made the word balance come to mind. As we live in an age where we are always exposed to new stimulus, new products, new luxuries, and etc it is crucial for individuals to maintain a balance in their inner lives. So much of our world is based on the external experiences that are portrayed in media and the culture to the point where many people are out of touch with their own sense of existence. The age of information offers everyone a potentially infinite amount of knowledge so it can be hard for individuals to maintain a positive fresh look on the world on the basis that many people see more through technology than they will in their real life.

- Courteney Wilson

Michael Dade said...

I'd use the word surreal. All my life, eclipses haven't ever been too celebrated. Of course they're viewed as rare spectacles, but at the same time it's never been out of the norm for one to happen. It's surreal to think about how much technology has progressed to be able to help us predict and converse about moments like this. What's even crazier is trying to imagine what it would be like to experience one in the past with no technology; where no one has a clue to what's going on or a warning about what's to happen beforehand. I can only imagine the level of panic I'd have if all of a sudden I saw the sun turn black.

J'kolbe K. said...

Appreciation is the word I feel best describes what I got out of this article. Felts states that, “this area hasn’t seen a total eclipse for more than 500 years.” This makes me appreciate the time I live in and not for our technological advancements but for the natural phenomenon that I’m lucky enough to witness.

Jeremiah Terrell said...


The word that came to mind after reading the article is like-minded. When Felts talked about the parties and celebrations for the eclipse, I recollected on the excitement of the eclipse. I watched the eclipse, yet the only thing I remember about it is stores selling the glasses and people's anticipation of it. I almost forgot that it happened because it didn't seem that important once it happened. Like a lot of things, I believe people only cared about it because they were told that they should care about it. I think the media says we should care about certain things to manipulate us to spend money or further an agenda.

Brandy Collier said...

The word that I thought of while reading this article was realistic. The way the author described how she felt while anticipating the eclipse and the way it was described felt real. Some people were overly excited and spent the day preparing and buying memorabilia while others went about their day until it was time. This was very realistic. It shows how some people spend their time rushing through moments and others like to live in the moment.

-Brandy Collier

Jasmin Smoot said...

Worthwhile was the term that came to mind when reading the article. To think that anomalies like this are only experienced once in a lifetime for most. The author mentions how it would be their parents' last eclipse and their daughter's first. This event is so momentous that people around the world go to the lengths of doing things like buying souvenirs to experience this moment.

Brandon N said...

I believe that "Nature" is a great way to describe this article. The author focuses on the beauty and simplicity of the solar eclipse, and how that has been tainted by modern society. This event used to be a terrifying thing to witness, but is now commercialized and just seems so artificial nowadays. The author took the simple approach to experience it how people centuries ago would experience it by sitting on an open farm. Overall, I enjoyed the article and agree with most of her points.

Kelsey McNeil said...

One word that I thought about was mindfulness. A quote that stood out to me was "How can I make my two minutes count" (246)? I thought about that word and that quote because honestly when the eclipse was happening, I didn't think much of it. I knew that it was a big thing because I remember a lot of people sitting in the quad watching it, but I didn't think too much about what I was doing or who I was with. Thinking about it now I wish I cared more about who I was with but I also am happy that I got to see the eclipse anyway. It makes me realize that I need to be more present in important moments and be more aware of what is going on.


Kelsey McNeil

Ivyanne Brunier said...

The word that I would use to describe this article is Astonishing. Science is such an amazing thing and I think it was super cool that people were so super terrified when the first eclipse that was happening but now everyone is completely in awe. Its awesome that we can turn something that nobody knew anything about to something people can just google anything about it. "Still I can't stop thinking about the fact, that centuries ago a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom or a moment of great discovery (pg 246.)

Alliyah M. said...

One word that described this articles is awareness. The author was very aware of her surroundings based on how she would describe the environment around her parents' house when the eclipse happened. I think the author was also aware of the future and how everyone is getting older. I thought this part of the article showed that people often always think about the future and what they want to accomplish, but sometimes you should try to enjoy moments in the present time and reflect on life.

Dasmin W. said...

The one word that I gained from this article was knowledge. On page 246, Catapult stated, "Still I cant stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom... Today, it is the strangest of things: absolutely predictable and astoundingly rare". Over the past centuries , the world has become more knowledgeable educated on many things, so the way the world interpret events are so different than how people a decade ago thought.

- Dasmin W

Jordan R. said...

Reverence. Felt mentioned how the wonder and fear has been taken out of what used to be thought of as phenomenon. This seems significant because every day science and countless variables of study seem to have brought the phenomenon of an eclipse to a spectacle tracked and predicted to the very hour.

Caleb Abernathy said...

One word I would use to describe this article is, "Perspective". "Still I can't stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was a cause for panic, a sign of doom-or a moment of great discovery."(246).

The thought of perspective is one that has always interested me, but in this topic more-so than others. That innate feat that would come over some people because of the eclipse could come from a variety of things, lack of knowledge, religion, stories, etc. The same thing goes for the flip-side of why people today "celebrate" them. The way someone, or a group of people, choose to look at something given information can completely change the way that they feel about it.

It was extremely interesting to see two completely different perspectives on a topic that today, people don't think much about.

Phoenix Johnson said...

Knowledge is the word that came to mind. This article shows how knowledge is power and easy to get. Without knowledge we are scared of the world mysteries like people were centurie ago. As well without the technology we have today to get knowledge quickly with our phones. This makes me grateful to be in this age and that's why knowledge is important to me.

dgeeter said...

One word that comes to mind was conscious. The author described her view of the eclipse and it was amazingly realistic. Reminds me of my first time seeing the eclipse on campus a couple years ago. it was a lot of big talk leading up to it and it was a moment a lot of people will not forget.

Anonymous said...

The best word I could think of to describe this article was wonderful. I know the excitement that went through everyone the day of the eclipse. It was the first one that I was aware of and the experience is unforgettable.
Breann Walton

Tatyana C. said...

Importance. On page 247 it says, " My family beside me, all of us growing a little older as the shadow hits us and we listen to the birds cease to sing". This made me think about the importance of being in the moment and spedning time with those who are important to you.- Tatyana Curtis

Adejoke Adanri said...

The word that comes to mind when reading this article is certainty. The way the author described the certainty of an eclipse; and how we know what is coming compared to uncertainty of life; and how we don't know what the future is like, stood out to me. As stated on page 246, "an eclipse is also the surest of things, no alarms and no surprises." This really made me think about how much we should take time enjoying the things that are present and certain, because life is so unpredictable.

Anonymous said...

The word I would use to describe this is normalizing. This article describes an event that used to be magical or godly to some people and now it is something that we can tell is coming far in advance and many people just ignore. Just like many other normalized things, the only way for some people to enjoy it is to prepare themselves to enjoy it because the people commonly around them might not be interested, and their lack of interest could reduce the excited party's enjoyment.

-Marcus Underwood

Nia Piggott said...

One word I would use to describe what I gained from reading this article would be development. I believe this is an important concept because it is shown throughout the article. The quote from the reading that shows this the most to me would be on page 246 " I can't stop thinking about the fact that centuries ago a total eclipse was cause panic a sign of doom... Today it is absolutely predictable." (page 246)

Stella Nguepnang said...

If I could only use one word to describe the useful idea I gained while reading Felt's article it would be, "Extra-Terrestrial." Besides the obviousness, dealing with talks of a total eclipse and how that deals with the moon and sun, more about the overall article influenced me to pick this word. This word to me means something amazing. The alignment of our solar system in a particular way to cause an eclipse is amazing, it is quite literally out of this world. The author often talks about the sense of "awe" one can feel from seeing an eclipse. That awe is very extra-terrestrial as well. You are one person on earth able to see something so large that others close or tens of thousands of miles away could also see, amazing isn't it?

Jayla Pierce said...

The word I would use is rare. “Today, it is the strangest of things: absolutely predictable and astoundingly rare” (246). I find it interesting that she used the word rare. Some of the synonyms for rare are unique, unparalleled, unequal, and etc. There are so many reasons why for her this event is rare. It’s her parents last eclipse, her daughters first, and the largest experience will be at hometown. It’s a symbolic, significant moment in her life.

Jazsmine Towner said...

The one word that gained from this article was wonder. To explain, Felts explains how different generations interpret the eclipse, and how the new generation has more access to information at their fingertips. This led me to the word “wonder” because it’s what drives the word. Our new generation has more access to information, hence making us wonder more. I think this article strikes curiosity and wonder.
-Jazsmine Towner

Anonymous said...

Change was the word that really resonated with me in this article, and what I feel like was most prevalent in this article as well. The way we have viewed eclipses have changed along with our world, as more and more information has been able to reach our fingertips. While “centuries ago a total eclipse was a sign of doom” and fear, now it is just a rare occurrence that causes short wonder (246). It is nothing we really think about throughout the year other than the short period of time in which it is happening. This is what has changed in the world and what really resonates with me in this article. - Raillane K

gabby said...

While reading this article a couple words really stuck out to me. The word that stuck with me most would have to be the word “Present”. I chose this word because it really marks the importance of living in the now, and not taking anything or anyone for granted. So much can happen in a span of one day and it is highly prevalent that we take advantage of everyone and everything we have in our lives today!

-Gabby Wimes

Anonymous said...

One word that comes to mind is enlightened. It was interesting to see the excitement of those who see the solar eclipse due to the fact that it is such a rare event depending on where you live. One quote that stands out to me is, "Today, is the strangest of things: absolutely predictable and astoundingly rare. The thought of it ignites my curiosities, my fierce devotion to the magic of the natural world" (246).

-Ronald A.

Cheniya A. said...

One word that came to mind when reading this article was "reflection". As we change, grow, and strive to evolve, it has become a kind of expectation in our culture. While moving forward is necessary, there is a certain beauty in reflecting on how far we've come and where we are today. This is especially apparent in the author stating how this was her parents last eclipse. This speaks to how pieces of our lives are defined by certain events.

Anonymous said...

Appreciation is the first word that came to my mind. Even though eclipses are a beautiful thing, a lot of the time they either get brushed off or ignored. When they do get appreciated, much of the appreciation is through commercial and material things or souvenirs. Many people would rather see the eclipse through their iphone camera than actually stop to enjoy it with their own two eyes. I think that in this day and age when people are camera obsessed and technology dependent that we should also remember to stop and enjoy the moment.
Fatima Bashir

Sydney O said...

One word that came to mind for me is growth. Growth because our knowledge continues to expand and grow as the generation passess. The statement “centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom—or a moment of great discovery” (246), is very interesting to me because we have learned so much since that time, and still have a lot more to learn.

Hannah C said...

The word that comes to mind for me is enlightened. The concept of the eclipse is one that is extremely and incredibly enlightening for the world around us. It connects us closer to our solar system and makes our existense even more fulfilling when rare natural events such as an eclipse happen.

Anonymous said...

One word that comes to mind after reading the article is time. The way the author spoke about how her and her family watched the eclipse, made me realize how much time we take for granted. She says, "...the very opposite image of gazing down at our devices." and it reminded me that i need to step away from technology sometimes in order to be present in that moment.

-Jada Baker

Anonymous said...

Space is the word that comes to my mind when reading this article. I chose this word because it makes you realize how small we are compared to the universe. We are just one small aspect and its strange to think that we aren't 100% aware of all the things happening in this enormous universe. I believe after reading this article I will be more observant and appreciative of the things around me.

-Jasmyn Kloster

Anonymous said...

Experience. The one word that Susannah Felts' article Astonish Me made me think of is the experience. One specific quote she used that I found to be very fitting to this theme of experience was on page 246 that reads "Still, I can't stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom -- or a moment of great discovery" He is clearly speaking of the many different experiences that people had attained from previous Solar Eclipse's. He also is telling us from his own experiences and information that he wishes to live a more curious life, as opposed to one where everything is predictable and boring. - Kobi P

geonel m said...

Time. The quote: " They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself." With time, we realize how we are changing the world because human have enhance their ability to predict things, technology is advancing a little more everyday. It would be a big surprise if a natural catastrophe had to happen without human predicting it. It is fascinating. On page 246, she said: Still, I can't stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom or a moment of great discovery. This thought sums up our century and how it is far from being the same as centuries ago.

Geonel M

Fontez McNeal said...

Insignificant. Humans are ants when compared to the rest of the universe. This article makes me realize that there's so much that goes on outside of Earth that we can't see or have no clue on. It makes me feel like our existence is very unimportant in terms of the universe.