Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Haley Reading Group: “Astonish Me"



[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? 

Sample of responses:
Present. The author...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. --C. R.

Reflection. 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. --M.T.

Anticipation. 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. L. B.

48 comments:

Jaydyn Zykan said...

Wonder. I resonated with what Susannah Felt described. Too often, I find myself being caught up in trying to overanalyze many situations, as do many other people. Additionally, in this day and age, people have knowledge right at their fingertips; it is hard to not be curious about natural phenomenons such as an eclipse. When I experienced the eclipse, I also lost the mysterious aspect behind it because I knew the science behind it. As Felt compares the past generation's experience versus our current generation's, it is apparent that we have lost the awe people might have once had.

Alexis R. Austin said...

Astonish Me; It hit home with the thoughts of how people take something like an eclipse happening and how they don't have any second thoughts after it was over. When I experienced the eclipse, I was amazed because I had never seen something like that before, I had only heard about it. I wanted to stand outside forever and watch and figure out why the eclipse even happens to begin with but with everyone around me, It didn't have any interest to me anymore because everyday life came back around right after it was over, it seemed like no one else was amazed by this. This world of information is one that kind of makes life boring, no one is surprised by things anymore because there is always a way to find out about it through the internet. I wish the world could stop and enjoy moments like that but no one stops to enjoy anymore, we just acknowledge it and most on.

Kayla P. said...

Admiration. I have always wondered why we spend once in a lifetime events partying, looking for souvenirs, and focusing on making money like what Susannah Felts said on page 246, “What a way to spend the celestial event of a lifetime, hawking souvenirs”. I wish we could just sit back and admire what’s in front of us, which is a better way to make memories than a pointless souvenir.

—Kayla P.

Arielle Stallworth said...

Silence. The memorable moments are those that mean the most to us yet we always go about them the wrong way but this story tells the other side of things. The side that we used to have, the side before technology took us over and now we always want to take a picture or video instead of living in the moment. Being blessed enough to have seen the eclipse last year I know it is a once in a lifetime event that usually occurs in silence as it did in the story where the author says, "the dark suddenly quiets them all." This reminds me of when my school watched it all together outside and of course being outside everyone wants to be loud but as soon as the eclipse began to happen everyone went silent.

Arielle Stallworth

Arielle Stallworth said...

Silence. The memorable moments are those that mean the most to us yet we always go about them the wrong way but this story tells the other side of things. The side that we used to have, the side before technology took us over and now we always want to take a picture or video instead of living in the moment. Being blessed enough to have seen the eclipse last year I know it is a once in a lifetime event that usually occurs in silence as it did in the story where the author says, "the dark suddenly quiets them all." This reminds me of when my school watched it all together outside and of course being outside everyone wants to be loud but as soon as the eclipse began to happen everyone went silent.

Arielle Stallworth

Unknown said...

Movement. The author talks about the concept of it in a few different aspects. One aspect, is the literal movement of the moon's shadow 1,800 miles across the US. This is what is known to her as, " The Great American Eclipse of 2017"(Felts 246). Another similar form of visible movement is that of her, her family, and anyone else who pressed out to see the eclipse in its natural beauty. Now these types of movement were important to the reading, but the type she discussed that had the most impact on me, was the movement of time. Every day we are met with choice after choice, determining our physical and mental health. No matter what path we choose, time still moves on. Just like with the history of humanity's relationship with the eclipse. Eclipses were originally seen as more frightful than beautiful but with the passing of time, perspectives changed. Time did not wait for humanity to change before the next eclipse occurred. And even after the eclipse in 2017, time still continued to move on for the author and her family. Work and everyday life continued.
-Chaianna Curry

Unknown said...

Awe. The author mentioned how her and her daughter looked up at the sky in complete awe instead on looking down at their phones. This stuck with me because as a whole entire society we spend so much time on the internet and in technology, that experiencing something like an eclipse is something so surreal. Sometimes technology can make you forget about the natural wonders this world and planet has to offer, and the eclipse had the whole country in awe of its magnitude-Lay Dukes

Jalen White said...

Spectacle. The author describes that nowadays since an eclipse is known to come, there seems to be made as a big event. Many people sell merchandise, plan parties, and throw giveaways. While the author seems to look upon this as a negative notion, because it's kind of misconstruing the beauty in the simplicity of an eclipse, I feel like these things make for a more memorable experience. Sure, it's capitalism at its' peak, but that doesn't mean that it can't be a benefit for the community in a number of ways. People experiencing such an event brings everyone closer, and I feel like that 2 minutes of darkness would've been quite interesting to experience with a large group of people.
Jalen W.

Anonymous said...

Present. The author demonstrated how important it is to live in the moment. Being an athlete, I feel like a lot of times we take for granted our abilities and the sport we play because we do it everyday, but it isn't forever. Anything in life can be taken in a matter of minutes just like how the eclipse was gone in the matter of minutes. -Mikayla Kinnard

Terence Jones said...

What an exciting moment this was for the author. Few are able to feel the sense of wonder and excitement of this experience. As the author stated before, eclipses only happen every some 200 years or more in certain areas. As a society technology and the web dominate our lives. If one wanted to see something like this they can just go to the internet and find many videos of this spectacle. However being there in the moment, couldn't possibly be the same as watching on a phone or computer. Getting the opportunity to experience a once in a lifetime, event can leave a everlasting memory in the minds of many.-Terence Jones

Anonymous said...

Routine. When The authors comments about what people do after a major event. The feeling of just going back to your normal routine and not really thinking about what just happened or the people you shared it with. It has certainly made me think to be more aware of the significant events I experience in life so they do not become lost memories in the back of my brain. Chris W.

Alleson Huntspon said...

Imaginative came to my mind as I read this article. “Today, it is the strangest of things: absolutely predictable and astoundingly rare”(Felts 246). In our world today we are often encountered with life changing things. The narrator in this article wasn’t really open minding in regards to the eclipse. So I took from this that we have to be imaginative and eager to new things in life. -Alleson Huntspon

Laurel White said...

Meaningful. It said " while so much of life, the very moments that will alter us the most, we can not predict we can know even the meaning truth of a spectacular celestial event with utter certainly". this is saying that there are many things in life that ewe might take for granted , and we might not think about it that much, may make us feel some type of way, may hold us back but we have to keep going and remember that everything will be good in the end. -Laurel white

Keaira C. said...

Appreciate. I can completely relate to author, Susannah Felts, as one of the ideas that she discusses in this article is the importance of setting all of the extra things aside for significant, possibly life changing events. The message that I took away was, appreciating those that we love enough, to be with them while experiencing major events is something that we need to do more commonly . Felts says, “[...] I will accept the stillness and awe experienced alongside the ones that I love most”(247). I think it’s very important to do this and get out of the mindset of always doing something on our phones, or going to a celebratory event just for the idea of it. Many times by going to parties and events hosted for memorable holidays, people, or for major events, we may tend to miss the point and purpose of the event, and get distracted by all of the other aspects of the party, not being able to embrace the moment. Her attitude and tone in this article to me is: appreciate those you love, and the experiences you care about, by embracing the moment.
- Keaira Cox

Noah Jones said...

I feel that idea of not going to the Eclipse parties not to get souvenirs and other event things and instead going to just have the experience is a great idea. I think too many times in life we feel that we have to pay or spend money to have a great experience in life and that is not true. Some of the most fun things in life don't come at any price at all. - Noah
Jones

Christopher Yancey said...

Cherish. it shouldn't matter on the availability resources one has access to nowadays on such a subject as a solar eclipse. to be honest i fell like i i can read everything out there and watch all the videos on them, but nothing beats seeing this spectacular event in person because something like this is truly a once in a life time event that is best witnessed in person. an event like this has the same shock and awe that was present at cape Canaveral for the great rocket launch that brought way more elements of surprise than some video or reading can give you. Yes the information is out there that if you are not curious enough can ruin your experience and the monetization brought along with it, but in the end its worth it.

Nia M. said...

Realization. This event was such a huge moment in life for many people. The author mentioned and gave a description of how her town was getting ready for this spectacular event. I had a very similar experience with her and witnessed it first hand. Where I live the town 15 minutes away had the longest duration of the eclipse, thousands of people were flocking in that direction to witness it, go to concerts, and collect scientific data. It was to point were I didn't want to get out in public, because of how busy it was. However, after experiencing this spectacular event and reading Susannah Felt's words on it, it makes me realize this single event brought together not only my community, but many others. - Nia Marshall

Carah F. said...

Woe. Experiencing the eclipse was an amazing experience, but it only lasted 2 minutes. It put the idea that a great experience can end sooner than you think into perspective. I find this a little depressing. Felts says, “And when the blackness peels away and August torpor clamps down again…. what will we carry forth...My husband: ‘Back to work.’ Me, checking this off my to-do list: eclipse.” (p. 247) After having this awesome time, you just go back to life almost as if this experience didn’t happen. Maybe you’ll have the experience to look back on, but eventually you will forget.

Carah F.

William Shanklin said...

Present. The author of this passage demonstrated how important it was to not just live for the future. I personally relate to this based off of my high school experience. During high school I didn’t really do anything extra because I was either too nervous to get involved or pushed it off until it actually mattered. What I got from this passage was to make decisions that you want to do in the moment so that you are not living your live by preparing for the future.

Tyler Bean-Catencamp said...

Motionless. That was the word that came to mind when thinking about the article. Motionless as in living in the moment, or rather those two minutes of the eclipse. "I will accept the stillness and awe experienced alongside the ones I love most. I will accept a summer day turned inside out" (247). At that moment, Felt was just taking in the eclipse, not thinking about anything else and not letting anything interfere. I think that we could all learn to just appreciate what happens around us, just like the eclipse.

-Tyler Bean

Torian henry said...

The word I chose was fulfillment. It came to me after a deep dive into the reading of the authors experiences. I feel that this word appropriate for this article because it is very relatable to many of our lives in a sense that at some points it is okay to pause things in your everyday life to experience particular events you may never see again. This is where we get fulfillment in our lives and become more appreciative and grateful of each aspect of our lives.
-Torian H

Charlie Brown said...

Perspective. Viewing the eclipse was a major event that many people will never experience in their lifetime. On page 247, the author talks about how that eclipse will probably be the last one that her parents will experience. The eclipse is also the first one that her daughter will experience. She also talks about how people were celebrating the event in different ways. Some people were viewing the eclipse in large groups in public places. Others were experiencing the rare event with their family, friends, and loved ones. I am from Owensboro, Kentucky, and I was able to experience the entire two minute event. This article makes me think back on that day and how rare of an experience the eclipse was. People were celebrating the eclipse in many different ways and it makes me realize how unique and rare this event was.

Brooke Harris said...

Desensitization. Usually the word is used in sort of a negative way, but when the word came to thought it left a hopeful idea to the situation. Like said in the article, eclipses have been seen as a sign of the world ending and caused panic, but after a while the idea that humans adapted and became desensitized to the event is why we can only be fascinated by the astronomical event versus scared of it. This desensitization can be used positively in this context to bask in the true beauty that rare events like this happen. I would rather have this desensitization than be in panic because it truly is something people don't really see all the time.
~ Brooke H

Evan Senat said...

Uncertainty. Reading this section brought back my own feelings during the eclipse. I knew it was a spectacular phenomenon, but I did not know how to feel about it at the time. Should I feel excited, reverent, or peaceful? I did feel scared for a little bit, because I had no idea what to expect from the eclipse. When Felts said her daughter asked what they were to do after the eclipse, that struck a nerve with me. Just like every important event, the time comes and goes. When it is over, you are left uncertain about what to do until the next monumental event. -Evan S.

Ta'mya Cummings said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Ta'mya Cummings said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Ta'mya Cummings said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Jeremiah Johnson said...

Mystery. The author exclaimed how a eclipse is one of the surest of things, and then went on to say that we cannot predict what will happen in life. This resonates with me most because currently in my personal life, I keep experiencing things I could not have possibly for seen.
The Eclipses' happening at the time was also a spectacle in everyone's life that experienced it, and is one all people living during the time have. The lives of all the people who had seen it are all drastically different, and the eclipses' happening contrasts the mystery of what is next for all the people who witnessed it. What is next in this carnival ride of a life we live.

Ta'mya Cummings said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Ta'mya Cummings said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Anonymous said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Anonymous said...

Perspective. In the past, the eclipse was viewed as scary and dangerous. Nobody wanted to see or be around the eclipse because of fear. Nowadays, the eclipse is an event that people admire and wants to see over and over again. Because of perspective, people now record this one in a lifetime memory to keep forever in a cheerful matter opposed to the catastrophe it once was. -Ta'mya C.

Peyton W said...

Silence. We take memorable moments for granted and don’t appreciate it till their gone. This section shows how moving away for technology just for a moment can help you appreciate, the finer things in life, special moments and reminds us how good it can be to unplug every once in a while. Instead of looking at their phones everyone was silent and able to appreciate the splendor of the eclipse and the silence it brought. Moments like this is when silence shows how valuable a moment can be.

Unknown said...

Convicted. I felt conviction after reading the article. Prior to reading this article, I haven't thought about the eclipse that took place. I was in awe at the time but the awe/ wonder quickly evaporated and life resumed as normal. Felts' article reminds me to stay aware and cherish the moments that so many of us take for granted.
-Jacqueline Smith

William Akpan said...

Awe. Whenever I compare the way things are now to the way they used to be, I can’t help but be amazed with how far we've come. When the author discussed how long ago, many people saw the eclipse as a sign of doom and now some people don’t pay much attention to it at all. Even for as far as we’ve come, circa 1974, there were still some things that we couldn’t do. As shown in the text “ As inventive as Drake’s ecosemiotics were in 1974, the Arecibo message was ultimately more of a proof of concept than a genuine attempt to make contact…”

-William A.

Kendall Dow said...

As the author experiences this once of a lifetime moment, she is said to be astonished. She says she wants to make this moment perfect for her. She asks questions like "How can I make these two minutes the best?". She has the perfect view on this rare day with her family beside her. The author describes the moment as sudden chill and silence. As the eclipse passes is away, the everyone leaves, and the daughter asks "where are we going. The husband replies "back to work". What I took away from this is that it is okay to stop and take a break for a minute. However don't lose focus of what you need to do.
-Kendall Dow

Anonymous said...

Appreciation. After reading this article, I began to think about other experiences that I might have just been "present" for but not fully "present" for in regard to living in the moment. I do feel as if advancements in technology have eliminated components of curiosity and influenced trends toward how such experiences appear online. This refreshing sense of appreciation inspired by Felt was a nice reminder to stay present, creative, unique, and to focus on current happenings because at the end of the day, life is what you make it.

Madison M.

Abdul Nelson said...

Evolution. As I read the article I could see the change in humans. How they used to think different from humans before them. Nothing is the same anymore. Throughout history you see the change in humans. In text it says, "Still, I can't stop thinking about the fact that, centuries ago, a total eclipse was cause for panic, a sign of doom..." However as of now the eclipse is a celebration. Like I said before humans will continue to change.

I'Lysa Walker said...

The transition from once experiencing terror centuries ago, to awe decades ago, now nearly branching into indifference nowadays when it comes to eclipse is astounding. I don't even think back to my first experience seeing an eclipse with amazement or wonder, nor did I really recognize how lucky I was to have seen something so marveling. I just remember trying to find my friends in the sea of classmates on the baseball field behind our school. Felts' conclusion, "Whose hands did you clasp at the wonder of the moon blotting out the sun" made me recognize or acknowledge how much more meaningful experiences such as these are when you can share them with those you love. - I'Lysa Walker

I'Lysa Walker said...

The transition from once experiencing terror centuries ago, to awe decades ago, now nearly branching into indifference nowadays when it comes to eclipse is astounding. I don't even think back to my first experience seeing an eclipse with amazement or wonder, nor did I really recognize how lucky I was to have seen something so marveling. I just remember trying to find my friends in the sea of classmates on the baseball field behind our school. Felts' conclusion, "Whose hands did you clasp at the wonder of the moon blotting out the sun" made me recognize or acknowledge how much more meaningful experiences such as these are when you can share them with those you love. - I'Lysa Walker

Kevin P. said...

Memories. This anecdote from Felts has made me think deeper into not only rare experiences such as the eclipse but also into everyday moments we share with loved ones. During this eclipse in 2017, the school year had only been in session for a week or two but my mother allowed me and my younger brother off school. At the time we were really excited at most but after experiencing the eclipse I really didn't notice much of a difference. The experience for me was interesting at most and I really haven't thought about it since but Felts writing put one thing into perspective for me. The next eclipse similar to the one in 2017 wont occur until 2045 26 years from now and my life will be completely different. Will I remember the eclipse from 2017? Will I remember writing about it in my dorm in 2019? Felts deep appreciation on what seemed to me as a insignificant event makes me want to cherish more of those times I share with people I hold close.

Unknown said...

A lot of times, we don't know how much we have right in front of us. We take it for granted while our ancestors previously fought so desperately for. As a human race, we have come very far. Technology has advanced a lot of things we do. Many times, we are on our phones instead of appreciating that our family is still alive and other things.

-Shamon S

Deja R Lane said...

Mindfulness. So many times in life we focus on having souvenirs and evidence of our experiences to the point where we don't enjoy those moments to the fullest extent. I know that I'm guilty of going to a concert and recording a few videos, but there are some people that will leave concerts and events with 2 hours' worth of footage. We need to enjoy life and live in the moment and stop overthinking and focussing on details.
- Deja L

Unknown said...

Growth is the word that came to mind when reading. There are so many opportunities to learn more about the world we live in and infinite more ways to learn to appreciate it. We all have an opportunity to grow and develop as a person as our realizations about the world advance. Our progress so far oftentimes causes us to reflect on the past, and in the process miss out on the present.

~ Eboni G.

Bria B said...

Reading this chapter put me into the perspective of a growing mindset. When the author mentioned the difference of time from 1979 to 2017, it creates a different mindset within the world. She gave an example of how people viewed solar eclipse in 1979 versus now, how people were so amazed and somewhat scared to now its a regular thing and an amazing view. The purpose of this reading was growing mentally, how we as a people should appreciate what we have now.. appreciate the little things. To simply stay present within life.

Kailey B said...

When eating this, th first word that comes to mind is Worth. I cherish my family very much and we are extremely close. I always make sure anytime spent with the is spent with care. The author writes, "I want to hold my child, our heads tilted to the heavens, the very opposite image of gazing down at our devices"(Felts 247). This supports how easily we can not realize the amount of worth tat can be had with time spent with our loved ones. I strongly believe in making every last minute count and made into memories because after all that Is what we will truly have forever.

Kailey B

Quanicia Rudd said...

Gratefulness. Reading the author's feelings towards the eclipse, revealed to me how truly thankful she was for the opportunity to witness a total eclipse. Not only was witnessing an eclipse, monumental in itself, she got to experience it with her family. "In the absence of such wizardry, I will accept the stillness and awe experienced alongside the ones I love most." This concept is important to me because it is genuine. The author expresses how a lot of Americans viewed the eclipse as just another way to make money. But, she viewed it as a once in a lifetime experience that she would get to witness surrounded by the people she loved most.

Quanicia R.

Anonymous said...

Patience. The way the author describes the way she and others waited for this once in a lifetime opportunity shows that you have to be patient when it comes to getting what you desire. It also helps me realize that you cannot take certain for granted, you have to cherish every event that occurs in your life because you never know when you'll be able to experience something as extravagant again.-S.B.