Bang on Some Metal, Let's Save the Sun!

One of the many hats I have worn over the last dozen years is that of a healthcare interpreter. It has granted me the opportunity to help people navigate the strange system of care in this country, but it has also allowed me some snippets of insight into the lives and perspectives of other people and cultures. Often as not, I have had the opportunity to be regaled with various stories from life in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other places.

One of those patients for whom I have interpreted started telling me a story about growing up in rural Mexico as a descendant of Toltec, Olmec, Maya, and other indigenous cultures. Let's call him Victor. Victor did not have the luxury of a standard education, even if he were able to study beyond what his parents had done.

The family was surprised one day by a solar eclipse. Their traditional understanding of an eclipse was that the moon god and the sun god were battling and the sun needed to win in order to continue with its task of bringing light to the world. Victor's mother rounded up all the kids and set them outside to bang on any available pieces of metal to cheer on the sun in its battle with the moon. If the sun did not win, the world was sure to end.

The children ran outside banging on metal, raising the loudest ruckus they possibly could. They were joined by the neighbors all over the village, while other villages did the very same.

Laughing, Victor told me, “See, you Americans just don't realize that you owe us Mexicans for saving the world by cheering on the sun to win that battle. If it had not been for us, the world would have ended back when I was a child!”

Victor laughs about it all now but growing up, this was serious business. It was a matter of life and death, and they were proud of themselves for helping the sun gain victory over the moon's attack. While he understands that the moon and the sun do not battle each other, it would seem that we often still get caught up in some of these same kinds of superstitions based on fears over what we do not understand.

Ancient Jewish apocalyptic literature was often claiming various signs and wonders as having hidden or special meaning. When the disciples asked Jesus in Matthew 24 about signs that would foretell his coming in glory and the beginning of the new age, he responded by saying that all the talk about signs and wonders as foretelling what was coming were all worthless. They simply had no meaning. He mentioned several of the more common signs, from wars, famines, earthquakes, revolts, and the coming of false prophets. None of these, he says very clearly, has any value in predicting God's future.

For two thousand years, we have continued to dwell on signs and wonders Jesus said were of no value. We have tried to predict Jesus' parousia, the end of the world. It has all been to no avail. For all the good it has done us, we might as well hold onto the mythical stories from Central American peoples about the clashes between the sun and moon at every eclipse.

Earthquakes are not signs. They are natural phenomena. The same is true of tornadoes, hurricanes, the moon appearing red, and eclipses. Wars and rumors of wars have happened throughout the history of humanity. The US itself has never gone twenty years without participating in a war. Famines, droughts, and plagues of disease are routine occurrences, often as not caused by our own hands due to greed.

Jesus told his disciples not to be fooled by all the claims of signs and wonders.

We are going to make a small trek to view the eclipse in its totality. I won't be banging on pieces of metal. I won't be looking to the clouds expecting Jesus' return. I will be going to experience a natural phenomenon of the created order of the world.

If you are concerned about the earth ending because of the words of some fear-monger, you might as well join my family and bring something metal to bang on. After all, then you might at least be able to feel good about yourself, playing a part in rescuing the world from the moon's attack on the sun. Then if you are interested, Victor also taught me about some tricks to stop the wind from blowing, passed down through generations of family lore.

©Copyright 2017, Christopher B. Harbin


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