Thursday, April 11, 2024



            The total eclipse of the sun has been made into a very big deal, but I don’t get it. The eclipse appears to me to be a cosmic coincidence, and nothing more. I suppose it’s spectacular, in its way, and fairly rare – though darkness happens on a regular basis, at least, where I live. (In fact, I’m in the dark about a lot of things.) And it’s not as if we can take credit for it as an achievement, though I am impressed by the folks who predict it with such confidence. No, I’ve seen shots on the pool table that are more interesting, especially since they are human achievements. I know from personal experience during my undergraduate days that most shots are not easy. But for the eclipse, all we have to do is watch, and this is supposed to give us some measure of joy.


            Nevertheless, television and the internet are giving it a lot of attention, though I doubt there is much entertainment value other than stories about folks who are traveling long distances in order to be momentarily in the dark. And there’s all kinds of marketing associated with the eclipse, starting, I think, with Moon Pies.


            Let me interrupt myself with a joke. A guy is taking a door-to-door survey in Northern Ireland, and he asks one homeowner, “Are you a Protestant or a Catholic?”


            “Neither. I’m an atheist.”


            “Are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?”


            Such are the divisions – in our country and in our world. Just look at the horrible wars. But the eclipse doesn’t care about these divisions. It has nothing to do with them. Is an eclipse something we can share – at least, this time, in America where this one will be visible? Somehow the eclipse gives us a Big Picture view of our Earth as we picture, in our minds, the sun, moon and Earth lining up, with the extraordinary coincidence of the sizes and distances of sun and moon being exactly what’s needed to make the eclipse total and perfect. Reminds me, in a way, of the early days of the space program, when we could see Earth from very far away, and we could feel that it’s a home we all share. Is it too much to ask to see our planet as a home we all share? Anything less than that seems like pure selfishness.


Note: I wrote the above before Monday’s eclipse. Let’s see how it goes . . ..


            I am more or less converted. We watched a bit of the eclipse coverage on television, and I’m not sure how to take all the hype. But people seemed genuinely and deeply moved – not just because they were witness to something rare, though that was a factor, but because they were witness to something beautiful. Also important, I believe, is that people felt they were and are part of something larger than all the crap – politics, wars, shootings, hunger, racism, etc. – that divides and depresses us. People across the country were, apparently, sharing the joy. No wonder a solar eclipse often took on religious significance. It made the world a better place for a few hours. How can anyone want to decline something called “the totality path?” This is not to say that we won’t be hearing those who believe the eclipse was part of an ongoing conspiracy . . ..


            Kim and I celebrated the eclipse by watching it on television for about half an hour, and then going out to the back porch for a look. (We called our local market to see if we could get eclipse-rated dark glasses, but they were sold out.) We poured ourselves glasses of wine to celebrate, but we left them half-finished as we realized that we had to get the thick layer of leaves off of the flowers in woods and garden. The eclipse may have spurred an appreciation of a flash of natural beauty in our solar system, but it spurred us to do what we can to promote the natural beauty in our yard. That’s our “totality path.”

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