The best thing I read about the eclipse this past week (yes that was this week, although it seems like ancient history already) was someone complaining that ‘they should have scheduled it for the weekend instead of on a Monday.’ I guess second to that would be when I overheard someone who just put on borrowed eclipse glasses asking “OK, so where do I look?”
Sure, the whole eclipse thing is interesting but I definitely was not all caught up in the frenzy like those folks skipping work to drive across country for maximum totality or spending buku, beucoup, bookoo bucks for sold-out black market last minute viewing specs. I assume people will not recall this week’s hype for the ‘celestial event of the century’ in seven years when the next one in 2024 occurs.
Yes, it’s cool and neat and groovy but it’s just not something I get worked up over. Maybe I’d be more wound up if I were a cave dwelling shlub in a primitive culture that assumed the unexpected shocking brief blotting of the Sun was a sign that the Gods were punishing me for carving graffiti figures on the walls, building idols or touching any personal bits for non-procreative purposes. In that case an eclipse might have gotten me off my ass to do something but instead I’m sitting around all blasé wondering what this will cost me in lost power production on my, not yet paid for, roof-top solar panels.
Maybe I should have been more rah-rah ooo-aaaa but I felt more like that curmudgeon old man usually found on the corner back bar-stool all afternoon at the local pub interjecting unwanted grousing comments into other people’s conversations like “eclipse of the century, my ass… you call that two second dot in the sky an eclipse!?! Back in the June of nineteen fifty and six we had an eclipse that kicked this eclipse’s ass… A real eclipse… It lasted for hours plunging Ceylon into a full seven whole minutes of dark chaos blinding every Tom, Dick and Wally from the Five and Dime… I told him he shouldn’t but he watched that whole thing with the red cardboard glasses he got at the Drake The-aaa-ter for the three and D moving pictures of the Creature From The Black Lagoon… Now that webbed handed monster reaching right out of the damn screen making you spill yer popcorn… that was something to get excited about! Not a dag gum lil’ ole Mitsubishi Eclipse!”
Way, way back during some partial eclipse in the past, I recall learning how to protectively watch through a little hole in a cereal box projected onto a white piece of paper taped inside. I recall thinking if you are going to stand out there facing the wrong direction watching a projection in the bottom of a Fruity Pebbles container, why not just sit inside comfortably watching it on TV. But truthfully, I’d feel dopey doing that too, like when you constantly catch yourself watching the big screen shot of an artist performing at a live show instead of looking two inches over and watching them directly on the stage. I will admit that Monday afternoon I did briefly glance at the NASA tracking website but it just felt wrong; like viewing 4th of July fireworks on your cell phone screen.
If I really want to throw myself onto the 2-bit self-analysis psychologist’s sofa, I guess part of the reason I didn’t get excited about an eclipse was that I’m intimidated by the vastness of the universe. Pondering it too hard makes me realize the true and total insignificance of my existence in the grand scheme of things and I don’t like that; you mean the galaxy does not revolve around moi?
I recall one night as a young boy standing a few steps outside our front door with my older brother Arthur as he used a series of balls to explain our solar system to me. Then he pushed it even further pointing up to the sky explaining our galaxy was just one of an infinite number of galaxies reaching out farther and farther and deeper and deeper into the darkness of space. It was a vastness my little head could not then or now, really conceive. My whole universe previously had been tied up inside that house behind us. Suddenly then, and forever after, my world was as small and insignificant as that of an ant trudging away in the dirt beneath my feet.
That knowledge was a bit of a head trip for a bratty obnoxious little kid. With that perspective lodged into my skull, I understood we are all unique individuals yet the subtle human differences that cause Earth’s constant social unrest seemed mighty unimportant. I still have that Horton Hears A Who head trip. It also sometimes makes a lot of my goals and dreams beyond just enjoying my limited days, seem a bit futile and wasted.
Decades ago while my amazing friend Allyson and I were driving home from an Indiana Jones movie, we remembered that there was supposed to be a partial lunar eclipse that night nick-named The Dragon. Apparently, the ancients described it as looking like the shadow of a dragon passing in front of the bottom fourth of the moon. I had read about it in the paper but really the only reason I knew so many Dragon Eclipse details that I could spout on about to Ally was because in those days I went to a lot of late night rock and roll laser shows at the Miami Planetarium where over the previous few weeks the geeky curator Jack Horkheimer had been getting more and more manically excited about this particular phenomena.
We got out of the car at my folk’s condo, watched the sky for a few seconds and very quickly decided ‘we came, we saw, we eclipsed’ and very quickly went our separate ways home. Frankly, I was more exciting about the Don McLean album that my buddy Mike left for me to borrow leaning up against my front door then I was about the eclipse. At least I’m consistent.
But in thinking about the eclipse this week, I did appreciate that for a few measly hours people stood together to share the event. The eclipse cared not if you were alt-Left or alt-Right, pro or anti Donald, what bathroom you used, or if you categorize yourself white, black, Muslim, Jew, Hindi, Catholic or anything else. An alien from one of those far, far away worlds out there in the cosmos would likely see us as all the same. The divides man creates are meaningless when the planet’s sky goes dark. Maybe my real problem with eclipses is they don’t last longer.