The Future’s So Bright, I’ve Got To Wear Shades

From 10:10 to 10:25AM today my company had a break for those who wanted to go outside and watch the near-total eclipse of the sun.  The scene was something odd.  I stayed inside the nearly deserved building but I looked outside through the window [1] to see the crowd of people looking up, some with special lenses on and some pointing their cell phones to the sky to take pictures and videos of the gathering darkness.  Many people where I work–including half of a neighboring department or so–had taken off for the whole day or several days in order to camp out in order to catch a few minutes of darkness in mid-morning.  My feeds on social media were filled with the photos and videos of friends of mine across the United States who looked up to the sky and did their part to record the partial or complete darkness as the eclipse made its way across the surface of my nation.  While some people were motivated not to do anything about it because of their dislike of the hype about the eclipse, most people seemed content to follow the hype and to buy products to make a few minutes of solar viewing a bit easier.

As might be expected, there was a great deal of selling regarding the eclipse.  Some people went to heroic efforts at the last minute to pay for glasses so that they could look at the brightness of the corona of the sun without the danger of blindness.  There were concerns about fakes and about which lenses had the ISO number for the proper protection, and I was bemused by the whole spectacle.  The days of increasing hype about the eclipse exposed the fact that many companies were simply not prepared for the market that they had.  Demand far outstretched supply even if this is not an event that happens enough that the glasses would be able to be used more than once.  Even in the relatively sedate world of reading books a novel about a previous American eclipse was promoted heavily, to my mild irritation, being a person generally hostile to sales pitches on principle, even when the product is one that I would be expected to enjoy as a general rule.  My slight interest in matters of solar eclipses is not great enough to tolerate it being used as just another excuse to buy something.

This is not to say that I am hostile to observing the patterns of the heavens?  I remember as a child looking out to see a partial eclipse of the sun when I was in middle school, but neither then or now have I considered such a thing a big deal.  Carly Simon, of course, sang in “You’re So Vain” about a former partner who flew some friends up to Nova Scotia for a total eclipse of the sun, and many people seemed to follow that example.  Friends of mine camped for days in national forests, and plenty of people rented their property for exorbitant fees to take advantage of those whose interest in the eclipse bordered on solar worship.  I just couldn’t get caught up in the hype.  An eclipse is a wonder of creation, and not particularly common, but it is not the sort of thing that stirs my blood to any particular great degree.  I am amused at the way others make a big deal out of it, but I do not really understand the appeal or share it, largely because the sun is just not something I really enjoy to any great degree [2].  In stark contrast to others, apparently, I am no sun worshiper.

What is it that people seek to get out of an event like an eclipse anyway?  The fact that the moon is just large enough to block the light of the sun is considered one of those “coincidences” that demonstrate intelligent design.  People in ancient times considered eclipses and other astronomical phenomena to be signs of impending disaster and doom.  I am surprised that this interpretation has not carried more weight in our own day and age, given the fact that this eclipse was only total in the United States and we are a rather pessimistic people at present.  Perhaps it was considered acceptable to buy into the hype about the eclipse without reading any sort of prophetic message into it.  Perhaps if our age was like those of the Middle Ages some enterprising chronicler would comment on the connection between fear and anxiety about the state of the world and the darkness of the sun around the middle of the day that happened today, but in our time we just buy glasses and read books about previous overhyped American eclipses and go about our merry way.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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