In the late 1970’s, when I was about seven or eight years old, my parents took me out on our deck overlooking the Willamette Valley and the distant mountains beyond. They told me that an “eclipse” was about to occur. When I asked what that was, they explained that the moon was going to pass in front of the sun, blocking out all of the light and making it nighttime during the day, just for a few minutes.
I loved science when I was a kid and was very excited. As we sat, I watched in awe as darkness fell across the land, really and truly making it nighttime even though it was about 3pm in the afternoon. Then suddenly, the light returned, and everything was normal once again. It was a magical experience, one I’ll never forget.
My Alpha Male 1.0 father pointed a giant finger at me and said in his booming voice, “You’d better enjoy this, Caleb! Because another eclipse won’t happen here until well after the year 2000. You’ll be a grown man in your forties by then!”
My forties? My child-brain could barely understand the concept. Wow. In the 1970’s, people in their forties were old. I’d be an old man in my forties. I was just a kid. That would be a long, long time.
It was a long time, but long times eventually come. Now in my forties (though not yet old), like most Americans on Monday morning, I took a few minutes of quiet time to observe the solar eclipse once again.
I opened my garage, dragged a chair out, put my laptop on my lap, and worked in the sun. Slowly, the world started to grow darker.
It was very strange; I didn’t remember this aspect when I was a kid. The world around me was full of “dark sunlight.” The sun was still shining brightly and there was still sunlight everywhere, but it was dark sunlight, literally. This must have been what Tolkien was talking about when describing Mordor, or what Stephen King was talking about when Roland visited New York using the todash of black thirteen.
I waited for the world to turn into night, but that never happened, which sucked. In order to do that, I would have had to drive about two hours south into Oregon to get into the eclipses’ dark zone. I didn’t have enough interest to do that.
I’ve been reflecting on everyone’s hysteria over the eclipse. This didn’t happen back in the 1970’s. People were interested, saw the eclipse, and that was it. Today, people have been orgasmic for weeks about this damn thing. Apparently, over a million people drove into the Portland area just to get a better view of it (causing me to stay far away from Portland over the last few days to avoid the traffic).
Like I said, this didn’t happen in the 1970’s. I think the culture of America has changed to the point where frivolous things really get people excited in ways that historically they did not. This could be because of the increasing shallowness of American culture, or its underlying darkness as we get closer toward collapse. Or it could be neither of those things, and they could simply be a reflection of my own bias.
I had a much more relaxed attitude about this eclipse than the one I saw when I was a kid. This was because, due to my Alpha 2.0 lifestyle, I have the ability to travel anywhere in the world to view any solar eclipse any time I want. Eclipses happen all over the world all the time, so it’s not a big deal when you live in “the world” instead of being stuck in your local city like normal people are.
My dad, so many years ago, was one of those normal people. That’s why he cherished the eclipse in ways I did not. Almost 40 years later, he still lives in the exact same neighborhood today. Like most people, he’s stuck with the one or two eclipses he gets to see in his lifetime.
I plan on seeing many solar eclipses before I die.
Because I can.