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.

5 Comments on “The Eclipse

  1. I’d speculate the aspect of sharing one’s experience of the eclipse on social media was a strong factor that played into all the hype on Monday as well.  This is the first total eclipse that occurred over the USA during the age of Facebook, Instagram, etc., so more photos and blogs about it were going to be shared, whether it be for marketing purposes or just to let others live vicariously through someone else’s personal experience of it.

    But, I’m sure your second point about the impending collapse of America is a viable reason as well.  With all the “darkness” that’s shown in the media about the state of the country, small moments of just reflecting on the magnificence of nature can be a nice reprieve from it all..

    By the way, have you ever seen the Northern Lights, Caleb?  That’s one of the natural phenomena on my bucket list to check out.

     

     

  2. Part of it is also that it’s something everybody experiences. When the local baseball team won the World Series tons of people who probably wouldn’t have been able to name a single player on the team 3 years before suddenly were super excited and acted like it was their favorite thing. It’s one of those things that everybody in the city experienced and acts as a shared moment.

    But I didn’t even think about how other people won’t see another eclipse unless it passes close to them. This was my first one, but I’m young and knew deep down I’ll likely see several more as I’ll use them as an excuse to go someplace I haven’t been before. But most people are so trapped in their lives that even if they do travel, it becomes a vacation instead of a trip. It’s an escape from their normal lives.

  3. I was 10 or 11 when the eclipse hit in the late 1970s and BD is right, I don’t recall nearly as much hype.  It was covered in the news, but more as an aside, not as one of the major stories of the day.

    I’m going to go with David’s answer regarding the explosion of social media.  It became the “trending” topic, the “it” thing for many to talk about, could be streamed live, etc.

    I was lucky enough to borrow a pair of the proper sunglasses and saw it from my office building window.  The orange color reminded me of the color of a harvest moon.

  4. I’d speculate the aspect of sharing one’s experience of the eclipse on social media was a strong factor that played into all the hype on Monday as well.

    Agree. Social media is a huge part of this stuff.

    But, I’m sure your second point about the impending collapse of America is a viable reason as well.  With all the “darkness” that’s shown in the media about the state of the country, small moments of just reflecting on the magnificence of nature can be a nice reprieve from it all.

    Agree.

    I read about a theory a while back that the upswing in popularity of zombie movies and TV shows over the last 5-10 years or so is a direct reflection of people’s darker, more nihilistic attitudes regarding the future of the Western world. Makes sense to me.

    By the way, have you ever seen the Northern Lights, Caleb?  That’s one of the natural phenomena on my bucket list to check out.

    No but it’s on my list as well.

    Part of it is also that it’s something everybody experiences.

    True.

  5. Caleb,

    Hard to say if society is more into frivolity today, although it seems that way with celebrity worship, etc…  ON the other hand, take sports…it always seems that people loose their minds when “their team” wins and it was that way when I was a kid too.  I’m in Chicago and there was crazy hype in ’85 when the Bears won, then the Bulls in the 90’s, then the Blackhawks, now the Cubs.   Things like this and the eclipse have much more media exposure than they ever did, as you mentioned also with social media.

    To the bigger point here, that your lifestyle allows you to see the world, I would agree that it makes things like this seem less spectacular.  I’ve seen some incredible sights in my travels as well and the awe of it would always trump any local sports team or whatever.  I have an aunt, now 99, that has never left her little rural town in southern Illinois.  And I mean NEVER-no traveling other than coming up to Chicago a few times for family.  It saddens me that someone like her never experienced life outside of this tiny town but I guess she doesn’t know any different.

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