There is a solar eclipse tomorrow. It’s kind of a freaky thing. I mean, the trigonometry of it (Technically, syzygy), as complex as it is, is fairly simple when compared to the myths associated with it. And if you understand the trigonometry of it – well, first off, congrats to your teachers, but also, doesn’t it make you feel small? The things we complain and worry about on the day to day seem insignificant when thinking about the paths of planets within our solar system… Our selves not even large enough to be mites in the sight of the Powers of the Universe.
But back to the myths…
Wolves, dragons, dogs, bears, and – in old Vietnamese folklore – even frogs have been blamed as the cause, as they devour the sun for various reasons. Biting some or all of it, depending on the degree of eclipse. There are many cultures who believed that an eclipse was the result of angry gods, and that it could mean apocalypse. Some felt that it was the sun and moon arguing – and the blackness was a reminder for us all to stop quarreling here on Earth. There are scholars that believe the darkness that fell over Jesus’ crucifixion was an eclipse. And many people still continue to see it as a portent for danger. For death. For destruction. For endings. And new beginnings.
And i won’t even go into everything the astrologers have to say about the eclipse.
This event brings with it some serious logistic problems as well. For one, the traffic congestion in the areas that will see totality are expected to be legendary. The roads between here in Chattanooga and Nashville, for example, are expected to be insane as we are in the path. Schools have been closed so that whole families can view this event together. And i’m sure eye doctors are preparing for the worst.
Another logistic nightmare: This will be a real test of our solar power industry. Tho currently, as a country, only about one percent of our commercial power comes from solar energy, there are states who use more. North Carolina, for example, is the third largest solar state, at about three percent, and part of it will fall within the path of the eclipse. The power companies are used to having to accommodate fluctuations in the grid during storms and clouds, but even under cloud cover, we still get solar rays. Monday, for a short period, there will be none. Zip. Zilch. This is going to test their skills.
The first instinct is to think that it’s only two minutes… How bad can it be? But if you were on a respirator and without a backup generator, it would be catastrophic. (To note, hospitals all have backup generators… I was just pointing out that it’s all relative.)
I don’t work in the power industry, but every article i have read says they have been preparing for this, as they realize the outcome will greatly influence the growth or decline of solar power in the commercial marketplace. Can they keep the flow steady, minimal waxing and waning, by pulling from other sources and exporting to extra grids as the sheer number of solar rays drops to zero and then peaks? Bless the men and women who will try. Granted, a lot of it may be moot – like all the prep we did for the turn of the millennium. But maybe not. I guess we will see.
And finally, what does this eclipse mean for us as individuals? For you? For me? Will it be a source of wonder? Awesome, in the truest sense of the word? Will it make you sit later, with your friends and a beer, and discuss our minuteness in the vastness of space? Or will you make merry with it, invoke the old myths, and bang pots and pans to scare off the mythical creatures that are eating our sun? Will you read the astrological predictions, even if just out of curiosity? Will you view those two minutes of darkness as a metaphysical moment of silence? Or are you hoping they will have an effect like a slap for hysteria on this crazy country of ours?
For most of us, the eclipse tomorrow will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I urge you, my friends, to be safe. And i also hope we all will take a moment to think about all that is going on around us, oblivious of us and yet made of us, and consider what kind of energy we are taking from and giving back to the Infinite Source. From a scientific, religious, or social perspective – I hope we all make the most of it.