How Will We Act During the Solar Eclipse?

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI rarely write about upcoming events because it usually never dawns on me to do it until after I’ve already filed my column.

This week, however, is different. In fact, I’m running a week ahead because I cannot contain my excitement about the solar eclipse, which — as you already know — occurs on Aug. 21.

This is the first total solar eclipse America has seen in a long, long time. 

An article in The Washington Post said the eclipse “will be the biggest astronomical event America has seen in years, watched by millions of people from within the path of totality and tens of millions more who are outside it. One astronomer has said it will be the ‘most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history.’”

That’s a pretty impressive statement.

I live in the path of totality, which is a 70-mile wide band stretching across the nation.

I’m excited. I’m also concerned. I know how we can sometimes be around here.

I’m already tremendously disappointed in the way school systems are handling this event. Instead of going out into the schoolyard en masse with their protective glasses to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event, many schools are dismissing for the day.

So, instead of a student somewhere possibly being inspired to become interested in astronomy, or space, or the environment, or natural science in general, we’re making it real easy for him or her to reduce the event to a Snapchat selfie — or even worse — to sit in their bedroom and text about it being so dark outside.

Of course, teachers are probably afraid “that kid” — which every class has — would take off his glasses, sunburn his eyes and then sue the school system, thereby getting the teacher fired.

Still, it seems like a wasted educational opportunity.

I’m also concerned about how we will act as a society in general. “That kid” from school usually grows up to be “that guy” at work or down the street. 

I see the total solar eclipse as a potential “hey, y’all, watch this” occasion.

Don’t be surprised if you turn on the news on the night of the 21st expecting to hear some astronomer gloating about the phenomenon and instead seeing the reporter interviewing the hospital PR person about the spike in emergency room visits during the day.

I’m also concerned because it’s going to be dark for a couple of minutes in the middle of the day. I can’t drive a mile at night without seeing someone with their lights off. How can we expect everyone who will be driving during the eclipse to turn on their lights?

On the bright side, I haven’t heard yet of many crackpots predicting how the eclipse will kick off the end of the world. Apocalyptic predictions seem extremely likely given all the garbage oozing through the internet these days.

I do fully expect to start hearing the term “eclipse forecast” from meteorologists within the next day or two. I vow not to get too excited when it’s a good one or too bummed when clouds are predicted, because it will change 75 times between now and then.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is that a majority of us can enjoy the eclipse for the wondrous spectacle that it promises to be. Maybe we’ll reflect on how vast and mysterious the universe is.

My primary hope, however, is “that kid” will get something out of it.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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