One of my favorite topics for derision is the strange hobbies that so many of our fellow humanoids adopt. I am continually amazed at the ways that people can dissipate time, money, and marital relationships in the pursuit of an activity that none of would spend five minutes thinking about.
Today’s commentary involved the people who have made an obsession out of viewing the total eclipse of the Sun. (Queue Carly Simon song “You’re so Vain”, sung about James Taylor supposedly. A link to it is attached, In the song, the subject flies to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.)
It has come to the attention of this unread blogger that there are people who spend thousands of dollars, their entire vacation day budget, and the respect of their families, traipsing across the globe to watch the moon blot out the sun for two minutes or so. I know this because (in case you were relegated to solitary confinement for the past year) we had a total eclipse in the US this year.
A cottage industry developed, of hotels in the Total Zone marking up rates for the day of the big event. Also, sales of glasses that prevent your eyeballs from curling up like bacon strips when observing the rare celestial phenomenon. Millions, perhaps billions, were spent by people travelling to within the total eclipse zone to see…well, nothing. You get to see the back end of the moon, the main effect of which is eliminating the ability of sun bathers from enhancing their tans for those precious few moments. (This caused considerable upset on South Beach in Miami).
Excuse me for wondering, what is big flipping deal? I walked out of my house and saw a 75% eclipse, a crescent of a smudge inside the protective glasses. Somehow my excitement was less than a wedding night experience.. Basically, I looked up for fifteen minutes, said “Cool” a few times, then went inside to get a Yoohoo and some ring dings. I strongly suspect that I am not alone in this tepid reaction.
Historically, without knowing what in heaven (hell?) was going on, the ancients were scared witless by eclipses. Many thought eclipses meant that the end of the world was imminent, due to some offense such as inadequate virgin sacrifice. In 3300 BC, the Mesopotamians believed a solar eclipse foretold the death of a king. When a solar eclipse occurred, the king would voluntarily give up his throne to be replaced by a commoner, usually a criminal. This substitute king was promptly assassinated. With the celestial prophecy now fulfilled, the previous king was safe to resume his place on the throne. (This seems a plausible belief for Donald Trump, possibly Steve Bannon could be the criminal sacrifice?)
We know better now. Eclipses are a perfectly explainable phenomenon, which can be predicted with complete accuracy. There is one somewhere every 18 months, making it an unrare experience. Which begs the question, why do they inspire such a fanatical following?
For example, click this link to get input from people who have traveled to and seen as many as 27 TOTAL eclipses:
Here are some headscratching quotes from the Eclipse geeks:
Fred Espenak, a retired NASA astrophysicist who has predicted the next 1,000 years of eclipses (WTF?):
“I’ve been to 27 total eclipses and I’ve seen about 20 of them. Seven clouded out (!)”By the time the total eclipse ended … I had already promised myself that once in a lifetime was not enough. It was just spectacular and much too short. I’ve been to the majority of them since then over the past 47 years.”
Geek #2, 16 totals observed:
I was completely unprepared for the vision I saw in the sky, and for how intense the feeling was of all of a sudden being lifted in my consciousness off the globe, off this two-dimensional life I was living. It opened up a three-dimensionality that I was not prepared for. … In some sense, I’ve spent the past 26 years also trying to come to terms with that.
Geek #3, huh?
“Witnessing totality is an eerie, almost paranormal feeling. The hordes of fellow travelers who made the pilgrimage to the line of totality will be seeing and feeling and hearing the same thing, all together. For a moment, thousands of people will be staring at a hole in the sky, pondering a sensation of the world coming to an end.”
There you have it folks, do you get it now? Er…I don’t. What I get, is these folks are a few sprinkles short of an ice cream cone. So, the event that inspired so many of to shrug and say “Cool” just because we thought we should (like listening to a Bob Dylan song) appears to engender transcendental feelings among the strange few. Any bets as to whether the guy who has traveled to 27 of them has remained married? I suspect his wife experienced a “Total eclipse of the Heart”, absconded with the telescope, and found a normal guy. (Normal guys, meaning those who are enthralled with golf or football games).
Anyone who is offended by this column, because they are eclipse chasing loonies, feel free to apply for psychiatric benefits under Obamacare. I will donate my eclipse watching glasses gratis!