The enlightenment that comes with endarkenment

OK, people, the eclipse is over. Time to come back down to earth, wipe the awestruck tears from your eyes, and stop OMGing the wonders of the natural world as you ponder your place in the universe. Let’s put the spiritual tizzy behind us, shall we? It’s all fun and games until somebody becomes a druid.

Not that I didn’t think it was cool.

It was.

For the record, I wasn’t at any of the ground zeroes of totality that arched across the nation like a celestial skid mark. I have friends who went, but not me. I stayed home and was out on the sidewalk in front of the house, where it was about 89 percent of perfect totality, which was plenty for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been closer than 89 percent of perfection in any other thing I’ve ever done.

Still, you knew it was a special moment when several neighbors on my block set out their lawn chairs on the sidewalk just after noon on a Monday. We usually wait until after dinner to do that.

But there were signs that this gathering was special and unique, like the fact that none of us had a beer in our hand. Eclipses can make you do strange things.

I didn’t have those special eclipse glasses that were all the rage, but one of my neighbors had a big X-ray sheet his doctor had given him years ago, and he let me look through it to see the eclipse. I was amazed how much an eclipse looks like a broken wrist bone. Or maybe I was looking at the wrong thing.

When the sun was finally 89 percent covered, the day grew dim, although I wouldn’t say it was 89 percent dimmer than a normal day—proof that an awful lot of daylight just goes wasted. We could probably get by with just 50 percent of the sun’s power most days and not even notice. That’s good to know, since the sun is scheduled to burn out in about 5 billion years, so we’re probably good to go for at least another 3 billion years or so as it fades away. It’s nice to be able to make plans.

But the eclipse is over now. The sun and the moon have gone back to their daily humdrum routes, and we’re all left with our own deep thoughts about the experience and the lasting lessons we will come away with.

For one thing, consider how far we have come from the days when an eclipse was seen as an evil omen or a harbinger of troubles to come, like the death of kings or the failure of crops. We now know that those disasters are caused by gluten.

For my part, I was amazed at how accurately we’ve learned to predict an eclipse, not only to the hour, minute and second, but also to the mile, yard and inch of where it will pass, allowing us to manufacture and stockpile all the glasses, tee shirts, coffee mugs, ball caps and “Parking—$20” signs we would need well before the event. Primitive man was always taken by surprise by an eclipse, which is why those poor saps were always broke. But today, because we knew exactly when and where the eclipse would happen, hotels, motels and entrepreneurs all along the path of totality saw an infusion of wealth that was nothing short of…well, astronomical. MoonPies enjoyed record sales.

But when you’re talking about the perfect yin-yang union of light and dark that is a total eclipse, for every bit of bright, cheery yang there has to be some dark, gloomy yin to keep the universe in perfect balance.

For example, as eclipse entrepreneurs raked in their dark-dealt dough, how many workers in other jobs can say it was “business as usual” as the eclipse slid past outside the window? According to the analysis of one accounting firm leading up to the eclipse, “American employers will see at least $694 million in missing output for the roughly 20 minutes that workers will take out of their workday to stretch their legs, head outside the office and gaze at the nearly two-and-a-half minute eclipse.”

It’s not clear yet if those capital losses will wipe out the gains, but as with all things, it probably comes down to “location, location, location.” Thanks to bustling crowds, businesses sitting under the moon-shadow ended up doing the cash register “cha-ching” dance. Everybody else left out in the light spent an extra 20 minutes on hold, cursing and listening to the voice say, “Please stay on the line, because your call is important to us.” That’s the way it is with yin and yang.

And if that isn’t enough yin and yang for you, consider this:

Many observers of the eclipse noted that animals were completely fooled by the sudden darkness and lay down to sleep as if it were night.

But the universe stayed in balance, because the eclipse made me miss my nap.

Author, musician and storyteller TR Kerth is a retired teacher who has lived in Sun City Huntley since 2003. Contact him at trkerth@yahoo.com. Can’t wait for your next visit to Planet Kerth? Then get TR’s book, “Revenge of the Sardines,” available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book distributors.

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