Embracing the Shadows

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On Monday, we left the 97 % ers to join the totality group a few hours north of Pittsburgh to witness the total solar eclipse—a profound demonstration of resilience and the awe-inspiring power of nature’s events.

The ancients must have been bewildered by an eclipse, perhaps even fearing that the sun would disappear forever, only to be grateful that is reappeared after just a few minutes. It’s remarkable that the invention of science, as we know it, is partnered with the discovery of the first accurate prediction of an eclipse by the Greek philosopher Thales 2600 years ago.

It would take another 2300 years before the next significant step in eclipse predictions advanced when Edmund Halley predicted that an eclipse would cross over London on May 3, 1715. He was off by four minutes and twenty miles.

In just over 300 years, we used a crowd-sourcing traffic app to circumvent the worst traffic congestion, reducing our time to and from destinations by at least an hour. The app also allowed us to view some beautiful Western Pennsylvania landscapes, including a horse-drawn Amish-directed buggy.

My first law of resilience is that preparation reduces stress. If we can anticipate an event, we can ready ourselves so that we are not surprised by what is happening and can, more importantly, enjoy it. Buying our eclipse glasses several months ago ensured we had them. Missing out on buying a filter for my camera meant I was disappointed that I failed to get any good pictures.

But all regrets faded when the moon slid before the sun, casting an eerie twilight over us. The corona appeared, a fiery halo around the moon, and the brilliance took me aback. When a solar flare occurred, I was spellbound. Unlike the ancients, I knew the sun would return in just a few minutes, but I wish it had stayed covered longer to soak in my connection to the universe.

As the light returned and we packed up, I reflected on a conversation I had just days before the eclipse. I had asked a colleague if he planned to watch the eclipse, to which he replied, “I could care less.”

That moment stuck with me as I watched the shadow pass, a reminder of our tiny but significant place in the universe. It made me ponder what could be less important than recognizing our connection to the cosmos. Beyond its spectacle, this eclipse was a call to look up and connect to the universe—to engage, wonder, and, perhaps most importantly, care deeply about our bigger world.

© Richard Citrin 2024

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