I never get the hang of this game. This game called life among humans, that is.
Maybe the most simple explanation is that the steady advance of enlightenment is a myth and that we have not progressed much at all since the day Urko and Grog left the cave and moved to the suburbs. The shiny orb in the sky still mystifies and frightens us.
We know exactly when it rises and sets, on any day and from any vantage point on our home planet. You can set your watch to it. We know how far away it is and how hot it is. We can detect and measure things such as coronal mass ejections – which are disruptive but also kind of cool because they cause auroras – and can prepare for them.
Here comes the coolest celestial event in a long time – the big Aug. 21 eclipse – and the mountains of science and learning crumble to sand. Many in our suspect species can’t just savor the event but instead dive into the swamp of social media for their fill of fear-mongering and superstition.
It’s the Mayan Death Calendar – surprise: it’s been five years and yet we live – and our old friend Nibiru the killer planet all over again. I’m sure the fellow who trots out Nibiru every couple years knows he’s just pulling our leg, but as with much performance art, the real trick is to see how many people you can get to bite.
My counter-theory is that the eclipse is too simple. It has three moving parts – sun, moon, Earth – all in precisely measurable and predictable orbits. Every once in awhile, they align and it is very cool. But we have to gild the lily. It must be a sign or an omen. Omens are always good click-bait.
Here’s what we know. The coming eclipse is No. 22 of 77 in a series running from the year 1639 to 3009. Others touching the United States come in 2024, 2045 and 2099. Separate from that cycle, this is the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in the U.S. in 99 years, and the next one is more than a century away.
My guess is that when the year 3009 rolls around, we won’t be that much smarter.
Then again, as bad as the fear-mongers are, the more ordinary gloom-and-doomers are doing their bit to kill the party too. How many people have you heard say, “You just know it’s going to be cloudy.”
Bite your tongue. Go out and wait in the lobby. Some of us are trying to enjoy the show.
– Jeff Fox has been posting more serious-minded items on the eclipse on Twitter @FoxEJC.