Yesterday we stood beside our vehicle on the usually near-deserted highway near Mud Lake, Idaho, and watched the sun disappear. It was just me, brother Steve, friend Gail Kuntz, and many hundreds of our new friends parked along the road in the high desert. The atmosphere was smoky from forest fires in the Idaho wilderness north of us. The human atmosphere was electric.
In the far past, the disappearance of the sun caused great alarm. People gave primal screams of fear. Even after the sun reappeared, people figured they must have done something wrong to anger the gods, and vowed to change whatever it was they had done.
Still other people responded by thinking that what they had done had saved humanity by causing the gods to put the sun back where it belongs, and they vowed never to change what they had done. I think of these opposite beliefs as “the universe is half-empty” and “the universe is half-full.”
We let out our own primal screams when the moon took the first little bite of the sun, as did the people around us, but they were cries of admiration mixed with applause. Steve stated singing, “When the sun meets your eye like a big pizza pie” and those in our immediate vicinity sang or shouted, “That’s amore.”
When the sun finally disappeared like flipping off the light switch, we all shouted again at the incredibly beautiful corona stretching its blue fingers out of the black hole at its center. We didn’t watch it for the full two minutes because we couldn’t help admiring the 360-degree brilliant red sunset on the clouds and fire smoke in every direction. We were all applauding and shouting for joy.
When the light switch flipped back on and the world became instantly bright from just a tiny peep of the sun, Steve said, “It’s coming back. We aren’t going to die after all!” Several people around us took up the cry, “Hurray, we aren’t going to die.” We could have been more respectful, but humor is a big part of the way we deal with sorrow or joy, and everyone here was ecstatically joyful at this awesome event.
We waited until the sun was fully restored an hour later, having conversations like this:
Gail: Isn’t this incredibly odd?
Steve: Yes, and we are the odd coming to see the odd.
Me: That is the definition of an odyssey.
The only way our experience could have been better would have been for Bonnie Tyler to have been on that Idaho highway singing, at exactly the right time, her hit song:
Once upon a time I was falling in love,
But now I’m only falling apart.
And there’s nothing I can do —
A total eclipse of the heart.
This spirit-cleansing eclipse event came immediately after our president made it very clear that he could not blame the white supremacists and neo-Nazis any more than the counter-protesters for the violence at Charlottesville. Surely nobody can be surprised at this. His new and more moderate advisors got him to issue a more presidential statement condemning the KKK and Nazis, but his later tweets took all that back, something he has driven home with statements implying he may pardon the racist Arizona sheriff who targeted people because they were of Hispanic heritage.
As John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” put it, “It doesn’t get any easier [for a US president] than condemning Nazis.” I think the reason is obvious why he doesn’t. These are his people — every single one of them who voted, voted for him. The groups publicly endorse him and call him one of their own.
As many prominent Republicans sought to distance their views from those of the President, all those connected with the White House either refused to discuss the issue with the press or tried putting a positive spin on the president’s behavior. They missed out on a golden opportunity yesterday to provide an excuse that the public would have accepted.
They should have held a solar eclipse viewing at the White House for the press, and should have booked Bonnie Tyler to sing at the right moment:
Once upon a time I was living in love,
But now I’m only living in pain.
And there’s nothing I can do —
A total eclipse of the brain.