My Ambivalent Feelings Towards Solar Eclipses

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As I sit here writing, today is the day of the solar eclipse that is going to be visible in parts of Mexico, The United States and Canada.  Chicago, where I reside, is only going to get a partial eclipse, unlike Indianapolis which, although only a few hundred miles away from Chicago, is going to have the good fortune to be able to witness a total eclipse.

Now this may sound like sour grapes, but honestly it really doesn’t bother me that much that Chicago is only going to be around for a partial eclipse.  It’s only because I am in a situation this year where I am going to have easy access to the special glasses, that I am going to bother to view it at all.  Unlike many of the people around me and many of the people I read about in the papers, I just can’t get into some special event that lasts around the same amount of time as the Kentucky Derby.

Now obviously I am in the minority.  Not only of humans but of living creatures in general.  Zookeepers in the past have observed some strange behaviors on the part of the animals that they are watching over during solar eclipses.  Which I guess shows that these animals are more deeply moved by these solar eclipses than I am.

The strangest behavior that I have heard of by far is that of tortoises.  Evidently, they like to mate during solar eclipses. Talk about a transformative experience.  At least for some of us.  But perhaps the behavior of the tortoises offers us a clue as to the effects of solar eclipses on large numbers of us.  It seems to me that the whole physique of the tortoise is built for defense against predators.  When it senses danger from a predator, all it has to do is withdraw inside of its carapace.  However, this shell, which is so good in protecting a tortoise against enemies, also prevents a tortoise from receiving easy communing sensory stimulation on its backside from other tortoises or from its natural surroundings.  So we can say, to a great extent, the carapace that is so effective at protecting him against attacks from external enemies also protects him against positive organic communion with the external world in general.  Tortoises may live unusually long lives, but, to me, they are not very vibrant lives.  They live in a tortoise version of an experiential vacuum.  When a solar eclipse comes along, and an out-of-place darkness descends on their living environment, another layer is added to the already intense experiential vacuum in which they live.  And so, to combat the intolerable numbness that results, they mate.

Now humans don’t have carapaces to defend them against enemies and to put them in an experiential vacuum.  Instead, they have modern technological environments to protect them against predators and against all natural abrasive disruptions.  As a matter of fact, the whole reason that humans pushed forth with the development of modern technology was to protect themselves against the vagaries created by the intense organic stimulation to be found in traditional natural living environments.  Unfortunately, humans got rid of one set of problems and created another.  The modern technological living environments that have ensued have created numbing experiential vacuums for the people living there.

It is an hour or so later, and the solar eclipse has happened.  And, just as with the tortoises, the solar eclipse appeared to be one layer too many of an experiential vacuum for modern technological people, one layer too many of numbness.  Similar to tortoises, some humans were stimulated to fight it off by participating in an intense social interaction.  In this case, we’re talking about mass marriage ceremonies.  But this is just one of many out-of-place unusual responses by humans to the solar eclipse.   I certainly don’t remember in any times past such an intense focus on the eclipse.  On the news networks, there has been program after program on different aspects of this momentary daytime darkness.  The amount of different kinds of merchandise available is unbelievable.  And, of course, all over the country, there are solar eclipse parties and celebrations for every taste.   There has been so much hype on the social media, again for an event that takes just a few minutes.

Now it occurs to me that I don’t think I would be so cynical about all this if I was experiencing a solar eclipse, before humans had built up their metaphorical carapaces and put up their modern technological living environments.  Living in a traditional natural society surrounded by undifferentiating flowing natural continual organic stimuli that threatened to melt me down, I would cling to the transcendent aspect of the solar eclipse and look on it with awe.  I would perceive it as a form of natural protection, however brief it may be, against the negative aspects of traditional natural environments.  I would be experiencing it without all the commercializing hype that tends to destroy the beauty of it for me.  In short, I would be much more open to accepting it.

© 2024 Laurence Mesirow

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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