A Question About the Eclipse

Last night, after we put Sloan down to sleep, Sidney and I sat down on the couch to relax. I watched TV while Sidney browsed her phone. After a few minutes, she put down her phone, looked me in the eyes, and asked a great question:

Why is this eclipse such a big deal?

It caught me a bit off guard. Although I am very excited about the eclipse and although I wrote an entire blog post on the subject last week, I didn’t have the exact words in my head to answer her question. After all, excitement doesn’t necessarily translate to “a big deal.” Heck, I am excited to eat dinner each night.

Sidney’s question was sincere and well-intentioned. For the past week, she has dutifully researched the Great American Eclipse. She has done her best to understand it from scientific, contextual, and cultural angles. She has paid close attention to the hype and spent plenty of time reading articles on her phone. However, despite her efforts, she hasn’t quite pinpointed the significance of what will happen on Monday.

As I thought about how I should respond to Sid’s question, I resisted going with the cliché “it is a once in a lifetime event.” If I have learned one thing from meteorologists and eclipse experts over the past several weeks, it is that eclipses occur quite frequently (about twice a year). Even the ones of the complete totality variety occur over a span shorter than what we might think. After Monday’s show, the next total eclipse to hit the United States will be in 2024.

I decided to respond to my wife with the dramatic visual/physical changes that will occur. I told her that it will become like night, the temperature will drop, and birds will start chirping. To me, this is extremely cool! It will be an eerie and unusual experience.

“So it will just be dark for two minutes and that will be it?” Sidney asked, obviously not overly impressed.

Talk about a tough crowd! At the time, I didn’t have much to counter her question. It wasn’t enough for me to respond with how can you not think that is cool?  because Sid and I obviously have different ideas of what constitutes “a big deal.”

Reflecting on our conversation, I think I should have said this: I can’t explain to you why the Great American Eclipse is a big deal but once you experience it for yourself you will know in your heart why it is.

You see, I have heard both experts and amateurs who have observed total eclipses call the experience moving, and, in some cases, life changing. Perhaps the best answer to Sidney’s question is to wait and see.

Or is there a better answer? Tonight I want to ask my readers what I should tell Sidney regarding the significance of the eclipse. In your minds, why does she need to pay attention? I welcome all suggestions. Not only will your input help Sid, it will also increase my enthusiasm even more! Just six days to go. Don’t Blink.

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