Jason Gibbs | An Eclipse Becomes a Metaphor

Jason Gibbs
Jason Gibbs

Earlier this month on April 8, millions of people across North America would pull their faces away from their cell phone and iPad screens and stare up at the heavens to witness the solar eclipse.

My family and I had the great opportunity to find ourselves next to Niagara Falls in the path of totality, where at 3:18 p.m., the bright afternoon sky would disappear into darkness. Birds and other wildlife came alive, as a fast-arriving dusk had thrown off their internal clocks, and the thousands of people who would gather at the falls, young and old, shouted with excitement and marveled at this incredible celestial event we all got to witness. 

This unique cosmic event of a total solar eclipse is both is both common and uncommon. They will typically occur about once every 18 months somewhere on planet Earth, but the same location will only experience the total eclipse once every 360 years! It’s a remarkable phenomenon that we are fortunate to witness, as the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon, but almost 400 times further away, making both objects appear to be the same size when they cross paths. 

Solar eclipses were not always understood as we know them to be now but have been documented by civilizations for thousands of years. Ancient Chinese and Mayan cultures took note of eclipses and their dates, but predicting when they would occur was still a mystery. Even as their occurrences began to be predicted, Babylonian Court officials used their predictions to warn of godly displeasure and attempt to avoid their wrath and punishments. 

It would be the Greek Philosopher Thales who is credited with predicting an eclipse occurring in 585 BC, which would lead to a big philosophical change that replaced superstition with rational eclipse prediction, and today, a solar eclipse’s arrival can be calculated to the second. 

Thales is considered, in many circles, the world’s first scientist, and would bring a rationalist view to the universe’s miracles and was the founder of a new radical way of thinking, which led to many incredible scientists challenging the beliefs of the world with timely predictions of nature’s events, instead of postulating their arrivals to be the wrath of the Gods.

For myself, this trip to view the eclipse would touch on several personal emotions. My parents honeymooned at Niagara Falls, but there are no pictures from their trip. As the story goes my father was too cheap to buy a disposable camera once they got there (and having been raised by this incredible man, that story checks out … love you, Dad!). To see where they would spend their first days as a family, and to now be there with my wife and children, was immensely special. Aiden has always been fascinated with the universe, and he was a kid in a candy store watching the world fall into darkness and come back again, yelling and laughing with all those around him, just enjoying the wonder the total eclipse provided.

So often in the new century, the canvas of nature gets lost in the world’s ever increasing ability to produce our reality, be it through social media, artificial intelligence, or simply hyper-focused opinion pieces that leave the news far behind. For thousands of years, some of what would be the brightest and curious minds would stare to the heavens to be inspired, to think, and to challenge common thought. Today, the sky is often lost in a sea of manmade light, and the work of our ancestors is stored on a bookshelf or server somewhere, waiting one day to be found by a curious observer.

There is no shortage of political upheaval in the world today. Ukraine, China, Israel and Gaza, border security, the debate between securing constitutional freedoms vs. ensuring government protections, inflation, deficits, and a national debt that would drain Scrooge McDuck’s piggy bank faster than an SUV goes through gasoline. 

These are all important topics that deserve our continued attention and debate. But as we move forward to November and beyond, don’t let your favorite commentator or news source dictate what to think. Listen, absorb, check facts, and above all else, respect each other even when you are miles apart on any issue! We have a gift in this country called freedom, and I encourage all of us to embrace it, use it, and respect each other along the way!

I hope you all safely stared into the heavens, and found your own thoughts pouring back to you, remembered what it was to be curious about this universe, and found renewed hope as the sun began to shine once more.

Jason Gibbs is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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