While the eclipse was certainly remarkable, particularly for those of us who managed to get into the path of totality, that wasn’t it. What was remarkable was the creation of a common, shared experience.
The eclipse happened, and we all experienced it in some way. Maybe you were one of those, like myself, who traveled into the path of totality for a first-in-a-lifetime experience. Maybe you stayed home and watched it from your backyard, or your building’s rooftop, or the parking lot outside your place of work. Maybe you decided that you didn’t care enough to look. But no matter how you decided to experience the eclipse, it happened. It was a common, shared experience.
I viewed the eclipse starting in a park in Dillard, Georgia. Since it was off the beaten path of the huge eclipse viewing events, there were only about a hundred of us. But within that hundred I saw people of all ages, races, genders, political affiliations, income brackets. Some were local to the area, some had driven there. I had ridden there on a motorcycle. Some were alone, some with loved ones. Together, we shared the common experience of watching the sky, the disappointment when the clouds arrived, and the shared question of what to do then. At that time, our differences started to show. Some decided to go home, some to just stay in place. My daughter and I decided that we had 30 minutes and a fast motorcycle, so we decided to go chase a break in the clouds.
What I didn’t see was disagreement over the shared experience. I didn’t see division. Arguments didn’t break out over what was happening. We all processed it in our own way, from our own perspective, and still managed to share a common bond of wonder.
That was the remarkable thing that happened last week. It took the movement of two celestial bodies to bring us all briefly together. Maybe, just maybe, that moment of shared experience can spill over into the rest of our lives.