10 ways of looking at the eclipse

August 25, 2017 Originally published on SFGate

1) Prosaic

Let’s start obvious. Buy some cheap eclipse glasses at Safeway and go outside and, at around 9 a.m., look sunward, and don’t look down for two full hours. Complain later about the crick in your neck and how slow and boring it all was and what’s the big deal, even though it was moving at 1,700 miles per hour and hasn’t happened like this in 100 years and we are in desperate need of awe and wonder in our Trump-poisoned world.

Log in to Facebook and tell everyone how you thought the nation’s most intense alignment phenomenon in your entire lifetime “sorta sucked, I mean who cares it was so stupid I can’t believe I paid $5.99 for these glasses.” Wonder why you have no friends.

2) Ancient WTF

A circle of cairns in Loughcrew, Ireland makes up an ancient, eclipse-predicting monument, built around 3340 BC. We have no idea how they knew how to build it so precisely. Ancient Chinese astronomers carved eclipses into “oracle bones.” Ancient Mesopotamians believed a solar eclipse signified the death of a king. Greeks foresaw certain doom.

The ancient Chinese claimed a heavenly dragon consumed the sun and had to be scared away by banging pots and pans. The Vietnamese blamed a giant frog, while Norse cultures said hungry wolves ate the sun.

Every culture, every religion, every era and epoch, from pagan to modern, saw eclipses as omens of intense change, upheaval, warfare and peace, the gods throwing down some serious cosmic/karmic wisdom. Who are you to ignore it?

3) Mystical

Workshops. Webinars. Global meditations. Chants, prayers, spells, drums, Wiccan fires, rituals of a thousand flavors both public and personal, a moment (2.5 minutes, at peak eclipse, to be exact) to go deep, to hold center, to let yourself dissolve into the OMGWTF of it all, sans dogma or the whining of politicians or celebrities or organized religion.

Truth is, any form of planetary eclipse offers a potent moment to reflect, to go inward, to flip your expectations as your entire frame of reality collapses. But a total solar eclipse, spanning a single country? Unreal. What was light is now dark, and what was dark is now blasted by light, everything you thought you knew is slapped asunder, as the gods laugh and flick your consciousness like a tiny paper football through the devil’s fingertip goalposts.

4) Quasi-mystical

Festivals. Megaparties. Psychedelics and fractals and raving ‘til dawn. Gathering in enormous tribes of awesome, partially attuned, like-minded pseudo-hippies in enormous fields under the hot summer sun, waiting for the moon to do its thing as you try to sync the eclipse’s peak with the moment the MDMA and the acid and the ketamine and the warm beer all kick in at once.

Stagger back to the main stage to have your remaining synapses pulverized by godawful dubstep for nine solid hours at a festival that cost $15 million to produce and is 100 percent a capitalist, for-profit venture, but which you think is, like, the way people should really live, open and celebratory and loving and tripping and annoying and weird. Which it totally is. Sort of.

5) Vedic

AKA the other astrology. Priests of this ancient Indian cosmic system say this eclipse is actually not at all a fine a time to trek to the mountaintop to stare straight at the sun, yelping with delight as you Instagram every planetary phase.

Oh my goodness, no. Best to go inside, draw the blinds, run a warm bath, don’t eat anything for the day, wear only light-colored clothing and meditate as deeply and calmly as possible. In fact, Vedic astrologers suggest you hunker down, mystic pilgrim, and perform as many introspective, grounding practices as you can, because this particular eclipse is actually a fierce, intense shadow demon (in Magha, the Leo-esque house that rules warfare, traditions, authoritarian power, government, general agitation), and he will wreak all kinds of disillusion and egoic melodrama as he passes over, the likes of which your meager soul cannot possibly process, and the effects of which will linger for months, and even years, to come.

See, to the Vedic priests (and many other traditions), eclipses were powerful omens indeed, and not necessarily positive ones. Get your ghee ready.

6) Entitled/Exceptional

As pointed out by FiveThirtyEight, Earth gets the best eclipses of any planet in the galaxy, due to our perfectly sized, ideally positioned little moon, a phenomenon which will only be the case for another, oh, 600 million years or so, until tidal forces hurl our little Chandra to a new dance floor.

However, given how humankind has only been around in any relatable form for about 10 million years, it’s safe to assume we will be but a speck of a footnote in the annals of the goddess’ grand notebook by then. Also, before you think only America is all special (given how someone had the gall to deem this event the Great American Eclipse), another one is coming as soon as 2024, spanning Mexico to Maine. Put another way: We ain’t all that special. And we never were. Still pretty cool, though.

7) Geek Out

NASA goes for the gold. Live streaming. SnapChat. Q&A’s and FAQs, myth-busting and multiple video feeds from around the country and the galaxy. Online forums. Experiments. A satellite to swirl around the sun and measure stuff. Everybody wave at the moon!

NASA, in short, is all in for GAE 2017. After all, as mentioned above, this particular shadow demon is in Magha, AKA Leo, AKA Trump’s rising sign. And he’s as dumbly, viciously anti-science as they come. Maybe NASA sees this event as their chance to measure the scale of his terrible, corruptive capacity, so as to figure out a cosmic way to hurl him into the volcano once and for all? Let us pray.

8) Idiot rebuff

As Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out, it’s odd how no one is in denial of the total solar eclipse – an event which, exactly like climate change, vaccinations, evolution, et al, uses scientific methods, tools, evidence and advanced college degrees to predict, prove and analyze it. Where’s the bloviated congressional Republican or blank-eyed Fox News pundit standing up and pointing to his face and saying “See? I got a sunburn yesterday so clearly here’s no eclipse”? Why aren’t they decrying science this time?

9) Capitalist shmuck

NBC News and Fortune magazine were kind enough to tweet out the useless guesstimate that the eclipse will “cost” U.S. businesses about $700 million in lost productivity, because, as the Lipstick Socialist so perfectly tweeted in response, “God f—king forbid anyone look around and notice the natural world when they’re supposed to be making the boss richer.”

10) Capitalist Shmuck II

You can, if you’re so ridiculously entitled/inclined, plop down 10 grand for a private jet that will whisk you to a perfect lawn chair somewhere in Oregon to witness this planetary event, with a picnic basket and some Dom Perignon, as brought to you by … well, who really cares.

Million Air is whisking customers to remote airports where the moon will totally block the sun’s rays for a time on Aug. 21. Passengers will watch from lawn chairs near the wings of the plane while an astronomer offers expert commentary and views of solar flares through a telescope.

Ah, such a proud, advanced species we are. No wonder the gods adore us so.

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford