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Monday's Solar Eclipse: Uncommon Astronomical Phenomenon or Anxiety-Inducing Menace?

Updated: Apr 3

Photo from front of March 22, 2024 Indianapolis Business Journal with a photo of a person working in a manufacturing plant with headline: Eclipse to disrupt work day

On Monday, most of my home state of Indiana is going to experience a total solar eclipse, meaning the moon will be directly between our sun and Earth, which will cast a shadow for a few minutes in the middle of the afternoon. This hasn't happened here since 1869, the same year my alma mater, Purdue University, was founded. I did the math-- that was 155 years ago!


[Side note: I have a very specific memory of being at a welcome event as a freshman in Mackey Arena in 1994, where a BIG DEAL was made about us being members of the 125th entering class. How was that 30 years ago?!]


Some in the Hoosier state have been planning for this day for a while, like Indiana University's Center for Rural Engagement. Being Hoosiers, they provided resources to prepare both "logistically and creatively." There was a whole microgrant program to support rural communities in preparing for visitors and also in planning for the community to experience and celebrate this not-too-often occurrence. There are Eclipse Scholars who studied community projects. IU Bloomington is hosting a Cosmic Celebration and all in-person classes have been canceled system-wide, including Mark Carnell's Monday evening public policy class. In other words, Indiana University is treating Monday's eclipse like a holiday.


Apparently, though, there is more anxiety than excitement among some employers in the state, according to this article in the March 22 Indianapolis Business Journal:


Article in Indianapolis Business Journal with headline, Blocked out by the sun-watchers

One person is quoted, saying that his company's customers in other parts of the country don't care that there's an eclipse in Indiana. Another, a vice president of a trade association, explained how taking a break during a process can be tricky because of getting the timing right while working with materials like melted metal. Another said that they were allowing employees to use paid time off or work from home. To be clear, none of these organizations support public health and safety. I imagine if you roll up to any of them on Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, or Christmas, they're shut down in observance of the holiday.


In the article, a person from Eskenazi Health explained how the health system is planning for Monday. Clinics and other outpatient services will be closed, while hospital and emergency services will be operating as usual. They have adjusted supply orders so they receive them early because the big unknown that's different from a regularly-occurring holiday is traffic, with all emergency planning advising to plan for heavy traffic. One article I saw estimates that it'll be like an Indy 500 Race Day, except it'll be like three of them are happening in different parts of the state. For those unfamiliar, Indy 500 Race Day attendance is around 300,000 people.


I know many school systems are planning either to not be in session or an eLearning Day so families can experience the eclipse together.


Are we, as a society, so disconnected from our relationship with nature that only the educators and scientists among us are geeked up about experiencing this astronomical phenomenon? Is our business environment really in such peril that if we stop production for one day for a once-in-a-lifetime natural occurrence all hell will break loose? As a society are we doing so well that experiencing a little bit of awe is something we're not going to prioritize?


As a business owner, I get that we need to provide services in order to make a living. In addition, certain public health and safety operations are 24/7/365 operations. I also understand that there's a lot of conditioning around hustling, grinding, always delivering, not letting anyone outwork you, etc. Each person, family, company, and organization must make the decision that's right for them...


And also, I spend lots of time with people who lament that we humans are more anxious, depressed, addicted, suicidal, and lonely than ever before. Maybe if we get curious about reconnecting with our humanity and understanding our interconnection among ourselves and all beings, both human and our more-than-human kin, we might collectively feel a little less anxious, depressed, addicted, suicidal, and lonely?


Friends in the path of totality of Monday's solar eclipse, I invite you to consider (if you haven't already) making time to experience this natural phenomenon on Monday. Call it a mindfulness practice, if you'd like. After all, mindfulness is simply experiencing a solar eclipse and knowing you're experiencing a solar eclipse.


May we make this a first step toward collectively humaning better together.

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Guest
Apr 10

What a thought provoking column. Now only if everyone in our home state would have read and understood!

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