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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Eclipse briefly overshadows divisions

So how was your solar eclipse?

We appreciated it for more than its splendor. It was a brief moment – too brief – where people gathered in humility for a common purpose.

It’s been called the most widely shared event in human history, matched only by the traffic jams that followed. But it would appear bumper-to-bumper frustration was worth it.

The Path of Totality was the place to be, and it stretched generously across 12 states. Scientists told eclipse observers where to watch and when, and nobody disputed their calculations. In fact, traveling viewers invested considerable sums of money on the notion that science could be trusted.

Reactions to the eclipse were varied, but one common thread was awe and affirmation. For the scientifically inclined, it was like the Super Bowl and World Cup wrapped into one. So much to study, so much to break down. For the religiously inclined, it was confirmation of the glory of God.

As the eclipse shadow fell, temperatures dropped, crickets chirped and street lights switched on. It’s easy to see how ancient people believed evil forces were at play. But thanks to The Enlightenment, we knew the darkness wouldn’t last and was nothing to fear.

In fact, many people cheered, while others were brought to joyous tears.

Outside the totality zone, the effects were less dramatic, though still a sight to behold. It’s amazing how much light just a sliver of sun can cast. Perhaps that can tucked away as a metaphor for whatever problem looks insurmountable.

It wasn’t long after the eclipse that everyday realities returned. The monster who mowed down tourists in Barcelona was shot and killed by police. The president informed the nation that the 17-year war in Afghanistan will press on with no end in sight.

Politics also re-emerged, and people retreated to their comfort zones. The Path of Totality gave way to the Path of Partiality.

This was as predictable as the eclipse itself.

The next eclipse to pass over the United States will occur in 2024. It will enter the country in Texas and track northeast. It won’t cross as much territory, but it will cast a wider shadow and provide a longer span of totality.

We know this because the science tells us so.

That event will probably set a new record as the most widely shared human event in history. Those who missed totality this time, can start planning now. Those who did experience it will probably want to do so again.

In the meantime, let’s hope there will be more occasions where people set aside their politics and come together for shared experiences.

That alone would be awe-inspiring.

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