On eclipse day, where were we?

by Heather Robinson

Here in New York City, where today’s solar eclipse has come and gone, it’s tempting to try to assign personal meaning to this once-every-several-decades event, and to ask: will we remember with whom we shared time on this day? Did the place we found ourselves or chose to be  say anything about our larger pattern and path in this life?

I don’t claim to understand the science, but this celestial phenomenon prompted me to reflect on our existence here on the third planet from the sun. I was not alone; speaking with New Yorkers at random last night and today on the city’s streets, I found many people in a philosophical, spiritual mood and eager to express the uncanny sense of synchronicity they felt sharing this event with other Americans, especially after last week’s disturbing events in Charlottesville.

What are we all doing here and what does it all mean? Why are we here in particular, incarnated into these bodies, at this particular place in time? Whether it’s all random, all part of some unimaginably intricate cosmic plan, or (my hunch) some mysterious combination of the two, here we are. In my case, New York City, where I spent the afternoon visiting a friend whom I admire, who has dedicated some of her limited time on earth to try to help others.

Last night and today, I interviewed a few New Yorkers at random – (if there is such thing as random!) – about their thoughts on the eclipse, and whether it’s prompting them to reflect on their lives.

“What people make of the event is more interesting than the event itself,” said Ben S., 31, a photographer from Flatbush. “The photos of people watching will be more interesting than the eclipse itself.”

“Because it’s a universal event that so many people in America will be watching, it’s uplifting,” said Thembi Dube, 49, a senior financial analyst, who spoke of the event’s  “connectivity.” “Millions will be paying attention, whether in Idaho, South Carolina or New York City. It’s connecting everyone, which is awesome.”

Early afternoon as the eclipse was underway, some New Yorkers articulated a spiritual sense about the phenomenon. MJ Kronfeld, founder of Passion for a Purpose, a social impact consultancy dedicated to supporting philanthropic efforts around the world, spoke of the “weird synchronicity” and her sense of larger forces at work.

“Seeing people with nothing but a pair of sunglasses and someone’s hand to hold, looking up, makes me feel there’s something bigger watching out for us, even in these tough times,” she said.

“Eclipse could be viewed as a metaphor for times when moral judgement may be eclipsed,” said Rabbi Jason Herman of the Hudson Yards Synagogue. “It’s like when something should be clear but something else gets in your way and obscures your view. That e-mail you shouldn’t send, the affair you shouldn’t have, the money you shouldn’t take.”

The eclipse prompted other New Yorkers to reflect on this unique historical moment in American society, including race relations.

“There was an eclipse in 1979 and the next one will be 2024, so it’s taken us almost 40 years to get here,” said Joe Pinion, 33, a Westchester business owner who was in Manhattan for a rooftop viewing party and is outreach chair for the New York State Young Republicans. “1979 was pretty much the end point of the Civil Rights era. With events in Charlottesville, it’s interesting to reflect on where we are as a society and where we have to go. It’s almost as if the universe is telling us things need to get done.”

Out on the streets of the city, people seemed to be in a friendly mood after the eclipse ended around 4:00.

“All America has sunglasses on today,” said Shinya Sekiguchi, 36, a senior tax manager who lives in Chelsea.

“I’ve always appreciated nature, and the eclipse helped me see how God has his hands on things to illustrate his magnificence,” said Milo, 47, a messenger who said he lives in a men’s shelter.

“As it got shady, you saw people look up, and start taking pictures,” said Eliezer Cesar Silva, 38, who works in construction and is here from Texas. “People were getting along. It made me feel people can come together for a special moment all across the U.S. It was a beautiful hour.”

Perhaps especially in the wake of last week’s painful events, Americans can take a moment to pause and feel blessed that we are all here, connected to the mysterious, together in our vulnerability at this unique moment in time and space.


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