When you work in facilities management, you have access to all the cool, out of the way parts of your buildings. For Eclipse2017™, many of my coworkers gathered on the roof. We have picnic tables up there, and some camp chairs, and a hammock, so despite the constant noise of the air handlers, it’s actually a pretty cool place to spend time. We have occasional celebrations on the roof and it’s been a good place to view the crowds generated by the Cubs and/or Blackhawk parades, the massive protest du jour, or to watch the planes practice for the annual air show.
So, anyway, 18 floors above Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago we had a front row seat to an almost-total eclipse (81%, to be precise). Most of us had eclipse glasses, some brought their lunches, and someone’s phone had the NASA eclipse playlist going. It was one of those too-rare moments of non-mandatory, non-coerced, organic bonding and morale boosting.
For me, though, the most interesting part of the eclipse didn’t happen between the moon and the sun. It was what was happening on the ground.
At one point, just around the time of peak coverage, i took off my glasses and looked out from the rooftop. Taking in the almost 180° vista, I could see from Randolph Street on the north all the way down to the Museum Campus on the south, a distance of about a mile and a half. And, what did I see? People, thousands of them, facing south and turning their eyes toward the heavens. They were on sidewalks and in parks. They were on double decker buses and in boats. I could see in buildings and on balconies. Everyone, seemingly, took a moment from a hot, muggy, busy Monday to stop what they were doing. And face the light.
We are so divided these days. We are a non-compromising, polarized mess. I honestly don’t know what to do about that. I struggle with whether it’s my job to fight that division or whether all I can do is raise the best son I know how. But sometimes it’s nice to see reminders that we can still have shared experiences. That we can still have common interests. That, even if it’s something simple and relatively meaningless, we can still go through the same things together and feel all the closer for it.
Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors feared that which they didn’t understand. Something like an eclipse was seen as an ill omen. Today I’ll choose to believe the opposite. Having no greater claim on certainty than my stone age forbearers, for me Eclipse2017™ will be a sign that we are ready to move past our divisions. That, as one, we are soon to face the same direction and look toward the sky.