The promotion of the total solar eclipse last August 21, the first to span the U.S. since 1918, started back in spring of 2017, with maps in major papers showing a strip of darkness spreading across America from northern Oregon to the southeast, exiting the continent through South Carolina. You'll recall the spring was a season of deep insecurity for Americans, both insiders and outsiders, no one alive having experienced a civil war within Washington D.C. before, so the idea that the rhythm of the cosmos, punctuated by celestial spheres, could counteract human disruption was seductive, and many people wanted to feel nature's hidden hand by standing in the shadow of the moon.
As noted in the next post, I overcame my inertia and cynicism and joined Gregory, the up-and-coming young prophet of the desert, and several hundred of his followers, including Rebecca and Anthony (destined to run against each other for U.S. president in 2044- see next post) for a pilgrimage to the eclipse. I'm not sure if Gregory believes in astronomical "signs," or if he just saw the eclipse as a good platform for propagating his views. His destination was the "Total Solar Eclipse Gathering" near Mitchell, Oregon. A quick look at the Gathering's website suggested it could be a hippy mecca, swarming with New and Old Ager's who would distort Gregory's message into a parody of '60's babble, by which I mean the '60's idea that an age of higher consciousness is dawning for humankind, if only we would be receptive to it. I agreed with Gregory that no such age is dawning- there is as much evidence of a new Dark Age as anything else- and I fretted that a hippy venue like this would muddle Gregory's message of rational secular mysticism.
Whatever he was thinking, Gregory was in a buoyant mood the morning our caravan assembled in the Antelope Valley for the three day drive to Mitchell. I felt a bit of the lightness just from the excitement of the trip. The eclipse hype, however, had begun to get on my nerves.
I discussed my unease with Robert the Telepathic Gila Monster, who had come to see me off.
Harry, I would like to hear you express in vocal, human language, rather than telepathically, your problem with this “pilgrimage."
I thought you looked down on human speech. You've said that using thoughts instead of words puts gilas a quantum leap above humans.
Well, now I think there's a certain discipline involved in stringing human words together- it forces you to consider in minute detail what you are thinking, to solidify it, so to speak.
Why thank you, Robert! That's perhaps the nicest thing you've ever said about my species- maybe the only nice thing.
Don't get used to it. Anyway, can you revert to human speech and tell me what's wrong with this pilgrimage?
Robert was right, I found. When I switched to human speech, I was forced to look at my thoughts in high resolution, the detail exposed. What a great system for manipulating reality! No wonder we've taken over. I cleared my throat and began stringing words.
Ok, Robert, here goes. Humans have so little information about themselves- where they come from, what they are, what they should do- that they cling to things that suggest meaning, like coincidences. It is a coincidence that many people alive today celebrated the year 2,000, because 1,000 years (a unit of time that appears significant in our base-ten numbering system) is a long time to wait for each millennial, and what are the odds you'll be born close enough to one to "see" it? So, because I was a human looking for meaning on New Year's Eve, 1999, I went with my friend Doug and his wife to Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley where we watched the aging Steppenwolf band howl that they were born to be wild, then we watched a clock tick down the last seconds of 1999, followed at last by a frenzy of excitement, both forced and real, when the big 2,000 flashed on the digital screen. The moment had been hyped for years as a magical piece of time straddling some sort of fault or fissure in human karma.
I paused for breath. It was considerably harder to form my thoughts into words than to telepathically transmit them. I made a mental note for future investigation: Telepathic creatures can lie only by using concealment, by covering up a thought or feeling, but the potential to lie in human language is virtually unlimited. Does this have something to do with its utility? Is lying essential to the human endeavor?
Harry, I just followed your thoughts about human language, telepathy and lying. There is indeed material for further study.
While we're on the subject, Robert, can gilas lie?
Oh yes. Telepathy is not the barrier to misrepresentation you might think.
Hmm. Well, anyway, look back 17 years to our Millennial. Did it mean anything? Did it do anything?
That's a rhetorical question, Harry, doubly so since I can read in your thoughts the answer.
Of course. And that answer, just to satisfy the human need to "complete" a thought, is that the Millennial meant squat. And you know what, that's what this eclipse is going to mean.
We mused quietly for a while. Gregory walked up to us, seeming to sense our pensive mood. I said my goodbyes to Robert and walked with Gregory back to the crowd and vehicles.
Harry, what do you think of this trip?
Well, the publicity could be good, if you aren't painted as a mystical kook.
True enough. How about the eclipse itself?
I thought Gregory deserved more than glib ridicule of the eclipse.
Gregory, the eclipse is too late for us to benefit from the alleged revolutionary fallout. It should have happened three months ago, when Trump was struggling- so we thought- to survive the FBI investigations about Russians and leaks. It seemed then that he might be in trouble, and an eclipse in June or July might have pushed the American imagination one step closer to toppling him. Instead, the sacrifice of Donald Jr. and terrorist attacks in spring and summer obliterated the public's memory of the whole affair. No one thinks now about the FBI or Trump being in trouble.
Yes, well, if Trump won't fall on August 21st, maybe something else will.
The question becomes, "What?" Gregory, are you making this trip because it will help spread your ideas?
That's part of it.
Will it work?
Spreading ideas is easy, Harry. What's hard is getting the ideas into the "mainstream," so that people don't think you're crazy if you think them.