Throwing Shade

It’s that time of year again, eagerly anticipated by some and dreaded by others. The Fair is back in town.

If you live in Hiawassee or Young Harris, or have to drive through them to get to work, you may be in the latter group. Our small towns are served by one highway with limited options for bypass, so the effects of any increase in traffic are magnified by constriction.

On the other hand, if you have been to Atlanta recently or do much driving outside our area, you may not even notice the traffic. It’s a matter of perspective.

Nevertheless, the summer months do generally see an increase in traffic here which peaks during the Fair. We’ll find out next month what an eclipse will do for traffic. The last total solar eclipse in the United States was in June of 1918. Traffic was not an issue, and we did not have the great instigator of the Internet to book every motel room and rental property in the area. Next month, millions of people across the US will travel to the narrow band where the eclipse will be total and spend approximately 7 minutes being reminded that we are all here together on a ball suspended in space.

It would behoove us to keep that fact in mind. The way we so often maneuver our gas burning climate controlled sports utility vehicles to be the first ones to the stop light,  one might think that we consider ourselves to be individual planetary systems on four wheels.

Here’s a thought experiment that might occupy our time while we’re waiting in traffic. Think of all the motors running around us – the ones that got us to the traffic light, the ones cooling the interiors of our vehicles as well as our homes while we drive. Think of every bit of asphalt we will cross, every structure we will see, every item on every shelf in every store and pretty much every single thing we will encounter during our climate controlled journeys from here to there. It was all brought to us by the burning of some kind of fuel.

Think of the billions of gallons of oil that were burned to create the world we think of as normal. Think of the wars that have been fought, and continue to be fought, to make it possible for us to consume what we so often take for granted: Millions of little independent planets rushing to be the first climate controlled enclosure to get to the drive through window.

We are all so very important these days, and there is nothing like a little traffic to remind us of just how important that is. Yet, we do share just the one planet, with its finite resources and limited space. Perhaps an eclipse of the sun will throw some shade on our colossal egos and remind us of our limits. A little humility, even seven minutes worth, would go a long way.



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