Six blind men live in Metropolis, Illinois. They were born in the eighties and have been blind from birth.
These six men consider the earth to be round. They came to this understanding during their grade school education which included handling of the classroom globe. Their day-to-day experience told them that the world was flat and with many sharp corners.
From Mrs. Foley, their high school physical science teacher, these six men learned about Ptolemy and Copernicus. They learned that the sun and not the earth is at the center of our universe. Their day-to-day experience taught them that their universe was a big as the darkness in which they lived.
One day in August, as they listened to the news on the radio, these six men heard about a total solar eclipse. To their delight the path of totality, the announcer said, would be through Carbondale, Illinois.
When the morning of the total eclipse came, the six men took a bus to Carbondale. When they arrived the men soon became separated by the rush and noise of the crowds. While sitting on the bus the men had agreed to return on the 6:30pm bus to Metropolis.
One blind man found his way to a corner where there was talk of a shuttle bus to the viewing site. He got on.
The second blind man asked for the directions to where everyone would be for the event. A young couple said, “Follow us”. The blind man held onto the woman’s arm.
The third blind man heard a man with a loud speaker say that people should park “over there and walk to the university.” So, he found his way to the university.
The fourth blind man was hungry. So, he asked anyone who could hear if there was food nearby. An old man stopped and said, “there’s a hot dog stand around the next corner”. The blind said, “Thank you” and found his way to the hot dog stand.
The fifth blind man was tired. The noise and confusion made him tired. He found a bench and sat down. Soon he fell asleep.
The sixth blind man heard some street vendors hawking tee shirts and eclipse glasses. He followed the footsteps.
By late afternoon the six men had arrived at the bus station. At 6:10 pm they boarded the bus. The bus headed back to Metropolis at 6:30 pm.
As they rode along the six blind men began to talk about the day’s event.
The first blind man spoke. “The eclipse is of great spiritual value. I heard street people everywhere as I walked. They were offering remembrances and spiritual items like incense candles, crystals, and, and, special glasses to see it with. One kind man told me that no one should look at the great phenomenon without special glasses. But since I am blind, I bought a tee-shirt instead. They told me it says, “I survived the 2017 Total Eclipse”.
The second blind man spoke. “No. How can it have any spiritual meaning? It is just a novelty, something unique- a ‘Magic Shadow-show’. It only happens once every so many years. People should go to the carnival, have some food and entertainment, enjoy themselves. The eclipse is good times.”
The third blind spoke. “The eclipse is inclusive. It brings people together. I heard a woman say that she heard that all her friends were coming to view the eclipse. So, she had to come to. ‘Everyone was doing it,’ she said.”
“What?” The fourth blind man jumped in. “Not everyone is doing it. Someone told me that the older Navajos will not look at it when it is happening. They fear bad things can happen if you look during the eclipse, like health issues. The eclipse is taboo.”
The fifth blind man spoke. “All I know is that the eclipse is eerie. When I heard the people around me say “It’s happening,” it was like the earth stood still. I suddenly felt a chill like the sun had been unplugged. And the birds went silent. The eclipse is scary.”
The last blind man spoke. “It’s worse than you can imagine. Someone next to me said “This is super cool. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.” I looked up for a long time but of course I saw nothing. But now, my eyes burn so much I want to tear them out. The eclipse is a deep burning darkness.”
© J. Ann Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved
August 21, 2017 – 1:21p.m. CDT