I had two unusual encounters on the day of the Solar Eclipse, Monday 21st August 2017.
The first, was during a walk around my neighbourhood park. I recall casually noticing a very stooped, elderly gentleman in the distance. A little later, I see him again, this time somewhat incongruously leaning against a tall, black, Victorian waste bin, arms resting on top. I said, “hello” and he gave such a lovely, courteous reply that I went up to him and we had the following conversation.
He told me he had seen his great-grandchildren that day. They had phoned him on the motorway to say they would be late due to the traffic but they had finally arrived, albeit very late. I remarked how lucky he was to know his great-grandchildren. He had difficulty raising his face to look at me as he was so very stooped. When I focussed on what I could see of his face, I was moved by the most beautiful, open expression in his blue eyes.
Next, he asked me a somewhat curious question. Could I see any children in the play park just beyond the top of the hill. The black bin, where we were standing was at the bottom of the hill. He went on to explain that he loved to watch the children playing. Now I understood why he was resting. Although it was but a short walk up the steep incline, it was an effort for someone so old and frail. If there were no children playing, he would save himself the trouble. I peered up and told him that there were indeed some children playing. We said goodbye and, again, I was touched by his beautiful manners and gracious words.
The second encounter was very different, “Two sides of the same coin” was how my friend put it. It was over dinner that evening with a much younger man in his prime, I would say late 40’s or early 50’s. He was a successful business man with his own company and he had flown all over the world. He enjoyed holding forth and could talk seamlessly. He talked rather interestingly about the development of cars and how the car eventually forced people off the roads which was why some towns in America don’t have pavements or side walks. But what really excited him was the development of the electric car, of how a car could take you to Heathrow Airport, for example and you could sit in the back and get on with work, sleep or make phone calls. The computer controlled vehicle would then drive itself back to your garage, which I found spooky. It reminded me of the film ‘IRobot’ where the Central Artificial Intelligence, Vicky, starts to control humans. I commented that it was giving up a skill. But he was having none of it: as far as he was concerned, it was a good thing. He also talked about the possibility of impending war from a geo-political point of view as though we were discussing moves on a chessboard. Needless to say, I was upset and appalled at such a prospect with the resulting loss of life. And my mother added, the widows and the children who would never see their father again.
The following day, I recalled these unusual conversations with the two very different men. It seemed to me I was being shown something. As the encounters both occurred on the day of the Solar Eclipse, I felt the two were connected. The solar eclipse showed us both a bright side and a dark side. Perhaps, we are being shown that we have a choice between pursuing and getting pleasure in the simple things in life – children playing in the fresh air, happy and carefree – or choosing to go down a technological path in which we have imprisoned ourselves in various boxes (flat, house, office, car, shops) cut off from the living world, living in our heads, where robots do all the work; and where humans choose to fight each other.