By Sam Burnham
Unless you've been living on the dark side of the moon, you are abundantly aware that on Monday a swath of the country, including north Georgia, will fall into the umbra, the shadow cast by the moon as it passes from sea to shining sea.
Yesterday, while informing myself in the realm of current events, I came across an article by NBC News that "American employers will see at least $694 million in missing output" just in the limited time that employees are expected to spend observing an event not seen in America since 1979. This of course doesn't account for the economic impact of the effort to dislodge consumer dollars via eclipse glasses, t-shirts, novelties, viewing parties, etc.
Traditionally the South is not known for its productivity. In fact, many of our greatest contributions to society have come from people trying to avoid productivity. We are people known to sit on the porch making music, we think of sweating as an activity that doesn't require much movement, and we figured out how to take 12 hours or more to cook a piece of meat. We just are not, historically speaking, a very efficient realm. This fact helped spawn the adage that Washington is a city with Southern efficiency and Northern charm.
So when I see that the US stands to lose that much in productivity, I think "good>" I think it is high time that we reevaluate this whole idea of productivity. We get up before dawn, run around all day trying to get a bunch of stuff done trying to make as much money as we can to buy as much stuff as we can so that we can be as successful as we can before we collapse in bed, exhausted. What we accomplish is filling up landfills with discarded crap that didn't make us happy long, that we bought with whatever money we made by making someone else rich while they try to figure out how to replace us with robots, all while missing out on the marvels of this world that we are gifted with a minute amount of time to enjoy. Then we die.
Ah, the perils of worshiping a free market, of becoming slaves to liberty. We need to look back, see the lessons of the past. We need to harness the power of the free market rather than taking its yoke upon ourselves. We need to find contentment and peace. We need to look for ways to enjoy this life more rather than spend ourselves out while failing to become happier, healthier, or achieving the least bit of increased sanity or inner peace in the process.
Do this tomorrow, but do not let it end there. You have this one life and you only get it once. Go outside. Use eclipse glasses, a cardboard pinhole camera, or whatever other contraption you can conceive to save your eyesight while watching a marvel of science that has amazed people from the very dawn of mankind. Then take time, regularly, to marvel at something. Be amazed at the world we live in. Seek out beauty and harmony. Live a life that is yours and not the chattel of the market or productivity.
(This article appeared in its original form in 2013. It has been edited and updated.)
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire