For me and my six year old soccer teammates, it was the biggest airplane we’d ever seen. We all yelled to each other “look up!” as its engines rumbled and roared over towards us in the distance. With our mouths wide open, it flew directly over our field and we all oohed and aahed as we felt the power of its passing all the way down to our shin pads..
Then, not even ten seconds later, we heard a more familiar sound bringing us back to the present moment. It was the sound of the referee blowing their whistle and yelling “goal!”
While we’d all been looking up and starring at the seemingly once in a life time occurrence that literally stopped us in our tracks, some savvy other six year old had dribbled the ball past all our statuesque like figures and kicked a goal passed our equally enamored goal keeper.
I couldn’t help but think about this story for the past few weeks, and especially today, as many people I know have stopped what they were doing, some preparing for days and weeks, to look up and away from their day to day to watch approximately two minutes of interstellar synchronization. I have no doubt that it will be, for some, everything they hoped it would be and more, the best two minutes of their year. But I worry it will be a yet another distraction, a form of escapism, from the game we're all playing, another instance of letting down of our defense and a more disciplined opponent takes the chance to score.
The game we’re all playing, whether we have come to acknowledge it or not, is to be a meaningful and lasting difference maker in this world while we are here. And this week it seems to be harder than it was last week. Actually, It feels like that has been true of most weeks recently. That the opponents of good and the advocates of evil are gaining ground while those claiming to fight for good and a future I want to be a part of have the attention span of a gerbil and the self control of a three year old in a bakery.
This distraction, while more Science! than most, isn't unique on the constantly updated schedule of distractions. Every week, there's a new mind-suck, a new "National day of Arbitrary Consumer Product," a new tweet from a world leader we don't like “that surely has to be The Tweet that ends all this madness,” that is then openly ridiculed by those that disagree with it to an audience of others that disagree with it. The collective “of course!” and the chorus of affirmation brings a momentary comfort I imagine is as fleeting as not being the only person standing on the corner of 15th Street and 7th Avenue this afternoon holding cardboard glasses to your face while starring into the sun.
But on the flip side, if we can use these more meaningful of the "distractions" as moments of refocusing and uniting as humans around the things that bring us together like our fixation with the universe beyond our own planet, then days like today can be very valuable indeed. As I walked from one meeting to the next this afternoon during the peak of the eclipse here in NYC, I had no fewer than seven people offer me their viewing glasses or to peek inside of their throwback to elementary school in the 80's breakfast cereal cardboard box.
They wanted me to see what they saw, they wanted others to step into the moment they were experiencing and share it with them.
While we must keeping looking up towards the world we want to live in, the world we want to leave to our children and future generations, we cannot look away from the very tactical and aggressive ground game we are currently losing. Our vision must be more detailed than the eclipse path of totality, our time preference must be longer than the next three solar eclipses, and our discipline must be inspired by the billions of people in this world that experience daily pain at the hands of evil men and women that is much worse than the lingering burn of looking at the sun without special glasses . And perhaps most importantly, our invitation to share in this point of view must as inclusive and proactively intentional as my single serving eclipse friends today.
If we don’t start building the institutions and frameworks of this future, a future that can handle truly focused and ruthlessly pragmatic action, we’ll just continue burning holes in the retinas of our collective vision while our opponents use the our next weekly scheduled distraction to score their next goal.