Parade of Images

by Daniel Ranard


how do you know the moon
is moving: see the dry
casting of the beach worm
dissolve at the
delicate rising touch:
–A.R. Ammons, in Expressions of Sea Level

During the August eclipse, I overheard a funny bit of philosophy. I'll tell it verbatim, I swear. Tree branches had enclosed a stretch of path in Central Park, where sunlight fell through small openings in the leaves. The light cast hundreds of crescent suns along the asphalt: pinhole images, a natural camera obscura. Beside me, a mother and two children stared at the ground, confused, starting to understand. The father ushered them onward. "It's just a representation of the eclipse we tried to see earlier," he said, and they left.

You probably sympathize with the man. Today it's all images, images; and what about the real thing? So I've compiled a helpful list of ways (for next time) to encounter the eclipse as it truly is.

Option 1: Look up at sun
Pro: You can say you saw it
Con: Technically you're only "seeing" the image cast on your retina by the lens of your eye; also, retinal damage

Option 2: Scoop out your eyes, letting the light of the partially eclipsed sun fall directly onto your optic nerve; better yet, onto your frontal lobe
Pro: The photons (straight from the sun!) won't be tampered with
Con: Technically you won't really "see" anything

Option 3: Take a photo of the eclipse
Pro: Viewable whenever
Con: Still just a record of whether various photons from the sun were obscured, or not, by the moon

Option 4: Take a photo of someone else photographing the eclipse
Pro: Now your photo lacks the pretension of actually being the eclipse
Con: Cliché

Option 5: Read a poem about the eclipse; better yet, everything ever written on it
Pro: Finally, more than just a record of which photons made it past the moon
Con: Just words; moreover, hearsay

Option 6: Be the eclipse
Pro: No representation; total identity
Con: Here you would need to become the moon and sun. But even then introspection is difficult, more so for moon-rock and sun-gas. Afterward, you would no longer be the eclipse, just the moon-sun carrying a memory. And if you did become you again, you could not take the memory with you, except perhaps (probably not) as moon-sun-you.