Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many.

  • Ecclesiastes 11:7,8 (KJV)
  • I was working in a shipyard, building gunboats for the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy. As often in the Pacific Northwest, it was overcast. Word had passed around that there was going to be an eclipse that day, and quite a few of us were prepared to see it by carrying a piece of darkened glass, just like the welders use. Others gave it no thought; it was just another day to them. That was to change.

    It got darker as the afternoon went on, but it happens when the cloud layer gets thick, and I didn't take any particular notice of it right away. Then it got really dark, and the lights controlled by photocells came on as if it were nighttime. Activity in the shipyard ground to a halt, except for those inside the bowels of the ships under construction, and we stood around in small groups, speaking in hushed voices. Even the birds were still. "This is spooky," someone said...

    We discussed how quickly it went from a grey dusk to really dark. It was an almost immediate nightfall, unlike evening when the sky darkens more gradually. Some of the workers just coming outside from below-decks were visibly shaken by the darkness, as if they had lost their sense of time and had worked into the night without knowing it.

    Believe it or not, the total occlusion of the sun only lasts four minutes.

    After a short while, the night-like darkness passed and the dark-grey returned. Once again, it did so rather quickly. Soon, the novelty of the whole thing wore off, and most people got back to work. Not much later it was daylight, just like any other cloudy day in Washington State. It took about 5 or 6 minutes for this sequence of events to happen.

    I remember that several of the workers were upset because they were not able to see the eclipse through the clouds. Others were still standing around, still discussing the eclipse, still hoping that the clouds would thin out so they could see it. After a few meaningful looks and stern words from the production supervisors, we all got back to work. The clouds eventually did thin out, and a few of us peered through the smoke-glass and the cloud cover to see the moon obscure just a fraction of the sun.

    We had been talking about the impending eclipse for days before it happened. For me, it was the first solar eclipse I could remember experiencing, and the last for many years to come. I wanted to see it. Looking back on the whole thing, it is curious that I could have been so excited about four minutes of darkness. What were the production supervisors concerned about with respect to the eclipse? A report was later issued that an estimated total of 200 man-hours of production were lost in that few minutes. The supervisors were excited not at all.

    How many hours of my life have I spent being concerned about the challenges I am facing, and being gloomy about the darkness that those challenges bring? Hundreds? Perhaps thousands of hours. Days of darkness, according to The Preacher's words in Ecclesiastes... Too many. There is work to do. The sun is up, and I must go about the job of living.

    Four minutes a day to feel sorry for myself and my situation, if needed. But no more than that, please. No more time than it takes for a total eclipse of the sun. That leaves four-hundred and seventy-eight minutes per day for sleep, and nine-hundred and fifty-eight minutes each and every day for everything else. Over the course of a lifetime, the bad stuff will take only as much of my time as I give over to it. One full 24-hour period, distributed over the course of a year in four-minute daily increments, should be more than enough.

    Hey, it is just a shadow. It will pass; shadows always do, and the light will quickly return. You'll see.

    Michael Rawls, Friday's Inspiration © 2003

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    Friday's Inspiration is a non-denominational "e-zine" with a different inspirational article published each week, appropriate for all, with a broad variety of practical and inspiring topics, based on common sense and sound philosophy. Please take a moment and visit Friday's Inspiration, and see if it is right for you!