What's the world coming to when the most important worry about a cosmic event is whether you've got your glasses?

I'm off to see the eclipse next week in northern France and please don't anybody tell me that I am exposing myself to an unnecessary danger of blindness.

For a start, it is not unnecessary. A smallish risk of blindness strikes me as a trivial price to pay for the chance to view a total eclipse of the sun. This is an event which the majority of human beings will never see. For a couple of minutes, a fluke of planetary alignment is going to give us a glimpse of cosmic truths normally hidden from us: that the sky is not a roof with a sun built into it, that the world is not a still and stable place, that the stars do not only exist at night, that roosters do not only crow at dawn etc.

For these brief minutes we will peep through to the dark heart of the universe. We will see that the earth and the moon are no more than cold balls of rock spinning through space. The stars will shine in the daytime, the sun will go black and a cold wind will blow. Perhaps the Kraken will wake. We will notice what an infinitesimally small speck of dust our planet is. And all some people care about is whether I plan to wear my protective glasses.

Well, that is not the only thing they worry about. They also dread getting stuck in traffic jams. They fear that New-Age hippies are planning to run amok. They imagine a complete break down of law and order and the drafting in of armed forces to deal with the chaos. Until very recently it turned out that bookings for Cornwall holidays this August were actually down on last year. Far from making a special point of booking there, people were avoiding it. What? Go to Cornwall and have my holiday ruined by that horrid eclipse? Far too dangerous.

As a matter of fact, I can admit that I have acquired a pair of eclipse- viewing glasses made in France (as approved by the European directive 89/686/EEC) and I may even deign to use them during the hours and minutes leading up to the moment of totality. For the most part, however, I intend to use the time-honoured methods of throwing quick glances and looking at the sun through half-closed eyes.

And if any harm comes to me I do not intend to sue the government for having failed to change the current trajectory of the moon and the earth. I believe that cows in the fields know better than to study the sun while chewing idly on their cud. Anybody so daft as to stare wide-eyed at the sun until they are blinded deserves to be blinded.

After all, it is not as though we have not had time to buy a tent and book our passage down to Cornwall, or indeed to go out and buy our protective glasses. For millions of years the earth and the moon have been whirling inexorably and precisely through black space towards this conjunction of 11 August 1999.

In short, a total eclipse is the closest thing to a cosmic tremor that any of us will ever experience, comparable to an volcano opening up beneath our feet, or an asteroid coming into collision with the earth, or the sun itself entering a new phase of its life-cycle. The main difference between an eclipse and these events is that the eclipse should be rather less bad for human health.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea