The Difference Between 99% and Totality

The courthouse in Russellville, Ky, August 21, 2017, 2:33 pm. The sun was behind me when I took this photo.
Russellville, Ky, August 21, 2017, 2:35 pm. The same view as above taken 2 minutes later.
Russellville, Ky, August 21, 2017, 2:36 pm. Totality! We could look at the eclipse with our naked eyes for almost 3 minutes.

On August 21, 2017, my family and I drove 4 hours south to Russellville to experience totality. Russellville is a small town on the southern border of KY. It was in the path of greatest total eclipse to hit the United States, spanning from coast to coast throughout the day.

We decided to go because our area of Northern Kentucky was only going to experience 90% of the eclipse. If you’ve never seen totality in person, you’ll think, “90%? That’s close enough!”

You would be wrong.

As we waited and watched with our eclipse glasses, the atmosphere changed the closer we got to totality. The sky was eerie. A stillness came over the air. It felt like the quiet right before a rainstorm. And then the sun disappeared. With our glasses on, we couldn’t see a thing. But when we took them off, the sight took our breath away. It was truly a magical sight.

A couple days later, I overheard a woman talking to her co-worker about the eclipse. She’d driven to a friend’s place outside of Nashville. She was 10 miles outside of totality and decided not to go further. She explained, “99% is close enough.” That made me sad.

I told my son her story. He said, “The difference between 99% and totality is infinite.”

I share this story because I’ve been thinking lately about how I sometimes act like 99% is close enough. It’s not. What have I missed by only giving 99%?

I’ve decided that if I am going to commit to do something, I will give it totality. I’ve been using Leo Babauta’s Iron Will Challenge to jump start the process. Will you commit to this with me? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Shout out to Mary Schilling for sharing this challenge with me!

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