I watched the solar eclipse yesterday. Although it was a total eclipse for a swath of the continental US, from my location in Salt Lake City, it was a 90.3% eclipse. Those who traveled north into Idaho had the opportunity to experience the whole enchilada. The Totality.

I work at a place full of science geeks. I freely and proudly admit I am also a science geek. I don’t listen to music when I go running, I listen to NPR Science Friday podcasts. Loud and proud for science! I do have a master’s in science and technology after all—which I obtained long after my law degree. Go ahead, acknowledge my coolness. Then again, I did listen to and sing along with Bonnie Tyler’s song, Total Eclipse of the Heart while watching the event. Okay, I’m a nerd.

I work at an aquarium with a mission to educate people about the diverse ecosystems on this planet. Well, yesterday we experienced an even bigger ecosystem—the solar system—at least as far as our moon, sun, and planet were concerned. For about an hour, groups of employees watched as the moon moved between the sun and the earth, casting its shadow across America.

I will refrain from political analogies about shadows across America and the acceptance and understanding of science in our county—or lack thereof. Why get all confused with empirical studies and data? It’s just so much easier to keep one’s mind closed than to think and reason. Don’t get me wrong, I am a man of faith. But I also believe that the glory of God is intelligence. Why not make an effort at being a little more intelligent? Could it really hurt? But I digress.

The thing about ecosystems, be they here on earth or out in space, is that they are made of interconnected elements, from living things to the inanimate. In an ecosystem, everything has an influence on everything else, directly or indirectly. Everything relies on everything else in one way or another. This got me thinking about our own social ecosystems.

We all live in an ecosystem made up of the people we know, who we work with, who we ride the bus with or share the road with while driving in our car. Our ecosystem includes those who are in our neighborhood and those in our city. It includes family, associates, friends, and strangers who we come in contact with. And as diverse and different as all these people are, we have what every ecosystem has in common, every individual in your ecosystem has an influence on you, and you on them, directly or indirectly.

What this means is that we can’t get away from being a part of each other’s lives, whether big or small, there is a connection that asserts its influence. Whether we want to or not, we influence each other. What if we understood this a little better and started to think about how we could create healthy ecosystems in our life? How? By treating everyone, be they stranger or acquaintance, with love. And if not love, then respect or understanding.

What does it really matter if someone thinks or believes differently than you? Are you not secure enough in your own beliefs to understand those of another without feeling threatened? I say it’s time to consider your contribution to the social ecosystem you belong to. You can’t escape membership in it but you can have a huge influence on it.

Why cast a shadow when you can shine like the sun—bright eyes.

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