We would like to introduce our readers to a newly minted classification of homo sapiens, the  “Penumbrians.” The name was derived by us, from a term, used by solar scientists, “penumbra,” to designate the large, dimly lit, indiscriminate area, of a planetary body, located between the fully dark and the bright (sunny) areas, during an eclipse.

Penumbrians are found everywhere, and in great numbers, however, any useful estimate of their membership is not possible for practical reasons, as will be disclosed below. Otherwise, they are not distinguishable or identified by national origin, ethnos, language, creed, dress, extent of education, or culture. Speaking the language of their respective country, they have babies, dine out, take vacations and, generally, look and act like everyone else (with the one salient exception); it is that exception that qualifies them for inclusion into the category, and to the denomination, “Penumbrian.”

Initially, by way of disclaimer and for purposes of perspective, we would profess that we subscribe to the practice of compromise and the mitigation of disputes and contested issues, by means of accommodation, wherever possible and when consistent with right principle and practical justice. Yet, we have also approved of the healthy exercise of amicable, vigorous debate, in the event of the presentation of competing principles. We do not shy away from the possibility of being ultimately found to be in error, and will unhesitatingly, and vigorously, contend for what appears to us, just and equitable.

However, there is a substantial category of people who seem to have so disciplined themselves, that the existence of disagreement or disparate opinion, is not tolerable; prescribing that any and all differences, irrespective of the merits of the issues in contention, are to be disposed of by means of a “middle of the road” or some middling compromise. Such people would, eternally, prefer any possible, even unrealistic, accommodation, to the existence (or fear) of disparate opinion, and are thereby, properly entitled to admission into the class, “penumbrian,” with all of the rights and privileges thereunto appertaining.

Penumbrians, named after that indeterminate, hazy-lighted, middling planetary area, between dark and light, at eclipse, seem to dedicate their lives, to an evangelical-like dogma, that there exists no dispute, regardless of issue, that cannot be properly settled, by a middling compromise. Established principals of legal precedent, considerations of justice, or the concept of equity and fairness, to them, pale (like the planetary penumbra) into insignificance, compared with their mantra-like approach: settle, at any cost.

Our Founding Fathers, foresaw the regular practice of amicable debate, between dedicated citizens, having disparate views, as the desired route to the government’s determinacy, as to the popular sentiment, and thus, as a guide to a “nation, run by and for, the people.” This is to be contrasted with an eternal call for middling compromise, regardless of the controverted issue. Penumbrians are therefore useless as representative citizens, contributing nothing to the nation’s perceived body of opinion. Nor will they suggest innovations, or improvements, since change, is potentially, a possible invitation to controversy.

Their lifelong mission is to avoid confrontation, and at any cost. Accordingly, they, stubbornly and sheepishly, pursue a lifelong mission to avoid controversy and the possibility of personal offense. They have little interest in the merits or justice involved in the specific issues, between the contending principals, merely in their reconciliation, at any cost.

They are not very desirable as friends or social acquaintances, preferring rote recitation of self-approving aphorism, to the risk of the unpredictable, normal give and take, of interactive conversation, for fear of the possibility of disagreement (the latter may be inapplicable to discussions with immediate family). Like the dull, limited light projected by their namesake planetary area during eclipse, they have  limited light to project, in any socially interactive circumstance.

The internal cost of such lifelong, self- imposed program of external restraint, is very high, notably in areas such as, self-image and illusions of personal identity. The day-to day frustration, bought about by their programmatic repression of anger and emotion, makes the life of the true Penumbrian, unbearable; certainly, far worse than any conceivable dread of the natural, and understandable, occurrence of personal contention.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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