Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, - and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of. . .and while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God. (Poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee)
By chance, did you catch the lift off of the space ship “Resilience” this past week-end, as it headed into space taking four astronauts to the space station? It put me in mind of when I first heard the word “Sputnik” and Yuri Gagarin; then John Glenn and Apollo and those words, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Those were heady days in America when we were united by some of the greatest achievements history had ever seen. I had to watch the lift-off on some side tv channel. We here on earth are still mired in our red and blue tribal culture, clinging to vestiges of what “was” rather than recognizing that history is linear. History moves in a straight line and it is always forward.
To watch that shiny ship head into space and think of us still caught in the squabbles that hold us bound to the past is really pathetic. You can’t hold on to the past. A lot of us try to, but it is a deadly past-time that will eventually lead to our own destruction.
I watched the lift off because my nephew, an environmental engineer, let us know. He was excited and knowledgeable about the whole process and what would happen once the ship docked at the space station. He is a Gen X’er and is part of that newer generation of young people who can see beyond our petty squabbles to what lies ahead. You might say he sees beyond the stars. Scientists described the next moon landing which will be near the polar caps of the moon. There is ice there, i.e. water. The moon will become a fueling station for journeys to Mars. I will never see that happen, but he and his family may. But I was there at the beginning when President John Kennedy issued the first challenges that this was something that could be done. And who knew we would see this new day.
Given all the disasters of 2020 I would really pray the New Year will see us rising to our feet and taking up the journey of humanity once again. The promise of a vaccine for the pandemic is here and it is as great an achievement as “Resiliance”. Our democratic process again proved there can be a free election with a peaceful passing of power (albeit reluctantly). History moves us on. As the four astronauts are speeding through space to their new home for seven months, can we move on one step at a time to something greater than ourselves — freedom from war and bloodshed, and poverty, freed for the promise of equality for all people in this time and this place. Promises of a roof over our heads, food for our families, and Peace on Earth goodwill to all.