Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Small Step

42 years ago tonight, the entire world looked up. Nothing in human history before or since has galvanized humanity the way the events of July 20, 1969 did. Not without a body count at least. Things like tsunamis or earthquakes or 9/11 may come along every once in a while and make everyone drop what they're doing and take notice, but this was different. The entire planet wasn't focused on a tragedy this time. Instead, it was something beautiful. Something poetic. Something man has dreamed of since he was able to dream. On that summer evening in July, two men from this planet set foot on another world for the very first time. Mankind dipped a toe into the deep waters of the universe right there in the Sea of Tranquility. For a brief moment we stepped outside of ourselves and took a look at our place in the cosmos from a different point of view. Sure, we did it because Kennedy said we had to beat the Russians and all that, but even though the Cold War was less about big ideas and more about the biggest stick on the block, we still did it. For all mankind. And when we did, mankind stopped what it was doing that day and watched.

Such a shame we don't do things like that anymore. Things bigger than ourselves. We are amazing creatures, capable of so much more than we let on sometimes. We get so focused in on the day-to-day smallness of the world we lose sight of just how vast the universe is and just how tiny a space in that vastness we occupy. There are days on this planet when all hope seems lost, when there are daily reminders of the worst we have to offer, when all our problems seem impossible to solve. But one day 42 years ago we proved that nothing is impossible. All it took was for us to just get out of our own way and do it. The moon was just a stepping stone in a very big ocean, one that is as wide and expansive as the human imagination. And it may take generations before we take another step like that again. It makes me sad to think I may never experience something like the moon landing in my lifetime. Then I think about the distance between the stars and how impossible it seems that we could ever reach them. But the moon was out of reach, then one day it wasn't. In the future, day-tripping to the Andromeda galaxy may be as common as taking a taxi across town, and even though I will never experience that firsthand, I know someday someone from this planet will. Despite the fact that we seem to be on the verge of causing our own extinction on a daily basis, if we put our minds to it there's nothing we can't do. We could just use a few more small steps these days to remind us of those giant leaps sometimes.