Couldn’t sleep last night. Flipped on the TV. Watched “Apollo 13.” Great flick. But it made me sad for my kid because his dreams don’t include space travel. And it made me sad for myself because it reminded me that I’m never going into space. I’m never going to see the Earth rise majestically over the Mare Serenitatis.
Chances are, no one will, ever again.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, the whole country was absorbed in the high adventure of space travel. The astronauts were heroes (not nut jobs wearing diapers and scheming against romantic rivals) and space was the new frontier. The President said so. And everyone felt a part of it. Everyone talked about what the future would be like on the Moon and on Mars. Would they need English teachers on Mars? Journalists covering the doings on the Moon colony?
So where has all that energy, all those dreams, all the money gone?
And the loss is immense.
Of course, sending people into space doesn’t, as we ultimately realized, make much sense. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing out there. Not much, anyway. Not enough to spend money on. Space, it turns out, isn’t for people; it’s for physics. But the idea of boldly going, the thrill of exploration, was absorbing and spiritually uplifting.
What’s uplifting about IT?
E-mail? So people can circulate jokes more efficiently? Or communicate with one another without having to hear a human voice or look in a human eye?
The Web? A mail-order catalog on steroids that encourages people to buy things they don’t need in order to impress people they don’t know? Or lets them expose themselves on a global scale via YouTube or Face Book or My Space? Or encourages them to participate in banal, pre-packaged, collective fantasies like Second Life?
The Internet? Fabulous business tool. Terrific. But even though I like supply chain chitchat as much as the next guy, it doesn’t really stir my imagination.
How about all the toys? Do you love your cell phone? I don’t. Fact is, it sounds like crap. Any land line sounds a thousand times better. Just like the cheapest compact audio system sounds better than listening to my son’s iPod through those tiny, tinny ear buds. Hey, it’s great to have a billion tunes in your pocket but when each and every one of them sounds like the AM radio in my old, 1964 Dodge Dart, you have to wonder why we bother.