Friday, April 30, 2010

The Moon's a Harsh Mistress

Driving into work yesterday morning, as the mercury hovered not all that much above the freezing point making it dicey for Southern New England farmers to keep their crops growing, I had a long, hard look at what seemed to be just about a full moon.

I have no life, and spend a large part of it at work, driving to or from work or worrying about something connected to work. I don't get up in the middle of the night like my brother Adam because I have a few more miles on the odometer and neither the spirit nor the flesh are willing any longer, but it's still pretty early. In the spring and summer months, as the days lengthen, there's a lighter tint to the darkness rolling along Route 12 through Ledyard at a little after five, and yesterday the moon was sitting practically on the roadway on the horizon.

I remember as a kid, in Mrs. Hilge's classroom, 3-B, in St Peter's (sic) School in New Brunswick, NJ, as Sister Mary Immaculata put a radio speaker near the microphone in her office connected to the PA system so we could hear the launch of Alan Shepard. We were on our way to the moon and we would beat those Ruskie bastards (I should admit I don't think I knew the word bastard then; I caught up pretty fast) and plant our flag up there.

I heard years later, in one of those stories moms tell to other adults about their now-grown children which shock the child because they never knew, one of the nuns (would have been Sister Stephen who never liked me anyway) asked me what I was most concerned about for the astronaut and I replied, 'how Mission Control will monitor his heartbeat during lift-off' when, seemingly, the correct answer was 'his immortal soul.' Even then....

Looking at the US effort to put a man on the moon, it's hard to not think, if for just a moment, we had replaced God with Science (caps are deliberate in case there is a God or Science has truly replaced Him. I'm going to need brownie points from someplace). Who among us didn't want to grow up to be an astronaut? I hated Tang, and I still wanted to be one. Irony of ironies, I HATE flying in all forms. Take-offs and landings terrify me and once we're airborne it's a really boring bus ride at thirty thousand feet.

But dawn patrolling yesterday morning, I was thinking about November when the days are growing darker earlier and staying dark longer, when the last of the shuttle flights is slated to liftoff as the age of private space flight begins. I'm very sure I'm VERY angry this is happening and am wondering if perhaps it's part of the reason I'm in a dark place spinning my wheels without gaining traction at the moment.

Rome, a small city in the middle of Italy grew into the Roman Republic and then devolved into the Roman Empire before disappearing beneath the bread and circuses and onslaught of the Vandals and Visigoths. Somewhere at some point in time, we've stopped being the greatest notion to ever become a nation and are now on our way to being another Carjackistan (sorry, Tank McNamara).

My point is Great Nations Do Great Deeds. We, okay not me personally, but my parents and their parents (and ALL of our parents and grandparents before them), fought two world wars, endured a decade of deprivation we now call The Great Depression, retooled and rebuilt not only our own country but our defeated foes across the globe. We/they stared into the maw of mutually assured destruction and the gaping jaws of the Russian bear and he blinked and fell. A lesser nation would have stepped on its enemy's throat while it was down.

A great nation would, and did, help the bear up and help it find its way even while, at times, losing our own and now our children's children will never be able to fully appreciate, much less share, their grandparent's dreams of space flight? How did it happen that we cannot afford to live out loud? I wasn't the only kid, or boy, come to think of it, in my class with 'the' plan: I'd grow up to be a baseball player and the President (baseball was only a summer job) and an astronaut. Seemed like a pretty full day in the third grade. All these years on, all that remains is my dislike of Tang.

"I fell out of her eyes.
I fell out of her heart.
I fell down on my face.
Yes, I did, and I -- I tripped and I missed my star.
God, I fell and I fell alone, I fell alone.
And the moon's a harsh mistress,
And the sky is made of stone."
-bill kenny

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