Saturday, May 2, 2009

Careful Crescendo 12/12/08

First you leap, then you grow wings.

William Sloane Coffin

First there was the primitive man peering out from his cave and contemplating a bright light in the sky. Soon his buddies began to worship it. It seemed to have some control over life. Then they gave it a name and as paganism arose it took on the persona of a goddess. Folks knew it was, because they could see a face in it. But it was a fickle goddess, sometimes she was there, sometimes she wasn't and she came and went gradually.

Then came the scientists, the astronomers with their telescopes trying to get a closer look at the goddess. With them it wasn't a goddess at all, but a planet. And since they could tell that it was moving around the earth. the earth must be the center of everything. That made some sort of biblical sense, so people settled for that for a while. Until some uppity scientists tried to suggest that the earth was not the center of it all. in fact it was just another planet like the one they were contemplating. And if that was so then what was the relationship, since the other one hung around all the time, or most of the time? And why did it come in gradually changing shapes? Someone proposed the absolutely prepostorous idea that it wasn't the planet itself that changed but it was the shadow of the earth on it. Now things were getting very confusing.

Then folks thought that if it was a planet like ours then maybe there was life up there. The only way to find out was to go there, but how could anyone do that?

Then Jules Verne wrote a book about going there which depicted the travelers sitting aloft in a Victorian living room. Verne was a science fiction writer. Nobody was going to take it seriously.

But then with the improvement of air flight a few deluded souls did start to take it seriously and tried to think of ways to get there.

Rocket science was born and men tried with some success but mostly failure to put something up there into the vast area which, for want of a better name, we call "space."

Then there was sputnik.

Then there was Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.

Then there was John Glenn, the first man in orbit.

Then there was the Apollo Program and trips around to the goddess' backside.

Then there was Neil Armstrong's "One small step."

I think the primitive man, peering out of his cave at the bright light in the sky, is pleased and proud that he took a leap.

DB - The Vagabond

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