While I was on a farm in western Mass last week looking up at a breathtaking night sky literally filled with stars and meteors sliced by the Milky Way galaxy, it’s hard for your mind to not wander about where the Earth is and where I am on it.
We’re just on a big rock spinning around a star. We happen to have a layer of gasses hugging the surface which allows for everything to breath. Bacteria, fungi, plants, birds, fish and humans are all huffing the same atmosphere. That’s something we all have in common. All of us lifeforms are just chirping away all through the night just doing our thing.
Every once in a while a plane would fly across the sky reminding me of our technological achievements and that nowhere on this planet is really that far from the hearts of human civilization. That plane was going from someplace west to someplace east, probably Boston. That city seemed pretty far away from where I was standing – a city where you can’t see any stars, can’t hear any of the insect cacophony or where you won’t probably realize you’re sharing a planet with millions of other species. It’s far away from that farm but that plane would arrive at its gate in much less than an hour.
Earlier that week, I had watched a documentary about the Apollo missions to land men on the Moon called For All Mankind. The Apollo astronauts were confident that their actions were just the first step of human exploration of deep space. There is a deep optimism of the future of humanity to explore, to learn, and to go further. Once humans all got a chance to realize how small our planet is, they would stop fighting wars and work together.
This is similar to the philosophy behind the Star Trek series. Once humans made contact with Alien life, peace and equality immediately followed. Things just got better and better.
This is also how history plays out in the our common imagination. Humans were once primitive hunter-gatherers and now we have smart phones, jumbo jets and abundant food in grocery stores. Straight line from there to here.
But yet we see declines and falls everywhere around us. There are huge examples like the Soviet Union and there are smaller examples like Greece. Economic decline and political fall destroy countries, progress and people’s lives. People who had planned a life around a stable country, a job you could count on, public services, state-ensured security, all of a sudden find themselves in a very dangerous and frightening position. Everything falls apart and everything changes.
I don’t really have a direct point except that I really like to imagine that we’re bound for things out in the vastness of space, that it’s just a matter of time, but there’s another part of me that feels like we are so bound to this planet. The gasses we breath and the rhythms that we feel around us are a part of who we are and that it might not be so easy to leave that behind.