I grew up in the heyday of the Space Age. One of my earliest memories is of watching Neal Armstrong on live, grainy TV as he took one small step onto the Moon and one giant leap into my imagination.
The TV show Star Trek first aired just a few days before I was born in 1966. The show had what was perhaps the most ethnically diverse cast of any TV show of the time; in the Trek mythos, humans of all colors and from all regions had somehow learned to live together.
There was also a TV show called Space 1999. It was set in the distant future (1999) and featured a pretty cool Moon Colony, albeit one that was lost in space.
Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey had set a pretty high bar for Luxury Space Stations.
So when I was a kid, I just assumed that when I grew up, we'd be a united, space-faring race. As a boy, I had a fascination with the history of warfare, I'd read endless books on the technology, tactics and personalities of war, but I did so with a feeling that war was something that would end someday, and someday soon.
Everyday back then, people were marching in the streets. "No War!", they cried. Surely someone was listening, the wishes of so many must somehow be heeded.
I thought war would become the next dinosaur. Extinct.
I'm not sure when I lost that hope. It may have coincided with one of my first encounters with irony.
There was conflict in the Middle East and the TV news was showing footage of what looked like WW2-era German concentration camps...giant compounds surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire, bristling with guard towers and machine-gun emplacements. The only thing missing were the smokestacks.
I knew about the Holocaust and, with childish innocence, found it unimaginable that anyone would be allowed to build concentration camps in these "modern times". Imagine my surprise when I learned that the new camps had been built by Jews with the assistance of the former Allied powers.
How is that possible, I wondered. I thought we were the "good guys."
The Nazis took a hard-line against resistance in German-occupied territories . One tactic was to murder dozens of civilians for every one German soldier killed by a resistance fighter- a disproportionate military revenge exacted on helpless citizens. Gaza, anyone?
The hard lessons of the past may remain unlearned, but there is more to living than mistakes, horror and hindsight. There is hope, wisdom, inspiration and the future. We might not be able to find much hope in the news these days, but we can look for it in more vital sources. We can find it in ourselves and in each other. (And in guitars)
From Citizen, I learn that while Resolutions may not be the best approach, a little resolve goes a long way. Jackie S., Billy P. and Sling remind me how precious friends are, no matter what form they take. NYD's joyful grin gives me new enthusiasm for my old love, the electric guitar; Yin Yang's intellect gives me hope for the younger generation. Cowbell and Susanne are trying to make a difference because it's worth the effort to try. Lyzard's journey of growth is a joy to behold(although she might have a few comments on that); Craig cares, even if no one else does; Mouse and Merelyme are finding ways to overcome and helping others in the process; Donn and Enemy encourage the under-rated but necessary hobby of thinking. Polona deftly captures the beauty of the world around her and Angel knows how to have a good time and live to talk about it.
Whim is teaching me that anything is possible.
Let's not forget the International Astronomical Union. In honor of Galileo's 400th telescopic anniversary, they have declared 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy. They are encouraging us to look upward and outward.
That sounds like a good idea to me.