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Sunday, May 3, 2015

'Too self-absorbed to dream'

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In the past I have quoted from columns by Mitch Albom, the gifted author of "Tuesdays with Morrie." Once more, I would like to share some of his thoughts. This recent column is titled "Too Self-Absorbed to Dream." He starts out telling of being at Boy Scout Camp where the campers were wakened by their counselors at about 10 p.m. one evening. After being seated around the dining tables the big black-and-white TV set was turned on. It was extra difficult to make out the grainy image, but they suddenly heard a tinny voice say "...one giant leap for mankind." Albom tells us why that moment, July 20, 1969, still gives him goose bumps 40 years later, and why it seems he'll never feel that way again. Here I paraphrase his possible reasons:

Back then there was still a sense of wonder at what man could accomplish. The first heart transplant had recently taken place. We were still in the decade when a man first orbited the Earth and now this--the moon!

Today limits seem to be broken every day. We send probes to the farthest reaches of space. We clone sheep. We smash sports records with every new stud--or find drugs that let us cheat our way to it. How can we have a sense of wonder? We're too busy dazzling ourselves every nanosecond with biotech or high tech.

Also remember, in 1969 we all watched the moonwalk together. There was just Walter Cronkite, wearing horned-rim glasses, behind a desk he called "CBS Space Headquarters." And when Neil Armstrong planted his shoe on the lunar surface he actually exclaimed, "Wow! Hot-diggity dog!" Can you imagine that today? Anchors now would more likely remind you what network you were on, who sponsored it and what reality show was coming up next.

Back then we were more interested in exploring. Americans who rarely traveled dreamed of a trip to New York or possibly to London or Paris. An airplane was a big deal. Today an airplane is like a Greyhound bus--complete with bringing your own sandwich. It's a hassle to travel, not to mention scary now that we've been introduced to the word, "terrorism."

Instead, we're much more interested in exploring ourselves We use technology to spread the word about OUR Face book, OUR accomplishments, OUR blogs. To be fascinated by the moon is to be fascinated with something larger than us. Now we would rather focus on how smaller things can get you famous--singing, dancing, losing weight or eating bugs.

Albom goes on to say that he remembers looking up at the moon that night thinking if he squinted hard enough, he might see Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin. Back home that summer he meticulously cut out all of the newspaper stories and pasted them in a big blue scrapbook. His father bought him a model kit of Apollo 11 which he put together.

With these words he concluded the column. "There was on the table, amidst the glue and the decals, a sense of history. Though I was too young to define it, I knew it was bigger than me. I basked in its glow. I guess it's just not that easy to impress us anymore, which is a shame because if you had gone outside Monday evening, July 20, and looked at the moon it's still pretty far away and going there is still a hell of a thing."

There's little I can add to these wise observations, but I am glad I could share them with you.