It still strikes me as very much a mixed bag--"I Just Called to Say I Love You" especially is a very profound and moving meditation on technology and our interpersonal relationships, and the Christina Stead essay is very good as well. Franzen has gained a lot of credibility with me as a compelling and competent writer, and so I really did try to like the essays. I wanted to like them.
Our migration from this planet is a seductive vision of the future that has been given almost tangible reality by our entertainment industry. But I will point out a few of the unappreciated difficulties with this view. The subtext is that space fantasies can prevent us from tackling mundane problems whose denial could result in a backward slide.
When driving, fixing your gaze on the gleaming horizon is likely to result in your crashing into a stopped car ahead of you, so that your car is no longer capable of reaching the promised land ahead. We have to pay attention to the stupid stuff right in front of us, as it might well stand between us and a smart future.
Many comments on the internets chided this view as being hopelessly unrealistic in its willful ignorance of the great space migration to come. The connotation is that we should not heed repeated warnings about our current collision course with a finite world when—by some clairvoyant means that eludes me—we know we are destined to colonize the infinite void beyond.
Space is therefore seen as an escape hatch for the human endeavor and from our arguably botched track record on Earth. Escapism may be more accurate. Survey Says… Before we get going on practical matters, let me share the results of a survey question I have posed to college students in my classes.
Approximately how far have humans traveled from the surface of the Earth in your lifetime? The first answer is 0. Take a minute to picture this. Some were indignant on learning the truth: How disappointing it must be to learn that it merely hugs the globe.
I could easily get sidetracked on this astounding result. And for that matter, I no longer have the option to purchase a ticket to fly trans-Atlantic at supersonic speeds on the Concorde. A Moment of Silence A recent article in the Economist about the end of the space age—besides generating howls of protest—noted that, short of signs of life turning up on Mars, public interest in the surviving unmanned space program will wane.
Travel to Mars, carrying a multi-hundred-billion dollar price tag, is even less likely to see support. John Michael Greer followed this piece with a delightfully well-written elegy lamenting the end of our space ambitions. Many of my sentiments are perfectly captured in this article, and I highly recommend the read.
Surely the termination of the NASA shuttle program has forced us to accept setbacks in our dreams of space. But this does not have to be a predictor of the future.
After all, we could have decided to keep the shuttle program alive if economic and political winds had favored doing so, and we do not lack the know-how for going back to the Moon if it became a priority. Perhaps, then, we are looking at only a temporary bump in the road. Down to Brass Tacks However, there are practical realities to consider.
The sun is 2. Mars is sometimes as close as 0. First, reflect on the vastly different scale in travel to the Moon vs.A Farewell to Arms - For those on the ramparts of the world's sole superpower, the digital winds are blowing an icy chill through the triumphant glow of the post-Cold War.
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