I watched the space shuttle STS135 Atlantis touch down this morning and I felt as if that was the ending of something really big. I think what is happening is something more than simple nostalgia even though I am part of the generation that saw the first man walk on the moon July 20, 1969.
I think something bigger is happening to the human race, something that is not so good as we think it is. I think we are losing our quest for meaning.
Colleges have turned into trade schools where there is very little learning and lots of job training. Professors are demonized and teachers are vilified. Lots of people have hopped onto the bandwagon of questioning whether or not a college degree is worth the money; not based on whether or not you come out thinking more clearly or having received a strong liberal arts education that gives you the tools to ask questions steeped in meaning, but whether or not the degree qualifies you for a job.
We’ve choked off stem cell research even though it holds the biggest promise in curing cancer, paralysis and other diseases. We’re starving education budgets and breaking unions in favor of giving wealthy capitalist barons tax breaks so they can employ a vast army of under-educated workers they will toss away when joints and muscles break down after years of hard work. We publish books by Snooki and Bristol Palin instead of talented writers. We argue about whether or not gay people are worthy of respect as human beings instead of just accepting the differences. We deny the dignity of health care as a basic human right. We throw away people when they get too old to work. We allow superstition, fear and faith to trump empirical facts and science. We are willing to bring down the most powerful government in the world simply because the man at the top is a member of the wrong race.
For what? A few extra short-term dollars? A few more minutes of power? What happened to our collective quest to discover who we are, why we are here and what our place is in the Universe? Did we give up or are we now satisfied that planet Earth is all we will ever have? Are we satisfied that the Universe really exists as one little race alone on a spinning rock in space, guided by a God we should seek out and worship?
Inevitably, the question of “What’s next for NASA?” gets asked in every newscast and with every interview. The answer is always the same; a short pause and then some mumbling about re-definging direction, cost-efficiency, saving tax money, blah, blah, blah that nobody really believes.
But the real question is: “What’s next for the human race?”
That is what we are really struggling with when the question gets asked.
*The we I am referring to is the human collective, not any one group. Whether or not you is one doing one of the above, you will most assuredly be swept along as the current gathers speed. It is already a raging torrent.