Today’s a special day on the astronomical calendar. Every 32 months or so, two full moons occur in the same calendar month. We had a full moon back on December 2, and a look to the skies this evening will find that we have another full moon ringing in the New Year to the celebrating world below. In honor of this rare occurrence, I thought I’d take a step away from professional subject matter and bring forth some observations of a more personal nature.
Back in 1977, I was 11 years old, growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I was required to take a book out of the elementary school library. I was always looking for material that interested only me. While this made the graded results of my schooling rather shocking in their downward path, I dare say that my desire for exploration and inquisition has served me better intellectually than many of my peers from so long ago. Looking through the books, I chose one called 2010: Living In The Future by Geoffrey Hoyle.
As a fan of the future, I marvelled at what I saw within the pages. My bed wouldn’t be on a squeaky metal bed frame, but would pop up from the floor with the push of a button. My children wouldn’t be going to a brick and mortar school. They would be going to school via “videophone” (this is what we called web cams in 1977 while we waited for our Ford Pintos to explode due to rear impact). You could leave your car at home and strap on a jet pack, as the cartoon-illustrated skies would be darkened by free-hanging people with fuel-filled propulsion engines strapped to their backs. I’m leaving out moon colonies and environmentally-controlled domed cities, but I think you get the general thrust of this book.
I don’t know how I can say this without sounding critical of the over 7 billion people currently inhabiting the Earth, but the calendar leaves me no alternative.
Tomorrow is 2010, and we have failed our own future.
This is not some run-of-the-mill failure, such as a misspelling or a briefly untied shoe. This is an international, multi-societal, cross-generational, self-inflicted catastrophe equivalent to laying on one’s back on train tracks as the 5:15 high speed commuter line is within view.
In my civilian life, I am an acolyte of the great scientist and renaissance man R. Buckminster Fuller, who spent more than half of the 20th century attempting to explain to the world at large both layman and academic that the Earth indeed had the resources (both sustainable and non-sustainable) for everyone on the planet to comfortably coexist. To that end, he designed tools for responsible care and habitation of the planet, not only in the realm of housing, but across the width and breadth of design sciences.
I’ve spent a great deal of my post-adolescent life hoping that the powers that be would invest heavily in a future closer to what Fuller imagined, and have been continuously frustrated as vital resources have been heavily tilted to obsolete models of existense. Whether it is the removal of mountaintops in West Virginia for coal or watching a drunken captain of an Alaskan supertanker run aground and spill oil over hundreds of miles of coastline, hanging on brazenly to the past doesn’t appear to be improving anyone’s life in a measurable fashion.
More disturbingly, there appears to be a truth fatigue gripping the world. Turn on any TV news program or surf the darker reaches of the internet for any length of time and a basic set of facts is being reputed by someone who has apparently crawled out from under a rather large, moss-covered rock somewhere who has either an ideological or monetary interest in bringing forth a contrary viewpoint, no matter how ridiculous. As this type of person is slowly given more time to spout nonsense to a broader audience, truths that have sometimes taken scholars and scientists centuries to be realized disappear in waves of reddened faces and screeds in capital letters, replaced with dogma, superstition and an utter lack of intellectual rigor. And admit it, when was the last time you saw a rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral, and felt any sense of anticipation or excitement?
In looking back, the only thing from that children’s book that came true was the idea of using computers to order food remotely and having it delivered to your house. Currently, this is only in effect for restaurants and pizza parlors and not supermarkets, as was fully envisioned. Thanks to this “innovation”, someone else’s plan for the future has helped to make me, according to my sister-in-law’s Wii Fit Pro, “obese”. I guess if you’re weighed down by calories, it’s somewhat hard to find the energy to fight for a future that benefits more than your perpetually-full digestive tract. My same-old squeaky metal bed frame (push button not included) is a little louder nowadays.
Going back to Buckminster Fuller, he once wrote the following as he contemplated his own actions in the world and how he could be of most benefit to the planet and its inhabitants at large:
“I am not a noun, a thing. I seem to be a verb; an evolutionary process, an integral function of the universe”.
We’re now knee-deep in the 21st century. Many people in power across the globe have a great deal invested in making sure your internal drive to be anything more than a noun remains dormant. As we go forth into 2010, it is my hope that mankind’s inate curiosity about its universal place leads to a litany of much-needed, long-dormant questions, followed in short order by a storm of ideas aimed at improving current existence and ensuring future survival. Until my next posting of this nature (August 31st, 2012, according to my astrological calendar), I challenge you to do the right thing, both for yourself and the world at large. Be a verb!