The little Transistor Radio crackled to life.
It was shaped like a brick, encased in a hard leather shell and was precious to me.
I was about 7 years old – and this was my prized possession – given to me by a family friend.
Imagine you had the very first iPad and no one else you knew had one – that was the feeling.
We were outside on the roof of the building in Manhattan where I attended grade school. The roof was caged in – it was our playground.
I carefully turned the tuning dial – no doubt making a show of it – until we heard the voice of Mission Control in Houston. The static was annoying but added drama – I kept turning the radio in my hand and adjusting the antenna – no doubt making a show of it – to get the best sound.
My friends crowded around. We listened intently – at least I did.
T minus two minutes and forty seconds – a hold was called. I was almost dancing with anxiety but then the countdown resumed.
T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 …ignition – liftoff!!!!!
Those words and that sequence never failed to fuel my imagination – and the first time I heard it indelibly inked it to my soul and they became a part of my personal DNA.
It was May 5, 1961, and soon Alan B. Shepard, Jr. would be the first American in space – he was strapped into the Freedom 7 capsule and his 15-minute sub-orbital journey ignited my passion for reaching for the stars…
I am reminded about this long-ago event and what the hell is a transistor radio? As we have just passed its 50th anniversary and are beginning the last sad flights of the Space Shuttles – already postponed and so lackluster that they don’t even warm interest – let alone ignite passion.
Some would say good. We have so many problems here on earth – why waste all that money? Poverty, homelessness, people out of work, war, hatred, terrorism, lack of health care, poor education systems – what am I forgetting?
How can we possibly spend billions of dollars on useless space trips when we have trillions of dollars of needs here on Earth?
Truth is – my knee-jerk, reflex answer would be yes! That is correct – how dare they spend that money? How dare they even think about it?
But then I find myself tuning that Transistor Radio and that passion returns and I think again.
Seems to me that one of our biggest global issues today is a lack of common purpose linked to a big, imaginative, bold, impossible-to-achieve goal, like seeing a man on the moon was back in 1961.
Yet there were believers – H.G. Wells wrote about it in his famous book “The First Men in The Moon.”
More importantly, the true believers understood that the nature of this quest went far beyond the mere mechanics of space flight – it was about our future as humankind.
President John F. Kennedy who had the vision once said: “Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.”
He understood the linkage that uniting imagination, passion, practical application and sheer desire and will power brought to the world. It wasn’t about the rocket – it was about us.
“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
Vincent van Gogh
Think on that – we have lost our ability to look at the stars. What we call technology in popular lingo is often nothing more than applications usually focused on creating new venues for advertising…not that I mind the monetization – mind you…but let’s not confuse good ideas with great ideas, solid thinking with inspiration, or doing your job with passion.
We worry and rightly so about our daily needs and tasks and forget that sometimes the future is more important to longevity than the present.
Having said that I have met many who are looking at the stars and who do dream – yet we tend to isolate them as dreamers — give them awards and accolades and return as quickly as possible to the newest iteration of Give Me One Of Those.
Seems to me a little star focus (and I don’t mean the latest antics of the entitled self-absorbed) would be a boon for the world and for each of us individually. A goal, a project, a dream to change the world – an idea that…laugh if they will – would and could make a difference.
And what’s the worst that could happen? Listen:
“Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”
And there you have it – you can’t lose…
One last thought from Mark Twain that I think might be prescriptive:
“We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.”
So look up every once in a while and dream…and wonder and discuss – and who knows…
What do you think?