Saturday, February 1, 2003


I feel so utterly relaxed now, and the specter of having to go over to my sister's to help her move is weighing very heavily on me. I just don't want to get up, I don't want to get dressed, I don't want to get in my car, I don't want to do a lick of work for anybody. No way, no how, nonono. I just don't wanna!

But I will, anyway. That's the kind of guy I am. A stand-up, responsible, trustworthy kind of guy. Or at least, I always stick to my word (though I have to be the first to admit that I am extremely reluctant to ever give my word... I should buy a t-shirt that reads "Maybe, it depends"). Nevertheless, I told Suzie I would come over and help her move today, and so I shall. I did not, however, say when I was going to come over today. So I am going to sit a little while longer and enjoy my langour.

I'm not usually one to discuss news events in my diary, but I am somewhat disturbed by the Space Shuttle thing this morning. What I find most disturbing is that I can't really understand it on a human scale. It seems so removed from reality. It's sad, but I can't seem to relate to the tragedy in terms of lives lost and families broken. There's something artificial and made-for-TV about it that baffles me.

I happened to be watching television on the morning that the Challenger blew up in midair in '86; in fact it happened live, right after I turned on my television... in such synchronicity that I was almost convinced for a second that I had caused the explosion by turning on the television. It was the first time a civilian had gone up, that schoolteacher lady, and for some reason that made the tragedy all the more poignant. I mean, astronauts are essentially military personnel, and it has always been my impression that in joining the military, you knowingly set your life out on the roulette table... you might get to keep it, you might not, and it's not really up to you anymore.

I don't know what happened this time, but to be perfectly honest I think the Space Shuttle program, like many of our Space programs, is ill-advised and rushed. It's so unbelievably expensive, this business of exploring space, and we haven't even gotten very far. Yes, we've managed to litter our orbit with telecom satellites that are terribly useful, and there have been various medical breakthroughs and mechanisms developed for and in the space program. All those lovely pictures coming back from the Hubble are interesting, but what profit do we derive from them? I'm all for the quest of knowledge for it's own sake, but at a cost of billions and trillions of dollars a year, the scant knowledge we've received seems a trifle overpriced.

What I think confuses me most is that I don't understand the urge to explore space. I mean, it's interesting and all, but what's the purpose? Do people really believe we can live in space? Even if we could, why would anyone want to? It all seems to trivial, for some reason.

Perhaps this is one of those things where art surpasses life. After having seen a number of films and television shows set in outer-space, I don't think the reality can live up to the fantasy we have of it. It seems so lonely and futile to wander about in space, no air to breathe and no water to drink but what you've brought with you, no chance of survival in case of mishap.

And then there's the scale of space, which is terrifying. One of the only things I remember from college Astronomy is the actual scale of distance and size, with this little speck of a graperfruit in one corner of the room being Earth and this little speck ping-pong ball way the hell over on the other side of the room is the Moon, and the knowledge that Mars would be way out in the Quad and Venus would be on the football field and the Sun would be all the way downtown.

On TV and in movies, the solar system looks so cozy and neighborly, containable, like an orrery or a mobile; but in reality it's so freaking far to the next planet. It gives me the shivers! There is no way in Hell you would get me up in one of those space-shuttles, no matter how commonplace they become. It still takes a supreme act of will to get myself onto an airplane... and in an airplane you can still see and understand distance on a human scale. I'd really much rather travel by train or car... or, truth be told, not travel at all. The older I get, the more homebound I seem to become.

Or maybe it's just a mood I'm passing through. The very idea, right now, of going as far as El Ceritto (about ten or twelve miles away) fills me with a nameless dread. Space would, therefore, be entirely out of the question. Even if I was able to find this planet:

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