I was talking with good friends in the pub yesterday.
We talked about ‘great things’.
More specifically is it worth doing them? What is the point?
On the table infront of us was the obituary of Neil Armstrong, surely the man who represents the greatest of great things we humans have acheived.
We talked about the cost of exploration and the priorities of people and governments, what is realistic, what do we need to do, what we should do. We argued in circles about what the point of it all is and whether events like the moon landings have a point or once done should they be repeated.
We moved budgets in fantasy worlds, shrank defence, moved welfare, rebuilt and demolished schools. We built rockets to Mars and then scrapped them. We debated the spin-offs and long term benefits against the short term aims of improving health care and ensuring the poor are looked after.
And all the time Neil was looking up from the beer soaked table and smiling. We were building and smashing dreams and there looking at us was a human being who had just walked on another world, exhausted, unshaven, dirty. But smiling.
He had done the greatest of things and there encapsulated in that picture and its simple, genuine smile, was the answer. Billions of years of evolution, thousands of years of technical progress and still it boils down to the human experience, without great dreams we don’t progress and we have little to smile about.
Today the answer was repeated in another great moment. Felix Baumgartner fell from 128,000 feet, broke the sound barrier and landed on his feet and walked away.
When he moved out of his capsule I held my breath. It was an incredible moment. Another human doing one of the ‘great things’, like the photos of Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon, the image of Baumgartner alone in the sky about to step into the void for me sums up the wonder of being human, our need to explore, our drive to do the incredible.
We have many priorities in this complex modern world of ours but it would be a dull and uninspiring place if we never bothered to reach that little bit further.