by Alan Rodman
We rented a portable black and white tv set from a repair shop in the summer of 1968, just in time for me to see the success of the Apollo 8 orbital mission of the Moon.
My dad agreed to pay .50 a day for the rental, which was a week’s allowance for me then, so this was an extravagance. Through the summer I lazed around in newfound luxury watching cartoons and old movies or whatever was on tv back then, and toward autumn I remember hearing about demonstrations and violence at the Chicago Democratic convention and I knew that in the not so distant world of grown-up events there was a wrongful war and an urgent election and I knew by then that people in the streets could make a difference because I had heard about the Civil Rights marches — and I had viewed and heard of the burial of President Kennedy, of his brother Bobby, and of the inspirational Dr. King, but none of those things seemed very concrete to me. I knew that they had a reality different from the cartoons I was watching — but nothing was ever as real as those few days I sat attentively on the edge of the bed, alone in our motel room at the Westwood Village Inn, watching the Apollo 8 mission, as it arrived on December 21, 1968, piloted by the crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders, to improbably orbit the Moon.
I realized at that moment that for once this was something everyone on the whole round world could now feel good about, and I realized I was seeing something that had never happened before, that would change everything. There have been many difficult and sad times before and since, but this was completely new — and completely wonderful. I felt that myself and our generations were really a part of it now, and we people now knew for the first time success in our explorations of space, and further into the natural world.
For a moment I felt part of the entire civilization and everything had changed, and I had seen it there with my own eyes, all by myself, and would anyone believe me? But millions had watched with me! My dad was an aerospace engineer in the age of space exploration, and suddenly I was right at the center of the universe of events. On that little tv, while adjusting those rabbit ears antennae, I had followed every detail of that mission, an adventure which felt so different from all the other difficult news of those days. It proved to at least one 11 year old that Man is also a force for hope and advancement and light.
Trust is earned. We just recently had to VOTE as if this may indeed have been our last chance. We proved we are determined to remain democratic and indivisible. Let us trust that we are able to choose the ways we grow beyond the world we already know.
The Zen teacher Jack Kornfield talks about trust, in his 2018 interview with Gratitude Revealed, [https://jackkornfield.com/patience-is-the-wrong-word/] of letting our feelings of trusting become more than only a way of enduring events, as we enlarge ourselves to ultimately benefit others:
“Mirror neurons help us learn from one another. The field of interpersonal neurobiology has demonstrated how we are connected in a web of being and influence the consciousness of one to another. When we evoke trust through remembering someone who exemplifies trust, we start to feel what it’s like in our own body, in our own heart… We all have access to great possibilities. We can start to trust that we are embedded in something so large and beautiful and mysterious that can display itself as music or art or love or gardening or healing or parenting or creative work. Traditionally young people would get initiated into this self respect, a communication of trust that they are carrying something of value. Each individual has this, each unique person.”
This first manned mission to the moon became that initiation for me into a community of hope. That one great accomplishment fulfilled some vast aspirations of all human history. It appeared to me to be the fact that would surely unify our world.
An Ojibwa poem that i heard years later expressed perfectly how I felt that day:
I go about wailing,
beating my breast,
but all the while a great wind
is bearing me across the sky.
A few weeks later, the motel maid blew in like the wind and wiped the TV screen with some solvent that caused it to fog up and we had to return it to the shop with an explanation and apology, and it probably never entertained anyone again — but I had seen enough, so I knew by then that space is wide and the Earth is round, but rest assured, impossible dark distances can be crossed.
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