Keeping the Dream Alive
What would you think if I told you everything we think we know about social change and equality is wrong?
You would probably tell me to stop making inflammatory statements, but I am going to ask you to hear me out for 3 paragraphs, no more. Stop reading if the next three paragraphs don’t call up nagging questions in your mind.
In one decade, humans went from being a terrestrially bound species to being an interplanetary one. Then quietly, our two major superpowers then in the throes of a bitter Cold War backed down a little, and the fury of passions driving the Space Race cooled. We scaled back our dreams and settled for space stations orbiting earth and an orbital taxi to Shuttle things to and from earth orbiting stations and satellites.
In the last decade, America’s dreams of space cooled even more. Almost overnight, NASA programs scheduled to return to the moon, build bigger and better orbiters and launch vehicles, and programs to go to Mars. In the place of these lofty dreams and goals, we turned to earth-bound challenges we have had since the beginning of time which are tied in some degree to the size of individual dreams (mostly demographic inequality). I am NOT in any way suggesting that inequality is ok, but rather that the way out of inequality is to stretch the view of human potential by going to the stars and thereby inspire all–even the lowest strata–humans to higher goals.
Humans are only happy when we work hard for a desired goal and reach at least part of it, and social unrest is more about how we FEEL than about what we actually have. Humans actually have far more now than we did in the 1960’s and 1970’s. On the average there is less poverty, life expectancy is higher, and infant mortality is lower–across the globe at every level (read “Factfulness” by the Roslings for more on our improving state). So why are so many people unhappy? As humans today, we have no higher purpose and choose to look down in anger instead of up to the stars in hope.
That was three paragraphs, but read on if I have piqued your curiosity…
I just finished a book on reaching for the stars called “Moonshot” by Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton, Jay Barbree, and Neil Armstrong. This book written by three Apollo astronauts and the only reporter who has covered EVERY manned space flight from US recounts the crazy 1960’s NASA culture through the eyes of those who actually went to the stars and reported back about the poetry and dreams it inspired in them.
As I read, I became increasingly restless, and I needed to sit down this morning to think about what it meant. In my mind I reviewed the steps: we went to the moon, we created the most impressive scientific and engineering infrastructure ever assembled in one organization, and then we tossed it mostly aside. What have the consequences been? Here is what I came away with.
The Happiness Dichotomy: when looking back, be thankful and content with what you have, but while looking to the future, shoot for the stars. There is always merit in gratitude, as reported by hundreds of studies. Yet, the human creature CANNOT be happy without dreams and inspiring goals to achieve–also documented through thousands of inspiring stories.
Children rise to the level of the dreams they manage to keep after the relentless onslaught most of us call “life”. So if we cancel “the stars” as an option, we say “Just get a job and be happy you have a roof and warm meals”, and then we ask, “Why are these kids so unmotivated?”…
Whose fault is it really if our kids aim low?
We have no one else to blame but ourselves, but there is a way out. We have to become the protectors of dreams, the instigators of curiosity, and the askers of unanswered questions. Curiosity, questions, and dreams will do FAR more for our kids than tests, skills, or expertise EVER will. Help me change the world, one child at a time. Don’t wait until tomorrow.
The future of our planet and our children will rise only to the level of dreams we can help them keep alive.