Welcome to Day 27 of #30PostsHathSept. [PLEASE READ all my other challenge posts HERE.] I hope you enjoy this post!
Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned in some ways, preferring to come at life with the eyes of a small child.
I flew in from the Midwest this afternoon with my family, and it made me realize that I can’t help but feel some sadness for the loss of awe we have achieved since the dawn of flight. Humans have long wanted to fly the skies like birds. The mythology of Daedalus and Icarus, with Icarus fatally falling to Earth after flying too near the sun, related in part to the yet-unachievable dream of flight. All historical cultures had their own stories and reverence for flight, adorning gods with wings. Even Leonardo da Vinci, in his sketchbooks, envisioned human flight through his inventions.
Today, air flight is routine, at times a great hassle, and rarely ever – except in the very young – an opportunity for awe.
Watch a child look up at clouds. They see figures, shapes, and entire imaginative scenes. They find fascination in things we rarely take a moment to appreciate, let alone notice at all.
Awe is a word we sometimes use in cases when the more appropriate word would be nice or cool or great. Awe, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder”. Respect. Fear. Wonder. That was indeed how people looked upon the idea of human flight, first with hot air balloons, then planes, and now rockets.
If you are old enough, you will remember the true awe of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. But you may likewise remember how much less attention the last Moon landings received. You may remember the first space shuttle with awe, yet not be able to even guess how many total space shuttle flights were made. [By the way, that number = 135]. Add to this, the number of Soyuz flights to the International Space Station, the Mars rover missions, and the countless other space missions. Space exploration has become increasingly routine to the public, that it doesn’t even get much media attention, except for unique first-time events (the recent comet landing and the Pluto images, as examples).
When the first steam railroads were constructed across the U.S., the public called them Iron Horses. The dark, loud, powerful, snorting machines seemed so otherworldly. So awesome. The same is true of the first transcontinental phone call. I remember the first time I saw color TV in the 1960’s. While color TV had been around a bit longer, my neighbors were the first people on our block to buy one. My brother and I went to their home and we could not believe our eyes to see the brilliant green grass of a baseball field through that small screen. The colorful baseball player uniforms. We were awestruck.
In my college days, my now husband showed me around the computer center, a department of punch cards and room-sized computers. The first computer game I played was on the first personal home computer I ever saw (an NCR PC4). It was a pc version of the Pong arcade game. I was mesmerized. It all seemed so impossible. Now computer games have progressed so much that it is unimaginable that it hasn’t taken more than three decades to get to this point.
When cell phones became available, I loved my large clunky phone that I kept safe in a black leather case, with a hole at the top for the pullout antenna. It seemed so astonishing that I could carry my phone with me. Now, cell phones are ubiquitous and small, and can do so much more than any previous phone or early computer.
Other time periods were equally astonished by indoor plumbing, refrigeration, electricity, motor vehicles, and so much more.
Every generation witnesses amazing advances in society and technology. Progress is an element of humanity. Progress is the unquenchable urge to discover something that was unavailable in the past. Progress has both saved countless lives and lost countless lives. Progress is always a two-edged sword.
But what captures my imagination most are AWE and the LOSS OF AWE. If we were able to use time travel to bring someone from the past to the present time, I can only imagine what child-like amazement that person would exhibit at what the world offered.
Where has our AWE gone?
We become too easily accustomed to advances in our society. We seek novelty over routine. Movies and other forms of media have prepared us for untold discoveries, making it almost a disappointment to some when reality cannot match fantasy. Robots are now in their early serious stages of development. They still amaze us with their abilities, but what happens when they too become routine? What happens when they, like computers, cell phones, airplanes, and trains, become a natural part of our landscape? And landfill?
What will we have gained by progress if in turn we lose our sense of AWE?
I will regret the day when and if I no longer look at the world like a child. To sadly no longer see a bird in flight and wish I too could fly.
Since that isn’t the case, I remain awestruck.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats
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