Monday, November 08, 2010

Earth from outer space

Quotes From Astronauts
For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.
- Donald Williams, USA
My first view - a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and white - was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this Pacific scene in motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close, and beyond, black space. I held my breath, but something was missing - I felt strangely unfulfilled. Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the music of this sphere for ourselves.
- Charles Walker, USA

Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty - but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That's where life is; that's were all the good stuff is.
- Loren Acton, USA

The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone, our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space.
- Aleksei Leonov, USSR

The sun truly "comes up like thunder," and it sets just as fast. Each sunrise and sunset lasts only a few seconds. But in that time you see at least eight different bands of color come and go, from a brilliant red to the brightest and deepest blue. And you see sixteen sunrises and sixteen sunsets every day you're in space. No sunrise or sunset is ever the same.
- Joseph Allen, USA

The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.
- James Irwin, USA

Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home.
- Edgar Mitchell, USA

My view of our planet was a glimpse of divinity.
- Edgar Mitchell, USA

For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light - our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.
- Ulf Merbold, Federal Republic of Germany

A Chinese tale tells of some men sent to harm a young girl who, upon seeing her beauty, become her protectors rather than her violators. That's how I felt seeing the Earth for the first time. "I could not help but love and cherish her.
- Taylor Wang, China/USA

Robert L. Fielding

Education is the answer to the world's ills, not money!

In praise of not being wealthy

Robert L. Fielding

Right away, I need to say that the title – ‘In praise of not being wealthy’ is NOT the same thing as ‘In praise of being poor’ – Being poor is an onerous position to find oneself in.

No, my drift is that being wealthy, rich, affluent – does have its drawbacks, though I can hear most readers complaining that they would just as soon have the drawbacks if they could have the wealth.

That is chiefly because becoming wealthy – or at any rate, wealthier than we are at the present, is a national – an international – a global obsession. Everybody desires more money – even the rich desire more – even the filthy rich – billionaires – desire more money.

Let’s just first explore that one; Why do the fantastically (rich beyond your wildest dreams) people desire to have more? Is it because they haven’t got enough stuff – can’t get away from the rat-race enough, need one more town house, or villa by the sea?

Probably none of those things – it could be that wealth equates with power, and, as we know, you can never have enough of that! Power corrupts….

For the rest of us menial types, surviving on what we earn under normal working conditions – you don’t work – you don’t earn, and what you do earn is hardly enough to give up work on – for us, we desire money for the freedom it would give us – we imagine.

We wouldn’t have to work again, we wouldn’t have to scrimp and save, we wouldn’t have to worry? Ah, there we have it in a nutshell; we wouldn’t have to worry. Now that is something you can always never have too little of.

We worry where our next meal is coming from – some of us; we worry about house prices – most of us; we worry about sending our kids to university, and we just worry generally – most of our worries centring around money – the lack of it.

I doubt very much if the rich and famous worry about having too much money – though they probably do worry that their stocks will crash and their wealth will disappear overnight, but apart from that gnawing worry, they probably don’t have financial worries.

But is that true? Isn’t almost everything we do connected with how much money we have, or haven’t got, as the case may be?

And the wealthy will have as many worries as the rest of us – why? It’s called ‘the human condition’ – we worry because we are human. Do zebras in the Serengeti worry that one of these days a group of cheetahs, or whatever the collective noun is for those magnificent creatures, will bear down on them at an incredible speed and devour them? I very much doubt it, somehow. If we humans, however, had even only an outside chance of being eaten by a bigger, faster animal, we would never set foot out of doors again, at least not without carrying a gun.

This existential worry we are habitually burdened with isn’t removed by a fatter wallet, though we all mistakenly think it will be, and even that it should be.

The wealthy worry, like everyone else; it’s just that the reasons they worry are different to the reasons we worry.

Now, apart from this imagined removal of worry, the most commonly mistaken, if admittedly entirely plausible notion about wealth, is that everything and anything can be bought, acquired, gotten, with it. Not true!

Of course it isn’t true – everybody knows that the best things in life are free – that money can’t buy happiness, let alone that most valuable of commodities – our health.

Money can get us into a good hospital, money can help us avoid the interminable waiting lists for operations the rest of us have to join for that hip replacement, but generally, money makes not a halfpennyworth of difference to our health or lack of it.

On the contrary, the lack of spends usually keeps drinkers sober, makes ‘em get up early and live an active life working to earn their keep. Sitting on velvet cushions soon pales, I should think, if you’ve nothing else to do – ever!

Now let’s think of some of the things being loaded does prevent us from doing; the son of a wealthy man, if he is an under achiever at school, which is by no means unlikely, would not even consider a job learning how to maintain motorcycles, even though he might love to know how is own bike works. Being from a rich family probably means that doing what is little more than manual labour, at first, whilst learning the ropes as an apprentice mechanic, precludes his entering that career. The pay is too little, the hours are too long, and the work is dirty – all that, to be sure, but it is interesting work – work that young men invariably find fascinating, particularly if they enjoy motoring in one form or another, and which young man doesn’t like doing that.

Now let’s think about the rich kid’s sister, who, like her brother, didn’t do as well at school as her parents might have hoped. Ideally, she would become a ladies hairdresser, were she to come from a more plebian family – she would learn the trade, start her own salon, eventually, and earn her own keep and be in charge of her life. Her stumbling block is that she would hardly consider doing such poorly paid work and having to sweep floors and watch hair being cut long before she was let loose on a customer’s head of hair. She would certainly enjoy it once she got into it, as we say. The trouble is that she would never begin it chiefly because, financially, it is beneath her.

Now tell me that money can buy anything! True, it can buy her a salon of her own, in which she sits and controls the money coming in, but would she enjoy doing that as much as she would learning how to make a fishwife look like a film star? Most definitely not!

The opportunities open to wealthier sons and daughters are limited in ways that is not the case for others. For young people of more modest means opportunities open to them are also limited – severely limited, but for different reasons. Still, I do stick by my claim that Intelligence Quotient for Intelligence Quotient, more opportunities, more interesting opportunities exist at lower income levels, for the reasons I have just explained.

Certainly, a kid from a back street in Bombay has not the slightest chance of opening a salon for wealthy females wanting their hair done – yet! The wonderful thing about our world is that people can rise from poverty and often do, to the dizziest heights. It must be said though that relatively few ever do. Those that are fortunate enough are held up by the class they join as proof positive that all you need to get on is the determination and the breaks.

It is this dubious fact that holds the whole rotten system together. Barefoot kids kicking a ball about in the slums of Rio all think that they can be the next Pele. 99.999% can’t and won’t. But that one kid who does eventually play for Santos and Brazil keeps everybody hopeful that it can and will happen to them.

It is nothing more or less than a monumental waste of talent, energy, resources, and, worst of all, children’s ambitions and aspirations. It makes a mockery of education, and subverts any real progress of making this world of ours any better.
Robert L. Fielding