Recently, a Rover landed on Mars.
That was the first time, nearly the first time, in my lifetime, that I remember feeling small. I felt humbled by the capability and potential of humanity, and disappointed in our inability to recognize our fellow persons’ greatest possible achievements.
Maybe the cause of concern I felt is due to the combination of recent events surrounding myself or friends and family as the rover soared across the solar system. Shootings in Colorado, and then Wisconsin. The violence in Syria. The death of friends and family members, the sudden alarm and eventual relief of a dire medical emergency. The ongoing negativity between the so-called leaders of America as they fight to lead. The decreasing quality of art in entertainment. The poor results, the poor standards, and the poor excuses of our education system. The degrading health care system that threatens to leave Americans with nothing but empty pockets for hungry faces painful ailments.
But the negativity, while borderline overwhelming, is anything but a hindrance. We will endure as a people, we always do, and we always will.
I’m an American, born in upstate NY. My grandfather emigrated from Italy in 1914, when he was six, and we’ve been here ever since. My grandmother (still alive and cooking at 94) told me once that grandpa wanted to move to California. But that never happened.
When I took my first step on the soil of the West Coast in 2004, with my father beside me, the feeling I had was a sense of accomplishment. And this is before two years of graduate school, subsequent years of writing, creating, and working in Hollywood, and the strong foundation of a lifetime of friendships and relationships, heartache and heart swelling, and laughter with tears.
For me, as a teenager, the possibilities for my life were pretty small. Hard work was beyond my comprehension, and TV shows and family led me to believe that life would take one path for everyone — that we grow up, go to college, work a full time job, have barbecues in the Summertime, occasionally visit the beach. We find someone to marry and have children with, and then grow old and celebrate birthdays and holidays with many people, living in a house with a yard, possibly a fence, but definitely with neighbors with whom we enjoy coffee in the morning and tea at night.
As I walk the streets of Hollywood on these warm Summer nights, I sometimes think back to my grandfather’s small desire to live in California, and I hope he’s looking down on me now and realizing that I’m happy here, and that he would’ve been, too. The music scene is great, and the audience is grateful. There is creativity around every corner, whether you work in the film or entertainment industry, or simply live life in a cubicle.
And that’s what makes the Mars Curiosity landing more amazing than anything NASA has done before. Yes, there have been Rovers on Mars before, and men on the Moon (we can go back, people. We should go back). But this is the biggest of the bunch. Years of work went into making the launch, journey, and landing possible. Billions of dollars spent, the greatest scientific minds in full grinding mode. All for a moment of glory, of celebration, and then months of research and data collection.
Even if you were just catching up that night, there was a clear, human sense of achievement, of completeness. People with a passion for science, exploration, and possibility were rewarded and learned that when you can see outside the atmosphere of what is known, anything is possible. Watching that moment, I felt a part of that moment, even though anything beyond the Pythagorean Theory is like mush to me in terms of math or science.
It is difficult to live outside of your bubble, to see beyond the day-to-day mechanization of a slowly degrading earth. But the world is not spiraling into chaos. We are. We humans. The only solution is to find control among the chaos, to reign in our understanding of situations unheard of, and to recognize that, although we sometimes only see what’s in front of us, the reach we can have is endless. Just stretch out your arms, your brains, your vision, and leap.
On Mars right now, a Rover wanders, digging in the dirt, reading data, and snapping photos of a landscape we will likely never touch with our bare hands. There’s no reason we have to think of the Earth in the same way. Unlike Mars, Earth is up for grabs. Take it, use it, and treat it with the same care Curiosity treats the soil of Mars.
Inspire yourselves, inspire others, and most of all, be willing to share in the achievements of your fellow humans.
If you don’t, no one else will.