We should take a step back from our sad little lives (and they’re all sad little lives in these sad little times). Maybe more than a step, actually 311 billion miles away all the way to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkohas. That is where, on November 12, the European Space Agency landed the probe Philae that separated from its mother ship, Rosetta. That distance, and the ten years it took the ship to travel that far, aren’t the only mind-boggling numbers, but then numbers are always amazing when it comes to reestablishing the supremacy of the universe as compared to our own blue planet, the one that we are so busy destroying along with its occupants. More numbers? The comet, itself 6 billion years old, is streaking through space at 41,000 mph. That Rosetta put itself in orbit last August and is moving alongside it is a feat of unimaginable proportion. That Philae actually landed,(albeit bumpily and for now remaining in shadows that prevent it from getting enough energy from the sun) is another. If all goes well, it should help us find out much more about the origin of the solar system and perhaps the ultimate destiny of life.
We are lucky enough to be living in this vast and glorious universe that scientists and philosophers have never stopped celebrating. Yet here we are, moaning and whining about sleepless nights and aches and pains and prescription pills and diets, complaining about rude cashiers, noisy neighbors and obnoxious relatives, worrying about college education rates and losing our jobs and our lack of savings. If we ever lift our heads from the contemplation of our own miseries, we see failing economies and high unemployment rates, boats loaded with immigrants sinking along prosperous shores, poverty, hunger and disease killing thousands, stranded polar bears, new hordes of barbarians putting Attila to shame, democracies where self-serving politicians court votes (forget about public service,) countries in the rest of the world where monsters loot government coffers while silencing and hanging or cutting to pieces those who dare protest. Our sad little lives continue as we meet every setback, every piece of good or bad news not concerning us directly with a bored meh and have already forgotten about Philae that landed only two days ago.
Anyone old enough to remember the four Superman movies in which Christopher Reeve played the superhero must, somewhere, still miss him. I know I do. There are other superheroes—where would our miserable and often brutish humankind be if it weren’t rescued, time and again, by assorted Spidermen, Batmen, and other good guys wearing spandex and endowed with amazing powers? But Superman is the only one who can fix everything and Christopher Reeve embodied him to perfection.
It was a singular twist of fate that he, of all people, would, in 1995, have a horseback riding accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. But even in a wheelchair, even with a respirator, the actor remained the epitome of bravura. No one tried as hard to help himself (and others, through the Foundation he set up). No one but Superman would have had the gumption to endure, day in and day out, the grueling exercise and training regimen that he followed, hoping to, wanting to, walk again. He never did and died in 2004. Read more…