Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words (late) Ray Bradbury: If Only We Had Taller Been

I posted an NPR video a few days ago that featured this poem, and the video below, because it is SO DAMNED AWESOME, and because I’ve been reminded lately of how America, distracted by fear, anger, hate, suspicion, partisan caterwauling and self-serving rhetoric, has surrendered our collective zeal for greatness, settling for loudmouthed mediocrity.  I intend to address this in the near future, when I’ve collected my thoughts, but in the meantime I’m posting this video again because the accomplishment is mind-boggling.

ray_bradbury_writing“Nine year old boys are always finding me out.  A ten year old boy ran up to me a few years ago and said, ‘Mister Bradbury,’ and I said yes, he said “that book of yours, The Martian Chronicles?’ and I said, Yes. He said, ‘On page ninety-two?’ and I said, yeh, He said, ‘you know you have the moons of Mars rising in the east?’ and I said, Yes. He said, ‘No.’  So I hit him. I wasn’t about to be bullied by a small boy…..Seriously, I’ve been hoping…as we got closer to Mars, and the dust cleared, that we’d see a lot of Martians standing around with huge signs that read, BRADBURY WAS RIGHT.”
–Ray Bradbury, on the eve of the Mariner 9 probe entering Mars orbit, November 12,1971

“If Only We Had Taller Been”

The fence we walked between the years
Did bounce us serene.
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We’d reach our hands to touch and almost touch the sky,
If we could reach and touch, we said,
‘Twould teach us, not to ,never to, be dead.

We ached and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God’s cuff, His hem,
We would not have to  go with them
Who’ve gone before,
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching, tall, that they might keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistene Ceiling,
And God’s hand come down the other way
To measure man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.

Short man, Large dream, I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Good is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!


More Pluto Awesomeness


NPR has done a fantastic little page on the New Horizons probe’s mind-blowing Pluto pass.  I encourage anyone who reads this to stop for a moment and consider the monumental achievement of strapping a little machine onto a rocket and hurling it out to the edge of the solar system with an accuracy that give us this:


In a society that is thigh-deep in fiction, fantasy, and computer-generated effects itt is easy to become spoiled and take our technical and scientific accomplishments for granted–but this isn’t Star Trek. This is real life.  Real men and real women engineered this momentous feat, and that requires celebration.

Among my very oldest memories, right there with the Christmas morning my mom caught the house on fire, and my father’s return from Viet Nam, is the recollection of sitting on my grandmother’s living room floor, watching the various feeds from the Apollo Missions to the moon. Every TV channel (there were at least 5, maybe 6) showed every event, from launch to splashdown and recovery–that tiny capsule, bobbing in the sea–mesmerized my tiny brain, and the giant imagination within it. By the time I was a young man, space shuttles were routinely soaring into orbit and returning and, except in those two tragic exceptions, we mostly went about our business, unaware.

We forget. We forget pain, or we might not strive for excellence. We forget evil, although it often takes a lifetime, but mostly we forget greatness–perhaps because it does not bear a sting to wound us–to the point where we, by second nature, expect it and, more sadly, don’t notice it at all.