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In the Heat

June 9, 2005

by Jack Lynch

In the heat of July 1969 our view of the world changed dramatically, it was on the one hand simply the view of the Earth from the Moon, on the other hand, it was a paradigm shift in thinking that still is unresolved in our collective psyche. 

On a dusty river gravel road in the far western North Carolina mountains, I, a boy of eleven, in whitewashed jeans and carrying a balsa wood airplane, could hold up my thumb and cover the whole view of the moon as it rose above the pines at the crest of the hills. 

But it was our world that grew smaller that day, not the eclipsed moon. 

For we sensed in that time, only shortly removed from the fires burning our cities in racial strife, the flames of that long frustrated quest for justice, in our deliberations of clean water and clean air laws in Congress, and in the on-going conflicts of Arabs and Israel, that the world seemed smaller; and that perhaps how we treated one another as human beings, and cared for our planet, as our home on the seas of the endless reference of outer space: it mattered, and it would ultimately determine our fate as a species.

Thatís quite an initiation for a boy, and fraught with complex and wildly adolescent meaning, both threatening and full of opportunity.  Thirty-five years later, I can see how it still informs that past, and still influences me today, and how I have lived in the world according to the cosmology it engendered.  It set a tone, and guided and directed my life.  There was a new standard of existence itself.

It is easier to come to these conclusions as a child.  When one can be susceptible to juvenile fantasy, and open to bold interpretations.  If the same thing happened to me today it might pass by me quite differently.  As an adult, one is constantly reminded how the simple facts of existence overtake the imagination, and the vision of the possible future.

Oneís perspective is very different with wife and children and a mortgage.  One is no longer innocent of the stress of provision, and of managing things and meeting otherís needs and demands.  At forty-five, the unfinished business piles up like the clutter of my bookshelf.  I meant to read those books; in fact, I meant to write one too.  But it does not get done.

So the ecology and Earth Day movement began and took as its symbol that view from space, focused back on the Earth.  We began the great neo-pagan ritual of Earth Day and began to honor the Earth-mother goddess.  It all came together then, how briefly we could actually leave this planet behind and continue to survive, how dependent we really were on its benevolence to our life.  It was an expression of the sacredness of life, of the beauty of the whole.  It redefined man and God.

Together we saw the green and blue orb of Earth, how interconnected we all were on its face, how linked its air and water were to our collective lives.  Not that we had no known that, logically, but now, a TV generation, we could see it before our very eyes, and the world watched with us as we stepped upon a soil foreign in every remark. 

We realized then how tied we were to the Earthís preservation.  Few of us could ever hope to leave its resources, and those up there in the heavens were but temporary wanderers, not really travelers to new worlds.  It meant that we had to deal more carefully with this world, that for generations to come, we were stuck here and must make the best of it.

How were we faring in that time?  Not well it seemed if you looked at the turmoil and the societal debate. But the long hairs with the flowers shutting down the Pentagon, were our true sons and daughters, and their voice and freedom, in saying no to war and yes to love, became us all too, in time.  Today we are they, and they are us, from computer geeks to lawyers in Wall Street suits.  A spirit of those times lives on and still shapes our public life.   

It often seems so troubling today, as well, if you are one of the few who read the papers and watch the news.

In hindsight, we were then championing freedom and individualism, as well as recognizing our common inheritance, and its implications for our shared destiny.

A few short years thereafter, the moral weight of our universe seemed to rest on the question of whether the Constitution would be preserved and the balance of powers affirmed as a semi-regal President broke the law through an unseemly mass of underlings, and a bold press fought hard to prove the fault.

That too, was a shaping moment, and probably even more significant than our dreadful Civil War in determining if the United States, as conceived by the framers, would stand for a government that was flexible to the recognition of the franchise of the people, and not the mere tool of those who stood at its apex.  And we also saw that we currently fought a war without conviction. 

And then, as now, the political powers could shape our perception and force their own internecine conflicts upon our society as a whole, and cause us to believe that we championed freedom, when the actual results sometimes spoke otherwise, or simply did not resonant with the people we were seeking to save from themselves.

Do we, in an age of increasing electronic surveillance and data collection, still live and breathe as freely, and championing the collective inheritance of nature, as well as the most beautiful spirit of humanity?  Do we fall under the cynical control of that wind from the passionate intensity of Washington?  Will we have the next Deep Throat when we really need it?  Dare anyone risk it?

If you believe in either man or God, it must come down to those everyday acts, the choices amongst the simple tasks and duties of the everyday.  It is about good and evil, which is often difficult to say today, without guffaws from the psychologists and liberal fringe of interpretation of human actions. 

We must decide where the lines will be drawn in isolating and gathering our every stray moment, thought, and email; and whether we own that as an individual right, or it simply exists as the province of government and business interests.  The machines serve two masters, and we are in danger of losing the franchise.

Along with our bodies themselves, our genetics, our fate and heritage are interwoven: and available now for dissection, and discussion and definition.  It will bring wonders, but also horrors, and perhaps define the destiny of people all over the globe, for it will yield great power to affirm or deny life. 

These are the matters of the new paradigm; these vital challenges will absorb the minds, and direct the thinking, of my children. 

They inherit my world and will shape their own world.  I hope that they hold to the vision of the Earth as seen from space.

I pray that they hold fast to my  great sensation of the importance of it all, the threat and the beauty of this life, and of our vital interconnected relationship within the spheres of planets, and of people, and of our individual powers within these frames of reference.