In the ’70s, we saw fit to launch Voyager 1, in part as an intergalactic jukebox so extraterrestrial life could groove on Earth’s greatest hits. Now, in the twenteens, we see fit to lunch on vegan wontons, in part as an excuse to tweet as much to the furthest reaches of our social universe.
We share, we over-share and we send crap into space – both the starry, starry night kind and the, what we used to call “Cyberspace,” kind, before it became, you know, “reality.” We project ourselves far and wide, we’re like some hyper-realized version of “Paddle To The Sea,” the children’s book and flick about a wooden figurine of a Native American in a canoe who travels from a snow bank in Canada to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not so much a travelogue as an expression of the boy who carved the craft and his desire to extend himself, metaphysically, beyond the confines of his reality.
I’m not the only one to read it that way. Chris, the DJ and cosmic confabulator on the ’90’s dramedy “Northern Exposure” expressed a similar notion on his radio broadcast:
“That’s Paddle to the Sea, folks, the story of a little Indian boy who sends a toy canoe on a journey that he himself is too young to take. We do the same thing, you know. Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo: our standard-bearers in the eternal human crusade, exploration. And now we’ve hit the cosmic trail. Why? Well, because Earth’s played out.”
Perhaps this is what the Soviets believed, 56 years ago, when they launched Sputnik 1 this Oct. 5, begetting both the Space Race and its myriad midwives, from NASA to modern commercial enterprises like Space X and Virgin Galactic.