Tired of politics? Tired of Trump, and Doug Ford, and Andrew Scheer, and Mitch McConnell, and all of those other awful, thoughtless, mendacious, cruel and lying politicians? I suppose I understand. I suppose I get it. Not everybody can bear to look at it all 24/7 like I might seem to do, and not everybody is as ready to be as perennially upset as I must seem to be. Why watch a train wreck if you can’t do anything to stop it? Why watch people leaping to their deaths from a burning high-rise if you can’t do a thing to break their fall, or put the fire out?
Look, I need to turn away and focus on other things too, sometimes. I sometimes feel the same overwhelming need to change the channel. This may seem unlike me, but honest, I have nothing but sympathy for somebody who’d really rather watch cat videos on YouTube, or watch Say Yes to the Dress, or simply curl up with a diverting murder mystery. I do the same thing – in fact, you’ll struggle to find a more avid viewer of Say Yes to the Dress than me. I have strong opinions on A-lines, mermaids, sweetheart necklines, ruching, and the often slutty designs of Pnina Tournay, you bet I do. Hell, I watch Married at First Sight and 90 Day Fianceé, never missing an episode. No fooling.
You may, though, feel a need to go beyond something anodyne. You may need something that inspires, even fills you with wonder and a sense of what human beings can achieve if ever they stop squabbling and devote themselves to mutual endeavour. Me too. For me, these days, it’s the International Space Station that fills the bill.
I wrote about this last summer, so I’m being boring, but for me there’s not a lot that can compare, for sheer amazing awesomeness, to the ISS barrelling through the sky overhead in the dead of night. There are all sorts of apps you can download that’ll track it for you, and tell you when it’ll be overhead, and just where you should look in your own sky to see it. Just the idea that ordinary civilians can have such technology at their fingertips is amazing, let alone what it’s empowering you to see. You should get one or two of them.
Last night the ISS was travelling in an arc over Mahone Bay that took it right over our building as it made for the distant horizon. A pair of programs installed on my iPad showed me where and when I could see it. Sure enough. There it was. The huge orbiting platform, just a glowing dot from down here, was in view for geez, I dunno, maybe five minutes, maybe less – time seems to stand still. You look up, right where the apps are telling you to fix your gaze, and over it goes, brighter than the brightest star by far, moving incredibly fast. Up there, at an altitude of about 230-250 miles, travelling at about 17,000 MPH, is an assemblage of modules, decked out in huge solar panels, that weighs over 450 tons, whipping around the entire globe every 90 minutes or so, and if that doesn’t fill you with an almost bewildered appreciation of what’s possible, well, I guess you and I part company.
Down here in the muck, it may be all bigotry, xenophobia, callous disregard for human suffering, and ignorance. I can hardly argue the contrary, not after the literally hundreds of thousands of words I’ve posted in this space asserting just that. One does well to remember, though, that there’s also an up there, where everything must fall into proper perspective for the few who’re privileged to revel in such an Olympian perspective. Up there, a number of things must seem easier to see properly. The solutions must seem a great deal more obvious.
We poor earthbound types can’t look at the planet rolling by outside the window, watching the sun rise every 90 minutes. But we can look up, and imagine what it must be like, and in imagining, maybe, gain just a little bit of that perspective.
Anyway, if you need to change the channel, and you live somewhere that it’s moderately dark, and you can actually see the sky, give it a try. Works for me.