Monday, December 31, 2012

'Satiable Curiosity: For All Mankind

For All Mankind does what many movies attempt to do, but few as successfully: Take the viewer on one of the greatest adventures of all time, in under two hours. It is a road movie without a road, a travelogue with no walking.

It is a master of editing.  This film has taken the footage of a number of Apollo missions and created a single hour and twenty minute adventure with them, connected with interviews with astronauts, music from Brian Eno and the sounds of the time.  This gives us a feeling of having been on this trip ourselves, a sense of what it means to leave our gravity and go to the most alien landscape humanity has ever touched.

There are some unique, perhaps even strange, but certainly extreme photos: The earth from afar, one of the most positive but powerful explosions on the earth, the desert of the moon, earthrise, the blackness of space.  Few have seen these images with their naked eye and we have the opportunity to share it here.

These are the films that inspired Dark Side of the Moon, and Space Oddity.  There is a depth and a majesty to them that must be expressed slowly, carefully but with deep passion.  As often as the astronauts may jest, they and we all know that this exploration is the serious business of mankind.  The weariness and steadfastness of the staff at Huston really shows the intensity and stress of what is involved.  Every button pressed has a sense of history, of enormity.  And so it should.  There is a drama here that cannot be acted, for it was lived.

The landing on the moon, the touch of a human shoe on truly alien soil—was it real?  Many claim it was not, that the films were created in a studio, perhaps by Kubrick.  But looking at them again, hearing the commentary, seeing the shadows, glimpsing the shadow of the Eagle on the surface of the moon… but most of all the beating of my heart and the excitement as I watch that final leap—it is real.  It must be.  I know it in my heart of hearts.  As impossible as it might seem that such a modern scientific miracle might occur, I truly, humbly believe.  I can do no other.

Why go to the moon?  There were certainly political reasons, but just as many economic drawbacks.  In the end, it cannot be expressed better: “Man must explore.” There will always be political excuses to explore, or economic reasons.  But humanity’s ‘satiable curiosity, the need to see what has never been seen, to step where no one has ever stepped, that is one of humanity’s deepest destinies.

The drive that causes the two year old to strike out on his own and walk past the corner onto the asphalt.  Perhaps his parent considers it too difficult, insignificant, and simply dangerous for him to attempt.  But he must do it.  His independence demands it, and his love of the new demands it.

It is this same self-serving curiosity that created the hadron collider, that caused men to stand at the South Pole, that causes James Cameron to explore the deepest ocean.  It is the desire to find knowledge, to discover beauty, to find the surprise that no one expected.   We must do this, not just for personal accomplishment, not just for glory, but for the benefit of all, although we ourselves may not know what that benefit will be.

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