Nihilism in the Space Age / by Samuel Brownson

View of the Earth from the Moon. Photo Courtesy of NASA Apollo 17 Mission, 1972.

View of the Earth from the Moon. Photo Courtesy of NASA Apollo 17 Mission, 1972.

I grew up with the stars.

We were far enough outside of town that when the sun set on a moonless night you could see farther than any distance imaginable on Earth. Some nights it was so immense, you could sit with your eyes adjusting as stars would emerge from the blackness with each passing second. On the most special occasions, the Milky Way would give off a soft glow that seemed to hum with the wind and sand. 

It was a kind of refuge for me to sit beneath them and just stare. Like an interstellar Rorschach Test, I loved to let my mind wander and project images on the sky above. To say it was therapeutic is an understatement: this was my solace. The vast expanse of the universe, the reality that the stars we see are merely an image of light projecting from millions of years ago, the fact that I was just one soul, alone, to witness it all. This was a special place of comfort from the stress of the world. 

This meaningless world.

We live in a post-post-war world, one where the question still lingers beyond two cataclysmic World Wars through the never-ending ones abroad and at home. We fill this void with what superficial things we come upon: drugs, noise,  useless crap, even people at times. We find jobs that make it easier to acquire this junk rather than face the inherently worthless world we've created and question

If there's any gift that postmodernism has given us it's release from the burden of meaning. Nothing really matters so why bother? Has become the calling card for our generation, but what does that really give us? What if we took a look up at the stars and remembered the people who dared to dream and are continuing to dream? What if we took the meaninglessness as only an external thing? That really the meaning does not come from without but from within.

That picture was taken by the Apollo 17 crew during our last visit to the moon in 1972. That picture is a picture of the Earth from the Moon. I'm going to say that again: that picture is a picture of the Earth from the Moon. It's a picture of a rock from atop another rock 240k mi away. There is nothing of the dynasties of old, the wars of the last few centuries, the poetry and art dating back thousands of years. Just a blue rock. And yet we are moved.

Or at least I am.

I posit that the greatest point to take from the years of deconstruction, erosion, disillusionment, and nihilism is not to give up on the world and our fellow earthlings. Rather, it is a call to arms to seize this life, this day, this moment to breathe. To exist! To relish in the fact that we were not given the choice to exist (isn't that by nature contradictory?) yet here we are. It was not a choice, it was a chance. And a marvelous one at that. 

I hope this can be true for some of you reading this in honor of the late David Bowie this week. 

"And I'm floating in a most peculiar way, and the stars look very different today."

 

---Jake