November 20th, 2007


hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo

Thanks to martling's timely post we managed to catch the single showing of In The Shadow Of The Moon tonight. I can't add much to what M writes:
Hold up and think about it for a minute. This is one of the most amazing things that ever happened. There are people alive today who have been to the fucking MOON. Can you imagine what that experience was like? Or what it's like to live after that? Somewhere along the way we got so lost in the tedious detail of the technology that we forgot about those people and forgot about those stories.

The film doesn't tell stories; it shows stories. It lets ten of the men who have stood on the surface of something other than Earth talk about their experience, their thoughts, their feelings. They're not heroes or supermen; they are ageing men who were good at their job, who were chosen to execute a difficult task, and who have had time and space in which to reflect calmly and lucidly on the unique experience that they had as a result. The surprising thing is how unmediated (and un-media-ish) they appear: they don't shout, they don't emote, they don't 'bare all', they don't play to an audience; they talk with interest and enthusiasm and dignity about a mission accomplished, a journey made (and in the making). They've been changed by the experience; how could you not be? To know that you've visited a place -- not a 'country', not a 'world', not a 'planet', something that we can't encompass in our model of countries and states and borders (we can, tellingly, call it a 'satellite', a word for which the most common usage applies to a man-made thing) -- where only 12 living men have been, and where no human has stood for over 30 years. But in most cases they don't give the impression of having undergone some kind of Damascene conversion; rather, they've seen the sun rise, and they've seen the moon rise, and they've seen the Earth rise, and those slow growing lights have illuminated their vision.

Those men were born in 1930. Even granting them the best of good health, in another 40 years there will be no living human beings with that unique (literal and metaphorical) perspective on the world (unless the man from NASA was right about putting a man on Mars by 2037). I say 'perspective'; in the film, Jim Lovell sums it up: "Just from the distance of the moon, you can hide the Earth behind your thumb, everything that you have ever known; your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself, all behind your thumb. It makes you consider how insignificant we really are." You've heard it, or something like it (Kate Bush's 'Hello Earth', maybe) before. It's what we feel, perhaps, when seeing things we know from high places; it's the total perspective vortex. It can touch the mind (perhaps I should, in lunulae, nod to the etymology of 'lunatic') but it also touches the heart, and something else, something for which we struggle to find the language.

Overhead, obscurity unveiled a star. One tremulous arrow of light, projected how many thousands of years ago, now stung my nerves with vision, and my heart with fear. For in such a universe as this what significance could there be in our fortuitous, our frail, our evanescent community?

But now irrationally I was seized with a strange worship, not, surely, of the star, that mere furnace which mere distance falsely sanctified, but of something other, which the dire contrast of the star and us signified to the heart. Yet what, what could thus be signified? Intellect, peering beyond the star, discovered no Star Maker, but only darkness; no Love, no Power even, but only Nothing. And yet the heart praised.