August 25, 2012

Well right, naturally you should hate spirituality. That word almost always refers to someone using the spiritual as spackle to fill a defect in him or herself. A beached fiftysomething with a face like a worn coin, suddenly terrified of death and enrolled in a community college goddess course. Spirituality doesn’t flow in that direction. It doesn’t give a shit about you. We are in its stream and even if we dream of waterwheels to harness the flow, there’s no anchorpoint to take a foundation. Most of the time we just ignore the fact that we’re going where it wants. This makes our situation invisible. 

Infrequently, it announces itself. We are helpless then, and irresistibly magnetized. The Apollo Program is a good example.   

Everybody thought Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon were spending four-and-a-half percent of the federal budget each year to prove that America owned Science. This was all a fiction. The Apollo Program was an elaborate demonstration of how even the blandest among us are under the heel of the spirit. 

NASA needed astronauts to go plant a flag on the moon. For obvious reasons, the astronauts ended up being the most reliable type of man America makes: white, straight, full-starch protestant, center-right, and spawned by the union of science and the military. Every last one of them was the heart of the heart of the tv dinner demographic. But then

they get shot into space, tossed from the gravity of this planet, across a quartermillion miles of nothing, to be snagged by the moon after three days. Eighteen guys did this and twelve descended further to find out that moon dust smells like gunsmoke. Every single one of them came back irrevocably changed. America had sent the squarest motherfuckers it could find to the moon and the moon sent back humans. Armstrong became a teacher, then a farmer. Alan Bean became a painter. Edgar Mitchell started believing in UFOs. And also managed to crystallize the experience of seeing your entire planet at once:

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

(People: April 8th, 1974)

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