The Spirit of '61

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He
Beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended:
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

One of the funnier comments when Werner Von Braun, germany and then America's rocket-obsessive, wrote an autobiography after the moon programme at NASA called 'I aim for the Stars' came from NASA engineers. They, practical men all, obviously, added a sub-heading; 'but sometimes I hit London'.

I can't help but think of the spirit of the early sixties, awash as it was with dashing post-war confidence and the thrill of science before the West's culture wars and ennui tonight. Serious people in those days--and yes, I'm well aware that their half-sober thoughts were often lubricated by cheap oil and the knowledge of near death in the war--were plentiful, and they saw the possibilities of going to the Moon, ending poverty, eliminating smallpox, and building a new world.

I always liked that, though I am too young to have lived it, and was always suspicious of the inherent conservatism and depressing anti rationalism of the Green movement. Normally on this blog, when I'm not banging the drum for a clear-eyed catholicism, I'm droning on in a pretence of fatalism about America or world affairs or mucking about with muppet videos and comedy. I don't apologise for that--it's how I relax, and I warned you, reader, that I was into wasting time in a way serious enough to make Calvin and Knox turn in their graves if they were alive.

However, I am a bit wondrous at what we can do with our technology. I really like the idea of cheap, clean nuclear power that saves us from dependence on oil and gas. I like the idea of industrialising Africa with clean modern technologies and saving the place with science and modernity. It saddens me that it's only the Chinese and the Russians who are thinking of strip-mining the moon and the solar system for Helium-3. and new elements within the next fifty years. I even liked the Orion project as a way of getting rid of old nuclear weapons, albeit in Space and nowhere near the ground.

It's that whole spirit of '61 and '62 that appeals to me this midnight, though. We should be putting our best minds to the service of mankind and electing leaders who fear no man but God. We should have big aims and practical ways of achieving them, and we should value sacrifice and duty as easily as we live life to the full. There was a certain glamour about the culture of the high Cold War that I'm very taken with, and a rationalism that didn't hunt in packs or proclaim itself capable of beating up old human beliefs whilst building the precautionary principle into everything.

Perhaps such a moment can't come again in the West. There's no reason why not though. We spend so much time hiding behind ideologies and worries, and wallowing in selfishness, that we can't really see how short our life is and how magnificent it could be. When did we get so scared that the nonsense anti-science put about by the Greens and a cultural cringe in the face of Islam came to dominate our days?

Come on. Let's be cheeky and tough, and self-confident. Get your pick and shovel, I'm off to the moon! After the appropriate and wholly prudent reduction of national debt in accordance with the most widely accepted economic criteria, of course.


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