Chapter 7. Why Is the Moon Getting Farther Away?
If you've ever looked through the wrong end of a telescope, you know that this instrument has opposite effects, depending on how you use it. What may be less obvious is that even normal use of the telescope can be rather paradoxical.
We marvel at the incomprehensibly remote galaxies brought near to us by the modern telescope, and know that our existence on earth would be sadly impoverished without their austere majesty. And yet, by expanding the universe without limit, isolating our vision from our other senses, and encouraging us to view ourselves as chance objects among billions and billions of objects, far from the center of things, this same telescope has whispered to many: "You are an accident, lost in a vast, wind-blown desert where the grains of sand are stars."
Things, apparently, can be brought closer while at the same time becoming more remote, more disconnected from us. "We had to travel to the moon in 1969," surmises psychologist Robert Romanyshyn in Technology As Symptom and Dream, not because it had come so near to us, but "because it had gone so far away."
Did we, like the middle-aged man seeking the long-lost love of his youth, travel to the moon in order to see whether, in our state of alienation, we still had a connection to it? Did we vaguely hope that the magic, the dying coals of an earlier flame, might be rekindled through this reunion? If so, the question is whether our chosen instruments of approach were self-defeating. If the telescope not only brings things nearer, but also transforms and objectifies space in a way that can easily make us feel like chance intruders, it is not at all clear, for example, that the rockets within which we fling our bodies through this alien space are vehicles of reconciliation and homecoming.
Home, of course, is where every child belongs. But a world that feels like home is increasingly what we deny our children this despite the televisions and Internet connections that bring the world into the intimacy of their bedrooms. Such devices, I would argue, only accentuate the central educational challenge: how do we help the child find his own connections to the world?