There was a movie on the other day called October Sky. It was about other 'space heads' with stars in their eyes. Oh, I'm sorry, did you think my old nickname was 'drug-related?' No, that was way before I began 'expanding my consciousness' in that manner. Anyway, the movie, a true story, was about this kid and his friends who were determined to build and launch rockets, despite the fact that nearly everyone around them thought they were crazy. They succeeded, with the help of a supportive teacher and the slowly evolving respect they earned when they didn't give up. The main character even went on to join NASA.
The point is that this story took place in West Virginia during the time that I lived there, when I dreamed of little else but to do precisely what they were doing, and to go on to join NASA myself. Of course, I knew nothing of them and would have preferred to become an actual astronaut, but our dreams and lives were so similar that I can't help but wonder at the differences in final outcome. While I have no desire to repeat what I've already said, I must expand upon my stated history a little for this inquiry to proceed.
I far as I can remember, no one I knew in that environment gave a crap about things like astronomy, science or mathematics. Hell, other than The Bible, I'm not sure I remember seeing anyone even read anything other than the occasional magazine - nothing too 'big headed' of course. I learned basic math skills, before I ever stepped into a school, only because my father used to dump all the change from the cash register at his pool hall on the bed at night and taught me how to add it all up. That was the most fun I ever had with the man, as 'business' was his only true passion. More about him in some later posting.
Around the time I started school, I developed a fascination for all those squiggles older people would scratch onto paper, so naturally that was my main interest in education at that time. My love for the educational experience was short lived however, as I detested school almost from the very first day. I endured though, at least until I developed skills enough to escape and educate myself. You know, public libraries are truly a marvel of human achievement, and back then no one questioned why a kid was in the library instead of school. But that was after the time I'm referring to.
My first exposure to the idea of rockets and space travel came, like most kids, from television and movies. I got money for movies from my father, because that was the only way he could get me to go to church, which, in turn, got my mother off his back. Before my mom had her own, I had to sneak-watch my father's television - the content of which he thought was garbage except for the news. As you can imagine, when the space program became news, I was right there beside him. I don't think that he thought very much for the space program, or for my fascination with it. I think he just thought that serious people paid attention to the news.
After that, the space program became what I think may have been my first true obsession. I read everything I could find, which wasn't much, as this was before I discovered the library. I even managed to get my father, that great detester of childish things, to buy me a couple of models to assemble with no help at all. But I was so determined, so blinded by my obsession to express this new passion that, with no guidance or assistance whatsoever, I actually set about building my own rocket.
As foolish as it seems now, I actually thought that I could assemble a rocket from pipes and other scraps, pack it full of powder I had stolen from shotgun shells (certain that I was giving them a 'higher purpose'), and then launch it, and myself, into history. So inattentive to, and uninterested in, my activities were those around me, that I avoided serious injury and possible death only because I figured out on my own just how dangerous and ineffective my design was. I finally just gave up on the idea.
And that's exactly the point of my ranting - I had all the desire, intelligence, and willingness to work, as those other West Virginia boys - yet I was completely without guidance and support at a time when I could have, as they say, 'gone on to greater things.'
That's not to say that I gave up on learning about these things. Hell, I even joined the Air force in the hopes that I could work my way through the system to become an astronaut. But the feeling that I was on my own, chasing something that everyone else thought was nuts, has never left me. I still love astronomy, science, and the thought of going into space, but these days such thoughts remind me more and more of the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. Considering the impact we humans have had on our own environment, both psychological and physical, I fear the kind of damage we will do 'out there.'
I'm looking forward to the remake coming out next month. I hope I can force myself to go out and see it.
I want ice water.