Today marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s descent to the moon and humanity’s first footsteps on the lunar surface. I remember it all with crystalline clarity. I was crammed with my family and many others into the TV Lounge of a rambling hotel in Malin, Donegal at the most northerly tip Ireland. As I watched those grainy images of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon, it seemed to me that there was nothing that America and, by extension, the rest of us couldn’t do. Everything was possible. And, perhaps, back then it was.
Forty years later, I have traveled farther interiorly and exteriorly than I could ever have imagined and I am delighted to find myself where I am right now (although not quite so happy to be fat and balding…) But what strikes me most is the sense of deminishment I feel. I no longer believe that everything is possible. There remains too much hunger, too much violence, too much selfishness. These days, I sometimes give thanks that I have no children and grandchildren to face the ecological calamities that threaten to engulf us.
It is at times like these that I need to remember Gerard Manley Hopkins’ lines from God’s Grandeur:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.