I saw an image:
A middle-aged man dressed like my dad, in a 1950’s-style plaid shirt and wide slacks, carrying in his arms an injured girl, a girl of innocence and hope, flying high above the ground… flying with a jet pack.
I will never forget.
Who would have guessed, back in the days of wooden guitars and vacuum tubes, that one day you could carry a moon rocket’s worth of onboard computer in your hand—and stuff it in your jeans. But gadgets are easy: humans are complex.
Who would have guessed, while today everybody’s organic Central Processing Unit is seemingly pre-programmed to go into shut-down mode during adulthood, that anyone could still dream of a good exciting world—one with jet packs. I know for sure a man can hold on to his youth’s optimism and ideals, staying timeless, uncoupled from everybody’s conformist CPU timeline: I am that man.
It was over a decade ago when, one evening, my older brother was addressing his wife, another brother and me. He said that back during elementary school I had the courage to get some other kids to play “space,” not sports. And let me add I had us all playing on the same side, no arguing over who was shot. “That was courage,” said my brother. Yes it was, for we all believed in a narrow conformity back in those days. No diversity.
We knew what was “normal” and right. Grownups conformed and nobody, let alone government or school boards, had much to say against the bullying of those who were different or smaller or nerdy. “Kids will be kids” is what grownups would say. Not me. Never. When I was big enough to bully smaller kids—while being abused at home—I refused to escape into bullying others. It’s as if, by respecting other children, I have respected my own childhood, across space and time. Surely I’m a product of my social programming, and yet, at the same time, I’ve worked free of much of it. There’s a T-shirt out of Japan quoting a schoolgirl saying, “I like what I like, now get off my back!” To this, I’m sure my U.S. cousins would happily say, “You go girl!”
Is a better Tomorrow Land worth pursuing? Dare we believe? Or do we, figuratively or literally, tell ourselves and our child, both the one inside us and the vulnerable real kid standing there looking up to us, “Quit messing with that dam jet pack! It’ll never fly!” I remember.
I remember how during the cold war most of us hid our heads in the sand, a few of us built bomb shelters to hide in, but some of us believed, and shouldered the “hopeless” burden of walking towards peace… and the angel of death passed us by.
During my boyhood a grim spy, Matt Helm, admitted to a young lady who hated everything he stood for, “If ever this world is to be saved, it will be by someone too young to know it can’t be done.” I’m still smiling over that one.
Here’s my line: “Act personally, and look around communally.” There is one thing I know for sure: We can each inspire others, as we all advance towards Tomorrow Land.
Footnotes: Yes, I just saw the movie Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney. Wow. I’m glad I saw it on the big screen.
I wish it were not “just another good movie.” (Three stars out of five) Unfortunately, the professional movie critics and I don’t exactly know what specifically could be done to make the show worth four stars. “Improving this flic” might be a good exercise for film students.