Earth Rise – The Birth of Earth Day?

earth riseWould there be an Earth Day without the shots of the Earth rising above the horizon of the Moon?  Shots like these, taken by astronauts involved in the Apollo program‘s moon missions gave earthlings a whole new perspective.

I’ve had people who were around back in the early seventies and active in the environmental movement tell me that it was such a powerful image at the time, one that had never been seen before, it had a truly sobering effect on the collective conscience.  The visual proof that we all lived on a small blue planet in the middle of a vast universe that was extremely unforgiving to creatures attached to oxygen, water and such earthly delights…creatures such as human beings.

Various elements of the Flat Earth gangs had so embedded the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe into the thought processes of so many powerful humans that even after the blasphemers  Copernicus and Galileo had had their says it still had to be an underpinning of many people’s World Views.  The idea that there were limits involved with our temporary tenancy had been theoretical, and easily ignored before these photos, both beautiful in their unique point of view, and their stark contrast.  People who were already aware of the importance of taking care of the homestead were given a practical tool that could be used to instill a sense of total awe, and a sense of responsibility, into the thinking of people who had until then taken our Third Stone From the Sun for granted.  Good enough.  All that wealth, time, and energy focused on getting to the moon first did result in something useful.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” has to be one of the most interesting documentary films I’ve ever seen.  One of the aspects it mentioned up front was how white-bread homogenous the astronauts chosen to participate in the Apollo program were.  All white males with strong attachments to conventional family values and established religious dogma.  Alternative views of the universe or mankind’s role in that universe were not going to be acknowledged or encouraged.  It didn’t work out so well.

One of the first people interviewed for the documentary was Yuri Gagarin’s widow.  She told the interviewers something her husband had always been afraid to mention publicly or privately to anyone except her…that he had heard a humming sound when he was in outer space, as if there was a force of some kind at work “out there” that until then had only been imagined by artistic types, such as composers – Holst, The Planets, or the Sound of the Spheres, maybe.  This led into a where-are-they-now bit about the former Apollo astronauts.

One of the former astronauts interviewed had been so thrown out of his previously held world view that he had retreated to a remote area of Hawaii, if memory serves me, where he painted large murals of cosmic bodies using his moon boots and a rock pick instead of brushes or painter’s knives.  The footage of his interview showed him among a few of the paintings he had created using these unconventional tools, and they stunned me, a truly artistic statement of a feeling of separation from the familiar and “known” world.  Now there was a man whose world view had been changed by the experience of being propelled out of the comfort and assurity of his previously unquestioned belief system.

Another astronaut interviewed also seemed to be attempting to deal with this challenge to his sense of place in the universe.  He was filmed standing on Mt. Ararat, the wind blowing his hair in his face…and it was a serious face.  His eyes had a strange, haunted look to them, as if he was clinging onto a sinking life raft and he knew it.  And what was he doing on Mt. Ararat?  Why, looking for the ultimate life raft, Noah‘s Ark.  His voice was shaky, about as shaky as the “proof” he had come up with that this truly was the site where Noah and his Ark had made landfall…a few pieces of wood, most burned…fire refuse.  It didn’t appear as though his previously held idea of a life raft was doing much for him.  He too seemed like a soul detached, like the astronaut from Kubrick’s2001 A Space Odyssey” that was last seen spinning off into the dark depths of an unknown, forbidding, and assuredly deadly universe.  Instead of coming to terms with a new world view he was desperately back-pedaling…back to his roots, his core belief system, despite what he had seen, done, and possibly heard…if he had heard the same hum of the universe that Yuri Gagarin claimed to have heard.

Happy Earth Day, earthlings…tread softly.

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23 thoughts on “Earth Rise – The Birth of Earth Day?

  1. "HE WHO" says:

    I find that this photo and anything like it are very moving. Just as, I suppose, it would be if I were to touch the rocks at Stonehenge. Great post. I really enjoyed it.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      I look at it every day – my screensaver – and wonder how those guys felt…”Wow, look where we are !” And then, “Uhhhh, what are the chances of everything working perfectly to get us back there?” Weird World.
      Later…

  2. Yay, an Ararat reference! You know, about every ten years I’ll read an account of some new well-funded loon hiking up Mt. Ararat looking for the Ark (why is it they always go when there is heavy snow on the mountain? I always assumed there was some wag in whatever Turkish ministry that issues mountain climbing visas laughing his head off at the thought of some more befuddled Christians mistaking every fallen tree trunk they come across as “proof” that a 2000 year-old boat is somehow still intact on the mountain under tons and tons of snow) though truth be told the ark-reference makes perfect sense when talking about our planet — like all life-boats we have a limited amount of resources that must be used wisely unless we want to find ourselves starving on the high seas. Or, as my little nephew once told me, “we must be kind the to the world, it’s the only one with video games.” I suppose we all have our own motivations.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Wasn’t Dern’s space greenhouse in Silent Running called the ARK…or am I lost in a 1970s film haze again? If you can find that doc film, I think you’ll dig it…it is planned, edited, and presented without any overt message, but the subtle message is so profound and memorable. I saw it twenty-some years ago while getting too intoxicated…it sobered me up, and I can still remember the faces and voices of the painter and the Ark hunter.
      Later…

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Wasn’t Dern’s space greenhouse in Silent Running called the ARK…or am I lost in a 1970s film haze again? If you can find that doc film, I think you’ll dig it…it is planned, edited, and presented without any overt message, but the subtle message is so profound and memorable. I saw it twenty-some years ago while getting too intoxicated…it sobered me up, and I can still remember the faces and voices of the painter and the Ark hunter.
      Later…

      • No, I think you have the right movie. I get Silent Running mixed up with Dark Star, where the movie ends with one of the characters surfing down into the atmosphere and burning into an incandescent speck in re-entry (though I don’t think there was any ecological messages in the later film). But yes, ARK, the habitation that is the last hope for us all.

        • coyotero2112 says:

          Score one for my atrophied brain. Tried to comment on a couple of your other posts, but the comments were turned off. In case I missed the pictorial of the Armeinans “Trail of Tears” it was brilliant. Loved it. Been having WordPress problems, compounded by RACSA (Costa Rican internet provider:..provider used loosely) problems. My wife left a couple of comments but I didn’t see them, and now she’s furiously over-watering our indoor and outdoor plants.
          Later…

          • Yes, I’ve been suffering from WordPress problems too. Heard that some new spam-bot (or whatever it that plagues blogs) has recently been targeting WP, though for the life of me why anyone would choose to go after blogs is a bit of a mystery, unlike, say, Anonymous taking down the computers of North Korea. Regardless, it is good to hear from you. In the event my blog melts down one day, my email is zachary [dot] jean [at] gmail.com … please write, it will be wonderful to hear from you regardless =)

            • coyotero2112 says:

              Good to know. Put it in my address book. Frustrated bloggers…like the ricin-sending Elvis impersonator, maybe. So much is irrational it just becomes entertainment…sometimes annoying. Don’t you watch the News/Propoganda? All North Koreans do is march around and around in parades of military force, kind of like Saddam never leaving his podium and always shooting off that same antique single shot rifle. No time for computers, or lunch, or staying out of the way of history.
              Later…

  3. I to remember the photograph of earth and earth rise, it has stayed with me all these years and has had profound influence on who I have become. Good enjoyable post, thanks.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      Thanks for reading, and the comment. This photo is my screensaver. This and the Tank Man from Tiannenman Square the two I’ve used for over a decade…two of the most amazing images I have ever seen.
      Later…

  4. words4jp says:

    Great post. I have very few memories as a little girl. One I do remember was the first step on the moon. 😉

    • coyotero2112 says:

      I lived with my grandparents who were moon mission groupies. I wash awash in newpaper clippings and stories and magazine articles about it. That documentary really put a new spin on space voyaging.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Later…

  5. You tend to enlighten. Thanks. May you and your wife have the happiest Earth Day ever!!

    • coyotero2112 says:

      You’re too sweet. If the puter stops acting so finicky I’m off to read your “Let Go..” post. And, yes, had a great Earth Day, out in the ocean, mostly.
      Later….and, PEACE

  6. Yeah you should have been there. Watching the video feed of Neil Armstrong stepping off the Moon lander sent chills down the spine. The words at the time before the recording got muddled were clearly “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” I’ll never forget it. My little boy was in a basket on the floor. He was about 6 weeks old and I was talking out loud to him so he wouldn’t miss a thing

    • coyotero2112 says:

      That photo is so iconic now – I have the same one as my screensaver. I know that all movements have some such iconic moment, such as the Buddhist monk burning himself in a Vietnam street, woman over Jeff Miller’s body at Kent State (where I taught a semester, and now they’ve re-landscaped to obliterate any recognition). People seem to have become movement-weary…can’t think of any iconic photos since Nixon leaving. Thanks for reading and the comment.
      Later…

  7. ioniamartin says:

    You are right. But I suppose this is true of most things. I doubt the save the children/animals/whatever campaigns would be so successful without photos and bide of the subjects. I really enjoyed this post, thanks.

  8. Ouch. I was so looking forward to a cold beer tonight, but I’m afraid I might see the moon.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      But, you might here the Music of the Spheres, too. The Greeks tuned their musical instruments to what they claimed were the sounds of the heavenly bodies they knew of. Earth was tuned to…naw, never mind. Enjoy that beer…I’m going to the beach right now with the wife to photograph, drink beer with a surf instructor friend of mine, and chill. And listen for the hum.
      Woof to Red and the Gang !
      Later…

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