The recent passing of Neil Armstrong makes me wonder if that day that he first stepped foot on the moon in 1969 was also the day that we gave up the idea of walking on earth?
It seems that way, as everyday I see people driving their cars around in circles orbiting block after block looking for a place to land the car they should have left home as they try to get within 50 feet of where they are going instead of just parking the darn thing and walking a little bit.
The entitlement of cheap and easy parking seems to coincide with the explosion of handicapped parking tags, and its parallel in the epidemic of "lifestyle induced illness" that plagues our overdeveloped culture.
To be a “pedestrian” has become pedestrian, indeed, and to be a pedestrian is to lay one's life in the hands of those too distracted by their dumb phones to realize that the pedestrian always has the right of way.... always. Even if the pedestrian is acting stupid themselves. The laws of thermodynamics are never suspended because we are in a hurry...and no, you cannot drive thru the crosswalk ahead of the walkers. Slow down and just breath already.
Anthropologists and theologians alike recognize that cult is the heart of culture, and while traditionally the beginning of culture is understood to coincide with the rise of agri-cult-ure, the cultic nature of people following a way without use of intellect, reason and common sense applies to a people that would rather drive to the corner store for a gallon of milk, thereby threatening the life of the planet, than to tie on some comfortable shoes and just walk.
Armstrong’s small-step, and so-called “giant leap” may have inspired the baby boom generation to think big, but as a paradigm for life on earth it leaves something to be desired. Whereas we have come to think that there is a gadget to fix anything, but there is no techno-fix for stupidity, sin or slovenliness.
We have heard in this election cycle that 1 of 10 ohioans work in the auto industry... all that effort to make a system that is dangerous, dirty and deleterious for our health, what Illich called, “one of the grandest” illusions of all, where we trade speed for time, talent and technology, and destroy space for everyone else without a license or increasingly so, a life...and in the grand petroleum age, imperil spaceship earth itself.
So what will the post-Armstrong world be like? What will the next small step be? Will we make a rational assessment of the cult of the automobile, a core of our consumptive culture, or will we continue to romanticize about the freedom to foul our nest so completely, for the sake of what? Really now.
Will we remember how to build cities...and more importantly live in them, walking, biking or busing ½ hour to work, and in the meantime improving our health and getting to know our neighbors? Will we learn that there are no “smart cars” and “smart phones”, but only smart people and smart cities? Will we learn to live on the planet we have instead of dreaming about someday colonizing a rock 180,000 miles from our home place?