The Star Wars franchise was only one or two movies old. Between that, a Disney flick named “The Blackhole,” and assorted Saturday morning cartoons, I was convinced that the source of excitement and adventure was space. That’s how the book first caught my attention—it had a picture of a space suited man, walking on the moon.
I remember the slightly sharp sent of the ink as I flipped through the pages. Inside were planets, starscapes, undersea life, maps and incomprehensible diagrams. I found myself drawn in. What was this strange book? What did pictures like this close up of an octopus, arms outspread, skin flushed an angry-crimson have to do with space?
When I shut the book, wanting another look at its cover, I noticed a word printed in simple block capitals. I figured it would be the title of the book; that’s where titles go. Bent over, nose not quite touching the surface, I slowly worked out what the letters were.
A teacher had noticed my interest, and came over to the small table at the back of the classroom. I told her I liked the picture on the book’s cover, and that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Bless her, all she said was, “Then you’ll have to learn a lot of science.”
Even at my tender age, I was aware of how many children said they wanted to be an astronaut. Though I couldn’t have told you the word, I understood that it was a cliché, and that I probably wouldn’t actually become one. Even so, it was right then that I decided to learn a lot of science. That’s how it all started, a small, nearly blind child, inspired to learn by a book he couldn’t read.
“A lot of science?” I thought I knew plenty when I first started, but there are such amazing depths to my ignorance. There is so much that is known, and I just get this tiny part, scraped off with the clumsy and dull blade of my intellect, held so briefly in my mind’s feeble grasp. And that’s just what is known. What is unknown is so vast that it’s almost frightening in it’s immensity, like a vast ocean, full of monsters and treasures from the best and worst of our dreams.
Ah, I’m all, like, poetic today. Let me tone it down.
Join my brother and me each Thursday for some science talk, with no politics and no guilt trips.