“Magnificent desolation” is how American astronaut ‘Buzz’ Aldrin described the lunar landscape during the historic moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Like millions of other people on planet Earth, I was riveted to my TV set watching the grainy black & white images of the first men on the moon.
“Whew, boy” exclaimed CBS -TV news anchor Walter Cronkite as he wrung his hands and grinned like a tongue-tied giddy schoolboy when the lunar lander finally touched down.
I must admit that I was an impressionable wide-eyed 12 year-old who hung on every static-ridden word and each awkward movement beamed by NASA around the world.
In retrospect, this monumental event in the history of humanity was worth the immense cost in material, human effort and lives.
Much of the technological and scientific progress all around us that we enjoy today is due to bold initiatives such as the one that was launched by the late president John F. Kennedy’s daring challenge in 1961.
Since the historic lunar landing, we do not look at the moon or the stars in the same way. Indeed, the glorious photos of the earth taken from the moon have caused us to view our planet from a completely different perspective.
Almost every astronaut who has viewed the magnificence of earth from the desolate blackness of space has described it as a spiritual experience that has forever changed their life.
God speed to the astronauts currently living at the international space station. God speed to the tens of thousands of people around the world who have contributed and continue to contribute to the noble endeavor of space exploration in man’s quest to exceed his grasp.
God speed to those born and unborn who will walk upon the face of Mars in the years to come.
“To strive, to seek to find and not to yield.”
Photo Credit: NASA Image Gallery
Before my father passed away at the young age of 50 in 1978, he had taught me a number of important life lessons.
Always thinking of ways to provide for his four children, he worked two jobs, one during the day as a treasurer of a waste management company and in the evening as a bartender at a local golf and country club.
Yet as hard working and dedicated to his family as he was, my father still found the time to rise at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings to play the magical game the Scots invented in the 15th century.
As a youngster I was lucky enough to accompany him as a ‘walk-on’ (when ‘walk-ons’ were allowed) during a few of those rounds to get a taste of the same wonderful game that golf legend Tom Watson temporarily stole from Tiger Woods recently at Turnberry golf course in Scotland.
Just shy of his 60th birthday and less than a year since hip replacement surgery, Watson is a modern day archetypal American hero whose recent performance epitomizes the hopes, slippery meanderings and whimsical nature of the game of golf.
The anguish and ecstasy of this enchanting sport is that, on any given day, on any given course and any given hole it indiscriminately crushes and resurrects with equal force the dreams of both ‘duffers’ and perennial champions alike.
Like each day of life, each hole serves up its own obstacles: bunkers, water hazards and gnarly rough that conspire to deflate, frustrate and temporarily prevent us from reaching our immediate goals.
Ironically though, it is the fleeting unexpected moments in life: reveling in the joy of an innocent child at play, a glorious sunset or an outstanding unexpected birdie putt, that keep us craving and coming back for more.
How one handles the challenges and stumbles during the journey, though, regardless of the outcome on the ‘course of life’ is what distinguishes the truly classy role models from the rest of the crowd.
Incredibly, despite the pressure of two jobs and the daily demands of raising four children, I think I can count on one hand the number of times my father ever lost his cool with us. Believe me, as a typical mischievous youngster, I certainly did more than my share to try and make him erupt.
Perhaps it was Watson’s even keel temperament, humility and grace under pressure on the course that reminded me of my father. The 5-time Claret Jug winner certainly had cause to explode on the 18th green after letting an improbable 6th Open championship and win for the ages slip away to a much younger man.
Though instead of cursing his fate and pounding his club in disgust when failing to sink the less than perfect putt for the win, the old warrior, who in 1977 was able to seal the now famous ‘dual in the sun’ with the legendary Jack Nickolaus, just flashed a sardonic grin and shook his head.
As with the precarious, unpredictable nature of life, one never really conquers a challenging golf course so much as make peace with it for the moment.
But with the right combination of hard work, luck, skill, humility and perseverance the young and not so young can also fully experience the precious moments of glory that punctuate the game of life.
That reminds me, I need to book another tee time with my own son sometime soon.
Photo credit: Mike Redfearn