These lyrics from Fading Away by The Church, have been going around my head for a few days now:-
Dont come to pieces in my hand
White stars reflecting dust and sand
That perfume makes me think of grief
Shake the faith shake the belief.
Shake the faith, shake the belief. Hmm. So what would happen if we shook the world’s belief? Is it possible?
The world’s faith probably hasn’t been shaken since the 1600’s, when Galileo Galilei theorised that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth. Or perhaps, thinking about it, the world hasn’t had a shake up since the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wasn’t alive then, I’ve always lived with the boogeyman of nuclear war, but I imagine that was a pretty shocking day. Discovering that you could be vapourised in a massive mushroom cloud and the perpetrators wouldn’t even have to leave their offices can’t have been a good day. Thoughts of ‘the button’ still permeate and nuclear warfare is still a significant deterent, so it must have been an earth shattering event (no pun intended).
And then there was the moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969. That must have been a pretty good shake up – but more a happy one. Maybe it just falls under the heading of memorable moments. (Although conspiracy theories still abound that we never actually went to the moon!)
So how about 9/11? Is that earth-shattering? For sure it shook the Americans up – and shook up most of the planet. I was working in France at the time and the French were shaken. Judging by the international news coverage, it was a global shaking. I think we can safely say we entered a new world that day.
But I’m speaking now about our essential knowledge, things we just know to be true – and the effects of thoughts as revolutionary as Galileo’s. Do we have any unshaking beliefs left? The way the church of the day vilified Galileo for his revolutionary thinking – could that happen again?
There has never been such an age of information as that in which we now exist. (At least, we believe so – though the knowledge and abilities of ancient civilisations are still mostly a mystery.) And the internet has been a driving force in that great sharing. There’s never been more information available to the people of the world. We know the earth’s not flat, that we’re not the centre of the universe. We know most of the functions of the human body, what parts do what – we’re not anatomical infants. We know how the weather works, how stars are created, why the tides function as they do. We know the principles of structure and engineering, how to build fantastic things and create wondorous works. We are working to understand the oceans, global warming and the micro-universe, the bacterias and viruses that can decimate – and we can’t be sure that revolutionary ideas won’t come from there (Children of Men springs to mind) but is there any field that significant, earth-shattering revelations are to be made?
Is it possible to shake the faith, shake the belief in today’s modern world? Probably the closest thing to come to it in recent years is the shattering of the illusion of safety that occurred with the 9/11 attacks, the Spanish train explosion, Bali Bombings and the London Tube attacks. Perhaps the global adoption of the theories of global warming was the most recent. But is that all we have left to shake up? Just our illusions? Are the days of revolutionary thinking and massive discoveries over?
With the Age of Discovery all but over, is there anything of a grand scale left to discover? Is the world ever again to be forced to re-evaluate it’s beliefs? Are our illusions all we have left to shatter?
A pretty depressing thought, I’ll grant, that we know all we can know. Of course we don’t – but would it be possible to have any other ages of discovery?
Now you know why it’s a thought that’s festering….
Space seems the best chance we have. But progress is frustratingly slow in that area. Where is the moon-base? Where is the manned mission to Mars?
Remember the tales told to you as a kid? That in the future meals would be in pill form, that there’d be hovercars and we’d be colonising other planets? That we’d all have spaceships instead of houses?
Come on world, get off your collective ass! Let’s do something huge to benefit all!
Goddamn it, I want my jetpack! :)