I remember when I was young how blown away my grandmother was by air travel. She couldn’t quite wrap her brain around how these giant machines could stay in the air and not fall to the ground.
She was also amazed by how they changed time. How we could fly to places in a small fraction of the time it took to go by land or water. Her frame of reference was the journey to America by boat with two young kids, which took somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 days, instead of the roughly 10 hours it took in 1960 to travel back to the land of her youth.
A point I find interesting here is that while the rest of the world keeps moving faster and faster all the time, commercial airplanes are actually going slower, presently traveling at an average speed of 510 knots, compared to 525 knots in the 1960s. The reason for the slower speed is money. Going faster uses more fuel, which costs more money. In addition, planes flying at lesser speeds require less wing sweep, which means new planes can be made smaller, lighter and less expensively.
Curious, isn’t it, that we demand ever-greater speeds on the Internet but are OK with going slower on airplanes and taking longer to get there.
Fast-forwarding a few years from my grandma being in awe of the jet planes, I recall how blown away my parents and everyone else in their generation were that we had landed on the moon. I could be wrong but I think they were simultaneously inspired and intimidated by it. Inspired that our American ingenuity was strong and able to keep bringing us to new heights, and to ever-more-comfortable lives, but also a bit daunted that the world of their children would soon be beyond their reach and control. At the time, I would’ve never imagined we’d stop going there, but it’s been 46 years since the last manned mission to the moon.
Now here my gal and I are maybe not exactly blown away because it’s not quite the same stretch of the imagination for us as it was for our parents and grandparents, but definitely exhilarated as we watch the NASA scientists celebrate the landing of InSight on Mars. It’s a mobile laboratory equipped with tools, cameras, computers and all sorts of moving parts, which traveled 140 million miles and had to withstand temperatures close to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
And talk about slamming on the brakes. I get nervous on the way home from the grocery store that a quick jarring motion might topple over the bag of groceries, but this thing had to go from over 12,000 mph to 1,000 mph in about three or four minutes. Had it continued at the same speed it would have traveled over a thousand miles in that time, but they had to scrunch it down into 70 miles.
We marvel at the ever-expanding technology, how it carries us onward and gives us greater glimpses of the world and beyond from new and different vantage points, offering breakthroughs and solutions to some of our greatest challenges in the fields of medicine, transportation, communications, energy and more, but despite the claims and maybe even the hopes, all the wonderful technology never quite seems to help us when it comes to the internal — perhaps eternal — matter of finding meaning, connection and purpose in our lives. For that, we turn to things like art, poetry and philosophy, religion maybe, meditation, contemplation and being in nature. Inner explorations involving technologies of the “heart brain.”
Every single second, we gain new and previously unknown information, such that, at present, our total amount of knowledge doubles every couple of months. Knowledge is important, but wisdom is more important, and that begins with the knowledge of ourselves, and for that we don’t need anything more.