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Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Tara K. Harper:
Losing Sight of the Stars
and Losing our Sense of Future

One of the worst things that has happened to our culture is the loss of the sight of the stars.  Even fifteen years ago, I could still see the Milky Way from my front yard.  I could see seven of the Pleides (20 years ago, I could see twelve); I could see a sky awash with so many stars that it seemed more speckled-white than blue-black.  Now, with the haze and light pollution from the cities, I look to the sky and can see only a few of the brightest stars.

When there is no sky in our lives; when our vision is reduced to only the immediate world of roads, cities, broken fences, paved-over farmland, clear-cut mountain ranges (Oregon seems like little else, anymore), apartmented swamps, abandoned buildings, homeless shelters, dilapidated city centers, and windowless schools, we have lost sight of what could be for what is.  We can no longer see a future filled with opportunities, magic, challenge, and newness.  Instead, our eyes are locked onto only the problems which surround us.

Without a sense of vision, we cannot move forward.  We can only stagnate in the problems that seem to overwhelm us. It's not as if there haven't been problems of one sort or another throughout history.  No matter how wonderful our world is, there will always be problems, or we will no longer be human.  And simply working on existing problems isn't enough. It's enough to survive, sure, but it's not enough on which to build a future.

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.

-Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

In the past, our leaders have provided the visions for our society.  Even in this century, our leaders have provided or pushed us to respond to their visions or the visions of others--the New Deal, WWII, putting a man on the moon...  But these visions are no longer with us. They have become reality, have been dealt with, and are now part of history, not part of our future.

What we need now is another vision.--something to carry us forward.  Maybe it will be a space station expanded again to where it could be both commercially viable and be a link to the moon.  Perhaps it is a commercial moonbase, or an exploratory marsbase  Any of those projects could focus efforts of not just the U.S., but of other countries on something outside themselves.

Man is not the sum of what he has
but the totality of what he does not yet have, of what he might have

-Situations, Jean Paul Sartre

The hope of a future can be the strength some need to get through or endure the present.  There is power in a vision, and power can be harnessed.  I don't want to see my future as a stagnant, declining cage.  I want to see it as something into which we can expand. Without hope of a future, the world is nothing more than a fruit-fly jar with a single peach inside.  When we finish exploring the world on which we currently stand, what else is there?

When I look at the stars, I see the possibilities of infinite futures, newness, exploration.  When I look down, I see only what I must fix.  To dwell completely within our problems is to kill any joy we could harbor. We must look up. We must have vision, not just individually, but together. And we must create direction for our future. Otherwise, we will see our sense of hope fade out, little by little, as we lose sight, not just of the stars, but of the future they embody.

Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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