shooting for the moon

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One rainy Wednesday long ago, when we first arrived in St Andrews, I carted my son twenty minutes across town to an auction house. My curiosity drove me – I had no reason to buy anything. Our flat came furnished (though I should use that term loosely. Student accommodations are not designed with comfort or beauty in mind but if you like mismatched melmac dishes, you’re set.)

The auction space was jammed with furniture, books, china, every imaginable trinket and someone’s Murder She Wrote collection on VHS. I paced the aisles, browsing casually, talking myself out of purchasing most everything I saw. And then I spotted exactly what we needed for our temporary one-bedroom apartment, the same apartment that didn’t even have room for us to unpack our suitcases: a large box filled with ten heavy cobalt blue children’s encyclopedias.

“Look what I won at the auction for only one pound!” I squealed the next day. Steve was unimpressed when he saw my treasured prize, a box of old musty books.

“There’s probably a reason for that,” he replied.

I still maintain I hit the jackpot that day. The books were ruggedly elegant time capsules, each volume depicting 1920s life to the inquisitive British child. Articles on philosopy and impressionist paintings sat on the index next to nursery rhymes and ironic classics like “Thirty Ways in Which We Use Asbestos.” That one was my favourite article.

I’ve since parted with all but one of the books –  we plan on taking little with us when we move, plus they started collecting mold – but I pulled pages from the books before I passed them on.

This is another treasured article.

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It addresses the question of whether man is capable of reaching another world. It begins with this.

“One of the greatest men who ever lived, Charles Darwin, said that the really unwise people were those who thought it specially wise to say that men would never be able to do this or that, and the history of knowledge had justified him. But even when we remember what Darwin said, we are still – with great reluctance – inclined to think that the answer [to the question of whether or not humans could reach another world] must be No.”

It then goes on to state that even travelling to the moon “is certainly not a possible thing now” and continues to explain all the reasons supporting its argument.

So….they were wrong. I wish I could tell them myself. Who knows? Maybe the authors lived long enough to actually witness Neil Armstrong prancing on the moon; maybe they didn’t. Either way, what seemed impossible became a reality that day.

There are many things I’d like to accomplish before my time on earth is done. I’m totally a dreamer. Sometimes my goals seem foolish but considering how things turned out for those astronauts back in 1969, I feel encouraged.

What seems impossible? Starting a business? Paying off our enormous tuition bill? Writing a book? Walking across the kids’ room without stepping on Duplo? (The answers to those questions are yes, yes, yes and most of the time.) I think the secret to actually “walking on the moon”, if we run with that analogy, is abandoning reason, looking for possibilities and challenging them one at a time. The small step comes before the giant leap.

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