Just Shelley

Get Used to Disappointment

A friend told me last week that disappointment is part of any friendship. I have to agree with him because any relationship between people that is something more than the barest superficial association is going to have times when one, or both, is disappointed in each other.

The same has to hold with our friendships we make with each other through these weblogs; a connectivity that is almighty strange at times, but basically boils down to human behavior, digitalized. If we become disappointed in people in real life, how can we become less so in the virtual? Virtual connectivity is a conduit, not a transformation device.

This last week has led to disappointment for me and others, which I take in some ways to be a positive, not a negative, experience. I’m finding that the people who I have set up to be bigger than life, are actually human, doing things and saying things I don’t like, or approve of. My heros had feet of clay, but I didn’t see the footprints until they stomped about, in big oversize boots, all over their weblog pages.

Well, didn’t that just blow my dewy eyed view of things all to hell and gone? About time, too. I was beginning to think I was the only imperfect being out here on the boards.

Jeneane has been writing about the loss of the Columbia and saying things that are truthful, but not necessarily easy. Things such as she doesn’t feel the sorrow others do at the loss of the Columbia crew; that she would keep pieces of the shuttle if they had fallen into her yard.

This was a disappointment for Liz, who wrote:

I was shaken, deeply, by this. I’m appalled by the belief that profiting from tragedy–no matter how removed you feel from that tragedy–is a legitimate expression of “capitalism.” I’m trying to imagine how Jeneane’s daughter would feel, years from now, if her “money for school” was acquired through the sale of this debris. I’m wondering if Jeneane’s belief that “anything that lands in her yard is hers” extends to human remains–heck, those are probably worth even more, right? Likely to fetch a bundle on ebay from collectors.

Why this makes me so angry, I’m not sure. I suppose it’s because it comes from someone’s whose writings I trust–someone who writes so beautifully about her relationship with her daughter, her frustrations with injustice. It’s hard to reconcile this self-described “slimey” statement with the person I feel as though I’ve come to know through her writing.

Jeneane responded to Liz with a frank, honest discussion, which I appreciated. She also apologized to me, saying:

To Shelley, I’m sorry for commenting on what were such beautiful tributes on your site. I know this is a deep loss for you because you believe in all that is space exploration, and because you have a deeper heart than you like to admit. I should have kept my insensitivity over here.

It is true that the loss of the Columbia was a very deep loss for me because of my passionate interest in space exploration, and astrophysics. (And because the loss of good people doing good things always disturbs me.) But Jeneane shouldn’t apologize because I provided a forum for comments, and she expressed her view.

If I wanted you all to agree with me, I wouldn’t provide comments, I would provide the following:

 Shelley, you’re so right, and smart, too.
 Shelley, you’re so right, and beautiful as well as clever.
 I agree with you Shelley, not as much as yesterday, but not more than tomorrow
 Shelley, I agree with you and I love you, marry me
 Shelley, I agree with you, I lust after you, have sex with me
 Shelley, you’re so smart. Run for president.
 Shelley, you’re so smart, I have a job that’s perfect for you and that pays a million a year.

Jeneane definitely bucked against the general sentiment with her statements. However, spending one’s time echoing the sentiments of the world around you, whether it be the sentiments of the country you live in or the sentiments tracked by Daypop, is a lie. We can’t all agree on the same things, feel the same way.

Even the clannish warbloggers have been disagreeing more and more lately, as different facets of each of their personalities, other than those associated with going to war against Iraq and other assorted general Arab countries, begin to surface. Just because you’re a warblogger doesn’t mean you’re a Buffy fan, or that you support Bush, or that you even agree with who should be bombed, and when.

This isn’t the usual metablogging crap — this is people who have come to know each other through a weblog, learning about deep differences in each other’s viewpoints and coming to grips with those differences. This is about as human as it will ever get here. Not pretty, not eloquent, not classy, and definitely not made up of people holding hands around the campfire in some great exploration of new connectivity (can’t you just hear the orchestra building with this one?). No, it’s messy, sad, disappointing, and real human behavior.

wKen wrote something recently that stuck with me a bit. He said the following:

So my basic rambling round-about point is that I rarely talk about bad things in my life on my blog, not because nothing bad happens to me, but because I don’t want to dwell on negative things. I deal with them the best that I can and move on. That doesn’t mean that I’ll never whine or complain about anything, but I try not to make bitching and moaning my main focus. It just isn’t productive, and also not very entertaining for others to read.

Don’t think I’m trying to tell anyone else what to write about, because I’m not. Blogville is big enough for all the bitching and moaning anyone cares to publish. I’m just offering a little bit of my own experience, and suggesting that it might work for some other people the way that it has worked for me. My life isn’t even close to perfect, but it isn’t half-bad either. So, while it may be cathartic to pour all of one’s sorrow online and have group hugs from virtual friends, making a habit of it may not take you where you want to go in life. I’m just saying…

I hear what wKen is saying — if one devotes one’s weblog to bitching and moaning, a person will never change their focus in life from the negative to the postive. Pool’s too big to only paddle about the shallow end.

If I disagree with wKen, it’s that I think spending most of one’s time talking about only the positive things in one’s life is a way of hiding behind your weblog, carefully forming the picture we want to show people, never quite showing the truth. Weblogging from behind a one-way mirror — I see you, but you can’t see me!

There’s no wrong in this, but I didn’t come here to read about saints. I came to read about real people, having good times and bad, telling us how they feel not what they think we want to hear. This means at times I’m going to get disappointed, because these real people are not going to live up to my expectations. Sadly, this means I’m also going to disappoint people at times, when I don’t live up to their expectations.

I imagine that the more ‘traditional’ webloggers, those who focus primarily on the dispassionate “link and comment”, must grow weary of the rest of us coming in, dripping real humanity over their nice clean monitors. All those footprints made of clay.

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What the shuttles have given us

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Dan Gillmor wrote about the following in today’s eJournal:

Obviously we need to find out what went wrong, if we can, before sending the shuttles back up. But I fear this accident (assuming that’s what it is, as is almost surely the case) will instead be a justification for paralysis — a halt to U.S. space exploration when the proper response is to redouble humanity’s push into the frontier. It has never been more critical, given the terrestrial threats, to get the species off the planet and to find new resources for those who remain.

The space station and shuttle program were under fire for other, good reasons. They do little for true exploration of space. A reexamination of the entire space program — and maybe turning it into a truly global affair — would be smart at this point.

Dan has the view of so many people who are impressed by the grand acts of space exploration — acts such as landing on another body in space — when the greatest acts of discovery have been through our eyes, not through our feet. And it is through our eyes, with the aid of instruments carried by the shuttles, that we’ll continue to learn in the future.

The Shuttle Discovery carried Hubble into space, and through Hubble, we’ve discovered stars being born, and brown dwarfs, and nebula of such beauty that they put the greatest artists to shame. It is through Hubble that we have discovered worlds in other galaxies.

The Shuttle Columbia, the very ship we lost today, carried Chandra into space, and it is through Chandra that we’ve begun to learn about that greatest of mysteries, the black holes of space — the keys to the beginnings of time and light and life, itself.

It is through the experiments conducted in space aboard the shuttles and the space station that we’ll learn so much about the life on our own planet. About ourselves and our place in this huge universe.

When we flew to the moon we discovered rock. And when we fly to Mars we’ll discover more rock, and maybe a little water. But we’ll find life through the instruments launched and maintained by the shuttles; shuttles managed by the crews who never have a chance to step onto another world, but who quietly work to give all of us a chance to see deeply into space and to peek at other worlds. Crews such as those of Columbia, who risk their lives with never the hope of a mention in history, or a parade down the streets of New York.

Most importantly, though, it is because of the shuttles that we have a better view and understanding of what I consider to be the most beautiful world in the universe — a blue and green and gold and brown and white marble that hangs in the blackness of space. A world we call Earth.

This is our home, and most likely will always remain our home. As much as we might wish to use all of it up and then jet out to a new home — pulling feats of terraforming and travel faster than the speed of light miraculously out of our scientific hats — we must accept the fact that our ability to destroy, pollute and exhaust far exceeds our ability to make new scientific discoveries that will enable us to travel to other galaxies. Thanks to the efforts of the Shuttles, we better understand our world. Maybe someday, we’ll even learn to appreciate it.

I agree with Dan on one thing: space exploration should become global. But I have to disagree with all my heart when he says that we’ve had little true exploration of space with the shuttles.

Look at the wonder of it all.



Oh no

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I received a news alert from CNN, only to hear that communication with the Shuttle Columbia has been lost.

Flight patchThere’s no other official news other than this, but it sounds like it did explode on entry. It breaks my heart because if there’s one thing this country does well, it is our exploration of space. It is the very best of us.

I tried to watch the news, but would turn the channel every time someone would start talking about terrorism. Can we for once not taint everything around us with our unreasoned and unthinking and unfounded paranoia, and just feel sorrow at the loss?

My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the astronauts.