Blame my dad, but I find it hard to look up to someone. Hero-worship is anathema to me, because I’ve seen all the nasty parts of our heros up close and personal. We either idolize entertainers, the wealthy, truly deplorable monsters or vainglorious assholes. Sometimes there’s a perfect storm of abomination when we pick out men like Jimmy Savile or Rolf Harris. The heroes of the home, our parents, didn’t fare much better when I was a child. I saw all the droopy bad bits before I saw any of the good ones.
So, look-I just don’t do heroes as a rule. Even astronauts, for all the danger, skill and peril of their work, work for other people. They fly missions planned by someone else in spaceships built by someone else. Every astronaut stands on the shoulders of the efforts of thousand of people. And that, said, fuck it. I look up to *nauts, be they astro-, taiko- or cosmo-. Our destiny as a species, at least in the next few centuries, is out in the solar system. Unless we fuck up in the interim, it isn’t unreasonable to say that that we might have a permanent presence on the Moon or near-Earth asteroids by 2100. These men and women are out there one-by-one pushing back the bounds of human habitation.
I respect these pioneers, one and all. Today I met Commander Chris Hadfield, singer, pilot and retired astronaut. On Friday my friend Emily told Eadaoin and I about a book-signing event scheduled for Sunday in Dundrum. I responded yes plied Eadaoin with chocolates and the promise of cupcakes to bring her aboard. Suddenly, there we were all were in the queue outside of Eason’s bookstore in the Dundrum Shopping Centre.
Years and years ago, before I went to America, Jennifer and I went for a drive around Connemara. Just outside the village of Recess we found a small monument and plaque that reads “★ On this site in 1897 nothing happened. ★” That plaque has stuck with me since. A group of people together, did nothing and memorialized the non-event. It’s a random little inexplicable thing that made the world a stranger place. Droves of people work to make the world a better place; sure aren’t we all taught that as children? “Leave it better than you found it!” Why not stranger? Inexplicable? Scatter around a few big dumb objects for future generations while we run away giggling. I’ve implored Caira to do just this. I do this.
This post is disjoined, but in short, I was very excited to meet Cmdr. Hadfield. I asked him to inscribe the book with *”Mark, always leave the world a stranger place than you found it.” It left him a little nonplussed, so hey, mission accomplished.