By Jack Sheedy
Musical accompaniment: “Ticket to the Moon” by ELO (from the 1981 album, Time)*
“This isn’t the future.
I’ve seen the future and this isn’t it.
Let me rephrase...
In the past, I received a brief glimpse of the future.
And today’s world is not the future I glimpsed.
Let me start again...”
- Thomas J. McSheey (written in 1939,
shortly before choking to death
on spaghetti aglio e olio)
As McSheey remarked long ago about his future, I agree that this future – this 21st century world - is not the future that was meant to be. The year Twenty-Fifteen was not supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be different.
Oh, sure, it’s all very technological. Everybody’s in touch with so much information that we have to measure the computing power in the average person’s hand by gigabytes. In fact, the typical person** on the typical street in the typical city anywhere in the world has more computing power in the palm of his hand than did the Apollo astronauts that landed on the moon.
But we’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re living in the future.
The future, as I remember it, was more spectacular.
The future I recall was a future as seen through the eyes of 1972 - the year I turned ten, the year of the final moon landing, the year Pioneer 10 was launched to Jupiter, the year Nixon went to China, the year I first slipped forward in time to glimpse a futurity in which humanity and the heavenly sphere are commingled.
Yet, here we are, still tethered to planet earth and still hampered by all the terrene issues that continue to hold us back from flying aloft.
Once, while at Stonycliff College, McSheey slipped forward into the future and when he returned he wound up arriving late for class. Luckily, he had a note from the future, which his professor was forced to accept since it was a course in Metaphysics and he was lecturing on Cartesian dualism at the time.
Likewise, I recently slipped forward into the future to the year 2052 to attend my own funeral, which I must admit was sparsely attended, and then I slipped back briefly to 1979 to go bowling with some old high school buddies (and to ask why they didn’t at least show up for my wake), and then finally back to the present month and year, arriving home just in time for dinner, which was fortunate for me because it was spaghetti night.
I know, you don’t believe me. But, it’s true. I do still eat spaghetti on Wednesdays nights, despite the carbs.
And I do, in fact, time travel occasionally, which I must say is more convenient than traveling via public transportation.
But back to the 1970’s - oh, how futuristic the world was back then, some forty years ago:
We were driving lunar rovers on the moon.
We had SkyLab space station in orbit.
We linked up Apollo-Soyuz in a form of space détente.
We landed Viking on Mars.
We launched Voyager 1 and 2 to rendezvous with the outer planets,
Before heading off toward interstellar space.
We were developing a fleet of reusable space shuttles.
We were going places.
Off into the future.
Now, we have gigabytes in our mortal hands, and yet we are going nowhere.
I’ve seen the future.
This isn’t it.
It’s all very technological.
But it isn’t the future I remember.***
Jack Sheedy is co-author of Cape Odd and is busy at work on a new book toward a spring release. As of 2015 he still refuses to own a cell phone until we first launch a manned mission to Mars.
(*)PS: The nearest I ever got to the “future” was seeing ELO perform their Time tour in October 1981 at the Boston Garden.
(**) PPS: Presently, the “typical person” on planet earth, as determined by National Geographic, is an Asian male in his late-20’s.
(***) PPPS: By the way, just so you know, the future is right-justified.