The Importance of Space

A World view: an 11th century map of the world with Jerusalem at the centre and the British Isles in the lower left hand corner

Space in general is important to me. I mean by that physical space; mental space; space in terms of  art (both metaphorically and literally and compositionally) and boundaries and occupation of it all. But I’ve never really thought too much about outer space. Maybe because it’s a step too far; it hurts my brain to think about infinity, and I have an irrational phobia about looking out of aeroplane windows and seeing entire coastlines. I’m quite happy a few thousand feet up looking at fields and picking out places I know, but looking across the entire south coast of England makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.

So today’s Daily Post question about whether I feel sad or happy about the Space Shuttle programme ending was not something I initially felt qualified to comment on. I had barely given it thought, and then I felt irrationally guilty about my disinterest in the topic.

I then realised after thinking it over that I did in fact have a views on it. I realised that there are few things more intriguing in our world than shifts of viewpoint and perspective. When the Eiffel Tower was first constructed, it gave the population of Paris its first opportunity to view an urban environment from a great height within its midst, and this was the huge attraction, the main draw. We are so used today to aerial views, and yet this sense of excitement (or dread) at experiencing an alternative view of our world is still there.

And so I see space travel as a metaphor for continuing human excitement and interest in discovering new perspectives and ways of seeing and experiencing. And thinking we’ve done it, seen it, been there, don’t need to do any more is thus slightly worrying, never mind a shame. It’s not a question of money so much as an outlook, a mindset. What will happen in its place?The flame may be kept aloft by other nations, but this isn’t just a US thing. Whether we care says something about us as humans.


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