Marooned and Miraculous

Oliver connects Heidegger’s pivotal distinction between Earth and World to deliberations on cosmopolitanism from Kant to Arendt and Derrida and to thinking earth as the sustaining ground of not-just-human life. Drawing effortlessly on film and popular culture, this is a brilliant, lucid, and highly readable companion to the End Times.

~David Wood, Vanderbilt University

Today, we honor the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk on the moon, with a special guest post by Kelly Oliver, author of Earth and World: Philosophy After the Apollo Missions. Check back on Monday for a chance to enter a drawing for a chance to win a copy of the book.

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Today, marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk on the moon. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about this chapter in the space race. For example, there was only one woman working in the command center, the LM drifted four miles off course from the scheduled landing spot, and Buzz Aldrin peed his pants on the moon. Now, we can view footage of the moon from a camera mounted on Aldrin’s window, or a documentary and several movies about the Apollo 11 mission.

Fifty years later, the image of Aldrin standing on the desolate surface of the barren moon, so many thousands of miles from Earth, still sends chills up the spine, and reminds us of both the uniqueness of our planetary home and our ability to leave it, if only temporarily. It sparks the fantasy of becoming what Aldrin called a “two-planet species” living on both Mars and Earth.

Just as fifty-years-ago, seeing Earth from space made some appreciate Earth anew, while others imagined moving further away from Earth and traveling to other planets, the same contradictory impulses drive us today as we fight to save our one and only planetary home from catastrophic climate change and race to set up colonies on Mars. For some, seeing the loveliness of Earth from space renews the desire to cherish it, while for others, seeing the insignificance of Earth compared to the vastness of space is to wish to leave it. This ambivalence between loving and leaving the Earth shows up in various discourses around the Apollo missions. These seemingly contradictory impulses, triggered within the cultural imaginary by the Apollo photographs, make manifest a deep ambivalence in our relationship to our earthly home.  We feel both unique and insignificant, both marooned and miraculous.

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