A million things will be said about Neil Armstrong and his accomplishment of being the first man to walk on the moon. We will hear everything from how he was the son of a government auditor who moved at least 20 times in his childhood, to his passion for flight, to his Purdue education, and obviously to his short visit to the moon.
Personally, what struck me most about him was his silence.
To be the first of our kind to stand on the moon and look back at Earth, you would think he would have a lot to say about what he experienced and what his opinions were on world and domestic matters. Instead, other than a plea to President Obama to save portions of NASA, you never have really heard much.
Perhaps this speaks to his humility. Perhaps some insecurity. Or, perhaps some grander emotion that he could never communicate with language anyone who had not experienced what he experienced would understand.
That said, when I consider the life of Neil Armstrong, I believe his triumph to be a realization of the untold possibilities of natural progress. 13.7 billion years ago, our universe emerged from nothingness. Awhile later, a large and powerful star was born, lived, and subsequently exploded in a supernova. From there, roughly 5 billion years ago, our Sun, and our beautiful planet Earth, was born. Then, three to four billion years ago, the first single-celled organisms began to appear.
Over the next several billion years, 99.9% of every kind of species that ever existed on this planet, went extinct.
Yet, somewhere between 40,000 and 250,000 years ago, the first of modern humanity took their first steps on our planet. Their technologies were simple; stones and sticks mainly, but it was through the additive and cumulative nature of empirical knowledge that by only 43 years ago, naturally emerging life forms managed to traverse the space between two heavenly bodies, land a device made out of Earthly elements, and then take a giant leap for all living-kind.
Neil Armstrong's triumph was not just in what he as an individual accomplished, but what we as a species have accomplished together. It makes you wonder what this world would be like today if we only had the same kind of attitude that put a human being on the moon in the first place.
Consequently, it feels as though we are teetering on the edge of two futures. One future that contains massive abundance and relative peace, while the other is a total collapse; a world of violence, pestilence, and possibly even human extinction.
I wonder if maybe Neil Armstrong's death and triumphant life will allow us, all of humanity, not just Americans, to reflect on those two possible futures for a moment. After all, not very often is a man's death world news, but tonight, for this man, Neil Armstrong, world news - historical news, is exactly what it is.