The picture on the front page of the Wall Street Journal last Monday of the 3 a.m. retrieval of the Space X capsule just returned from the International Space Station was inspiring. Then added to that enthusiasm was news of the billionaire who has paid for a trip for four people (including himself) on a future space flight. The only astronauts aboard that flight will be those four private citizens.
To me these and other space initiatives are another signal of a likely robust, private-initiated future in technology. Capping off those good news stories about our space program is the increased awareness that we earthlings are not alone in the universe. It is my belief that not only are we not alone, those visiting us are most likely not hostile, or they would have invaded already.
Unfortunately, even with my mind far away helicoptering on Mars, as I was sitting down to begin writing this column four news items brought me back to earth with an uncomfortable thud. The term I assign to all of these stories is a need for “inner work,” in contrast to the “outer space” stories I would have preferred to focus on.
The first story represents a jolt to my bucket list plans for travel, and is perhaps one of the gravest threats to world peace we face over the next few years. Having visited Hong Kong for a few days about ten years ago, I followed the recent events in that troubled city with concern. A visit to Taiwan has been on my list for travel in the post-Covid near future. I also have had the feeling for years that the rulers of mainland China will soon cross the Taiwan strait with military force.
Then the latest edition of The Economist arrived and confirmed my fears. Its cover reads: “The most dangerous place on earth,” with a picture of Taiwan front and center. To illustrate the challenge for U.S. policy makers, the cover story begins with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The test of a first-rate intelligence…is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
One of my lifelong goals, and the bedrock I strive for in these columns, is embodied in that quotation.
The Economist story continues, “For decades just such an exercise of high-caliber ambiguity has kept the peace between America and China over Taiwan…Leaders in Beijing say there is only one China, which they run, and that Taiwan is a rebellious part of it. America nods to the one-China idea, but has spent 70 years ensuring there are two. Today, however, this strategic ambiguity is breaking down. The United States is coming to fear that it may no longer be able to deter China from seizing Taiwan by force.”
From my perspective, as a country tired from a long-ago failure in Vietnam and recent protracted wars in the Middle East the United States is very unlikely to send in its Seventh Fleet to fully engage China’s military crossing of the Taiwan strait. While I think nuclear war could be avoided even if our fleets engage, at least tens of thousands of lives would be lost. Unless we have incredible luck, and extraordinary F. Scott Fitzgerald-like international finesse (in a sense, matured and applied inner work), instead of fighting we will blink and Communist China will thereafter dominate, at least in Asia.
The second news item that shocked me challenges us more directly in our “inner work.” And it is closer to home.
I write of the announcement that after 27 years of marriage, the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, and his wife Melinda are getting divorced. If a couple gets divorced in the first few years of marriage and has no children, I have often felt both professionally and personally that it’s none of our collective business — do the paperwork and move on. However, any high-profile divorce after a lengthy marriage should give us pause.
The third news item of particular impact was the remarkable speech given by Sen. Tim Scott in response to President’s Biden’s speech to Congress. Senator Scott’s speech, and both the vitriolic and silent reaction to it, is another chapter in the ongoing racial challenge facing our country.
The fourth story that grabbed my attention, via a politically savvy young friend of mine, is that of Rep. Liz Cheney. As an initial bellwether of whether, and if so how, they are going to sideline Donald Trump while keeping the electorate he energized, this intra-Republican battle is well worth watching.
All four of these “inner work,” stories deserve much more attention — I plan to give that to them in future columns.
Exploring outer space is a worthwhile endeavor, but it is the inner work that is our greatest challenge.
Contact Larry Little at email@example.com.
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