I love when NASA announces that they will be making an announcement. The end result is always a day or so of predictable emotional tumult: wild-eyed hope (“Aliens? It’s probably aliens. No, can’t be. A manned Mars mission, then? Must be.”), followed by self-deprecating mockery of that selfsame hope (sarcastic tweets along the lines of “Tomorrow, we leave for Mars.”), then bargaining (“Well, it could be liquid water, couldn’t it? Oh please let it be liquid water, I’d be okay with it not being a manned mission as long as it was water.”), waiting and speculating (“Geologists, eh? That’s got to mean liquid water… Or maybe like, lichen? Just because they don’t have a biologist there right now doesn’t mean it’s not lichen…. Well, yes it does.”), and finally acceptance (Decent evidence for liquid water.)
Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about this. I believe I’m on the record as saying that Elon Musk is going to fly us to Mars and everything will be fine, la la la (most recently in response to either excessive and ultimately unnecessary GRE studying or perhaps the debt thing). But I’m also really happy that the announcement happened precisely when it did.
Have you ever found something at exactly at the right moment in your life? I don’t mean the right year, the right season–I mean the right minute of the right day. For instance, I’ve never read any Virginia Woolf. Whether or not this makes me a sad excuse for an English major is up to you. Way back in May, I borrowed my brother’s copy of Mrs. Dalloway (apparently added to our high school’s curriculum after my departure). Then I was distracted by reading all of A Song of Ice and Fire, and there was something else in there, too….
Anyway, I finally started reading Mrs. Dalloway a little while ago, during my lunch break at work (I am basically Henry Bemis but with an intellectually engaging job). And it was the perfect book for a lunch break downtown at the giant Whole Foods on a 95-degree humid day during a debt crisis after the final launch of the space program on a day I’d had coffee while driving to work. It was perfect the way Doctor Who was the perfect thing to get me through the year my father was sick, or perfect the way Marian Call’s “Good Morning Moon” was the perfect song to listen to on the way to the launch alone on a Florida highway at 3:00 in the morning, or perfect like reading Bertrand Russell the summer before college. Or perfect like some other example from your own life–I can’t be the only one.
Of course, it’s all coincidence, and that’s what makes it so extremely nifty. All these weird random not-even-puzzle-pieces fitting together, linked by synapses and memories and completely convoluted associations–and making up this perfect little narrative that we impose on our own lives. There’s a lot of neuroscience I could talk about here, both published research and completely unanswered questions, but I’ll save that for another time.
For now, I just think it’s really cool that my own personal narrative of 2011 will forever include “Scientists announced strong evidence for flowing water on Mars the day after I took the GRE, the same summer I watched the final shuttle launch and read Mrs. Dalloway and learned embroidery.” (Any English major worth his or her salt would tell you that that would probably not make the best fictional narrative. Although it might have potential. I get the feeling that Ian McEwan might be able to make it work.)
And, of course, now that I’ve found time to finish this post, a day has gone by, and Juno has launched, which I really meant to write about. So, there’s timing, and then there’s timing.