I am fond of beautiful things. I have a small collection of replicas that I like to look at and to think about. The statue of David reminds me of the beauty of the male body and of resolute defiance in the face of the enemy; it also reminds me of Michelangelo, the man who created this sculpture over four-hundred years ago. The statue of the Winged Victory reminds me of the beauty of the female body and of resolute courage in the face of nature's storms; it also reminds me of a lost civilization that appreciated such things over two-thousand years ago. These things inspire in me a vision of mankind that is positive, virtuous, graceful, and strong. I like that vision.
Where does one go to find inspiration in the everyday world around us? I find it right in front of my face as I type these words: the personal computer and the Internet. These things came out of the human mind into a civilization that appreciated such things in my own lifetime. Thus I find that high-technology and the science that goes into it are equally as inspiring as fine art, classical music, and great literature. This is the kind of world I want for myself and for my children.
A close friend sent me this work of art. It is a NASA composite photograph of the Earth with the lights on at night. I was stunned by the beauty of the photo and everything it implies. My first thought was, "If only Nichola Tesla could see this." My second thought was, "This was impossible a century ago." Earth was a dark place at night for all of the millennia of mankind's history until Michael Faraday and James Clark Maxwell laid the theoretical and experimental groundwork in the Nineteenth Century that led to Tesla's alternating current generator in the Twentieth.
We might pause here for a moment to consider these origins of what we call electricity. There was no Disraeli extolling the benefits of electricity to a Queen Victoria while the knowledge was being developed under their noses. Governments did not invent electricity, governments merely stole control of it after private individuals created it. Nineteenth Century mercantilism still infects this industry.
I studied this photograph for hours, picking out the cities around the globe and finding explanations for the dark areas. Some are obvious, like the Sahara Desert, the Arctic, and Antarctic, while some are less obvious, like central Africa. The Dark Continent is still dark because political governments there keep it dark. With that thought in mind, I scrolled across the photograph to look at California.
The California energy crisis has not gone away. The producers of electricity are still separated from the consumers of electricity by miles of red tape generated by tax-supported bureaucrats at the command of tax-supported politicians. Residents of the Silicon Valley, arguably the most technologically advanced population on Earth, are still at the mercy of some dimwit in Sacramento who can order a blackout in San Jose and Los Gatos to benefit some peculiar friends in San Francisco. This has happened before and it will happen again.
I contemplate this photograph with a mixture of pride in the creativity of our species and sadness in our faults as a species. What took Michelangelo three years of hard work could be turned into a dozen meaningless chunks of marble in three minutes by fanatic vandals or vicious morons. What took the dedicated hard work of millions of people for a century could be plunged into the darkness of the ages once again by the same fanatics or morons. Our splendid space-age technology is still ruled by our Dark Age political governments.
I am fond of beautiful things. This beautiful photograph inspires me to think that it's time for a change in the way we do things.
April 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Robert Klassen