Wonder and Astonishment

Two events happened this week that pushed me back to a simpler time in history. On Sunday night, the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the heavily favored Canadian squad on what was the 30th anniversary of the stunning Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid, when the upstart college hockey stars beat internally professional hockey teams – the Soviet squad in particular – to take the gold medal. Soon after, the space shuttle Endeavour landed in Florida, reminding me, as the space program slips deeper into obscurity, of watching the lunar landing in 1969 while at summer camp in New Hampshire.  As commentators now talk about dwindling interest in the space program, I recall watching the 1969 landing on a black and white TV and then walking outdoors to gaze up at the moon with wonder and astonishment.

In relative terms, the opportunities in life to be truly astonished are few and far between. The birth of my children tops my list of awe-inspiring moments, but miraculous events such as Lake Placid and the lunar landing survive today as remarkable events because they flew so far past our sense of normal that they move the mark on what will next impress us.

Reputation is like that. We have to crank up our game to top what we last did, no matter how remarkable our last accomplishment might have been.  Beating the Russian squad or the Canadians in hockey for the gold won’t be as stunning because we’ve done it before. Anything short of landing on Mars with a manned mission will exceed the wonder we had 41 years ago when Neil Armstrong became the first – and last – man to stand on something not bound to earth.

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