Summary: Honoring parents gives us and society the stability we need to flourish.

I started reading science fiction when I was 11 or 12, I think. My father brought home a couple of Heinlein juveniles from the library, Red Planet and Space Cadet. I don’t remember which one I read first, they’re both still favorites. All the Heinlein juvies are good reading. The plots were all different enough to hold your attention, and the characters are a nice believable mix of characteristics - not too unbelievable brilliant or heroic. Anyway one of the things that intrigued me about science fiction was the idea of weighing less on Mars or the moon, and all the different things you could do. Our heroes studied free-fall etiquette in the Space Academy and cleared enormous obstacles in single leaps on Mars and went out for low-gravity acrobatics in school. As an unathletic kid with asthma, low gravity looked really good to me. Especially with my athletic sister making the gymnastics team in the club across the street. So freedom from the constraints of gravity has always looked really good to me. And it did to a lot of other science-fiction writers besides Heinlein. Ben Bova did a series centering around the settlement of the moon. The hero was motivated by the thought of getting free of earth’s bloody history: its feuds, its nationalism, ideologies, politics and wars, and starting new, with none of the old baggage. And a low-gravity environment for people with heart problems and other ailments was a big selling point for getting the project off the ground (pun intentional).

But their longed-for freedom from the past turned out to be illusory, temporary, fickle; all the feuds, all the rivalries, all the old animosities and ambitions that had plagued earth’s people for centuries came right along with the colonists.

Well, that was fiction. Fairly perceptive fiction, I think. But the more interesting twist on the tale is what happened to the low-gravity therapy for heart patients. In Bova’s book, it was simply assumed that it would work. They didn’t have any data at that point, theoretical or otherwise, to suggest that it wouldn’t.

But in the years since, we have learned that weightlessness isn’t good for you after all. According to the National Institute of Health, weight-bearing activity, or any activity that is done while upright, requiring the bones to fully support the body’s weight against gravity, is necessary to keep the bones strong. The interesting thing is that space travel is equivalent to prolonged bed rest. Even with strict exercise regimes, astronauts and crews on the space station and shuttles are at risk of permanent and significant loss of bone mass.

So the twin ideas of freedom from gravity and freedom from the past both turn out to be fantasies. Freedom from the past is simply impossible: we carry it in our genes, in our memories, in our values and goals. And freedom from gravity turns out to be hazardous to your health. Who would have thought?

Anybody here remember back to the sixties, the heyday of the hippie era? Those were my teen years so I remember them with exceptional vividness. Remember the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? It was going to be a whole new world, a whole new era. Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abound... All we had to do was reject everything our parents stood for... Don’t trust anyone over 30, make love, not war... We are the people our parents warned us against.

The underlying assumption was, “everything your parents stood for is wrong.”

And the fallout from that assumption is the culture we see around us.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, said that there is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: “almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” And in the years since he has written this book, the moral and intellectual climate in the country has steadily declined. A humanities teacher in California reported recently in some alarm that a exercise in values clarification she has been assigning for 20 years has taken an alarming turn. The gist of the exercise is that a village becomes sufficiently inflamed by an incident which has been blown out of proportion by gossip and innuendo that the villagers stone the offender to death. The teacher has always been able to get a good discussion going over the nature of right and wrong, of moral responsibility. But this year the consensus in the classroom was that we have no basis to judge the morality of the acts of another culture. “What’s wrong for us,” the students said, “might be right for them.”

How big a step is it from “It’s ok for them,” to “If it’s ok anywhere, why shouldn’t it be ok everywhere?” Why should anything be forbidden at all?

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