June 3, 1965 and the Recapturing of the Macro

June 3, 1965 and the Recapturing of the Macro

I am a date man. I can have a hard time remembering why I walked into the kitchen sometimes but I seem to be good recalling the days, months and years of when things happened. Looking for a good laugh, my friend Adam will sardonically ask: “when did we start writing our first screenplay together?” March 10, 2005. “When did the Beatles perform their rooftop concert?” January 30, 1969. “When did I move to L.A.?” April 30, 2012.

While it never gets old for him, I think it’s just my brain’s way of remembering the things in life I feel are worth remembering. We can trace our entire lives back through the calendar, viewing them as a series of loosely connected days, months and years where all the moments that made us who we are (and the world the way it is) are neatly mapped out.

As I was heading to my car yesterday, a date suddenly popped into my head: June 3, 1965.  And, there it was.  As clear as the first time I laid eyes on that iconic photograph as a little kid — a sphere of blue and green contrasted by the absolute blackness of space — a man in a white spacesuit tethered to a capsule, falling gracefully in the micro gravity of low-Earth orbit. Fifty years ago this month, June 3, 1965 became a date worth remembering when astronaut Edward H. White became the first American to walk in space.

Looking back 50 years later, June 3, 1965 is more than a space walk but a moment in time that built upon the can do, believe in the impossible, set big goals and crush them forces that defined the 1950s and 60s in this country.  The 20 minutes of Ed White in space reinforced the macro picture we were defining for ourselves — that we wanted to and were capable of moving mountains — that the human spirit could and would be harnessed for acts and abilities beyond the wildest scope of prior generations’ imaginations — that the gap between dream and reality could be narrowed so greatly the children of 1965 who watched Ed White step into the vacuum of space would inevitably bear witness to their children stepping onto the surface of Mars and the planets beyond. June 3, 1965 represented a clear and conscious step towards maximizing the human potential. It was us living in the macro.

Research Ed White and you’ll see the picture posted above from his June 3rd space walk.  Dig a little deeper and you’ll find another date: January 27, 1967, a day less than two years later when his life, along with the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee came to an abrupt end. On the ground for a routine test of their Apollo spacecraft, they died in a fire becoming the first casualties of the American space program.

While January 27, 1967 represents a tragic day in the history of manned space flight, in the macro it represents a defiant continuation of the spirit of June 3rd, a day when tragedy was not allowed to cripple the dream of landing human beings on the Moon. In the wake of disaster, we kept ourselves focused and committed. And, more dates worth remembering went down into the history books: Apollo 8: December 21, 1968, Apollo 9: March 3, 1969, Apollo 10: May 18, 1969, Apollo 11: July 20, 1969.

As a country we’ve forgotten how to live in the macro. So bogged down in minutiae, we forget to think big about the world, our place in it, and the direction we want to be responsible for taking. We’re no longer taught to dream big by the institutions we look to for inspiration. Our Congress renames post offices and that becomes an accomplishment; its lackluster effect trickles down to all of us. We turn inwards, checking our email, downloading apps, listening with ear buds to music, afraid to utter the sounds of impossibility and boldness that resounded 50 years ago. We may innovate but we fall short when it comes to purpose and scale. If January 27, 1967 were today, I’m not so sure there would have been an Apollo 11.

As human beings, we’ve evolved to a place where we need the macro in order to survive. An iPhone keeps us entertained, but entertainment isn’t living. It does not drive us forward and dates go unrealized because value is placed on the moment over the mission. June 3, 1965s are few and far between because we choose not to begin.

And, so in the spirit of the macro I say this: let June 12, 2015 be a day to set our sights on something grand and to not get bogged down in the micro of getting there. Remember your five year plan, your 10 year one, etc. If you don’t have a plan, take the time today to make one. Set your sights on the impossible and begin. There will inevitably be setbacks along the way. But setbacks with the right spirit and perseverance will inevitably lead to more dates worth remembering.  So 50 years from now, June 12, 2015 doesn’t become one of many forgettable dates, but the day __________________ happened because you made it so.