Entry 64: Whatever Comes– On September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41 sixteen days after its twin, Voyager 2, for a stupendous mission to chart the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond- that continues to this day. On August 25, 2012 it crossed the heliopause to become the first man-made object to enter interstellar space.
Meanwhile, back on earth on the day of the launch, the Red Army Faction a.k.a. the Bader-Meinhof gang kidnapped German industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer and subsequently murdered him among thirty-three others whose deaths they were responsible for. And as the tiny space craft, weighing only 721.9 kilograms, entered interstellar space, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to twenty-one years in jail for killing seventy-seven innocent people in Oslo and on the island of Utoya.
These stats illustrate the best and worst of humanity. Rightly, the golden record affixed to the space-craft does not include details of human atrocities but instead images of the beauty and variety of life on earth as well as our cultural treasures. From the world of classical music, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and Blind Willie Johnston and Chuck Berry from the realm of popular music. Incredibly, EMI refused permission to have the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun included because of copyright concerns!
Aliens with a sense of humour would be tickled. Journeys to the interior, can be remarkable, too, as Margaret Atwood demonstrates in her poem about inward voyaging, that travel is not the easy going/from point to point, a dotted/line on a map…that here, too, are found cliffs and swamps, hills and a tangle of trees. And, crucially, I know/ it is easier for me to lose my way/ forever here, than in other landscapes.
For some, the journeys and voyages have been both within and across the surface of the globe. Marco Polo, whose travels to China and back to Venice encompassing 24,000 kilometres and twenty-four years are remarkable and were influential in whetting the appetite of Europeans for exploration- but little is known of the interior changes wrought in the man who set out as a youth of seventeen years and returned as a middle-aged forty-one-year-old dignitary.
However, someone who travelled a comparable distance in time and space but who leaves an account which deals with what is within- from a time thirteen hundred years before Marco Polo set out on his journey- is the towering figure of St Paul. The song is about him- but not only him, because I mash him up with another outstanding character from world history, contemporaneous with the apostle of the Gentiles; St Peter- you know, the guy who denied his leader- how many times?
Was there ever such an inauspicious start for a world religion? But we all are acquainted with those who shift their allegiances: sometimes it is for the most honourable of motives, at other times it is self-serving and venal. But there are other avenues to explain these antipodean changes: sometimes it is just a matter of information. As a child, I accepted, uncritically, the World View of the CIA- or the USA- whichever you prefer.
Then, when I found out that I had been lied too, egregiously, I swung to the fashionable Left, featuring Che Guevara et al. But, later, finding that the pendulum had swung to an equal and opposite lie- I became somewhat apathetic. Today, I find myself wondering if I should even pay attention to the volume of shite coming down the various pipes that masquerade as the media.
So where, or to whom, do you turn to if you wish for some sort of answer to the problems of the world we live in? To itemise the horrors between the launch of the Voyager 1 space-craft and its exit into interstellar space makes me feel ill. The Jonestown mass suicide/murder claiming over 900 lives happened just a year or so after the launch. As the Voyager 1 broke through into interstellar space a crime was committed in Australia that filled me with anguish and broke the hearts of those who loved a vivacious and intelligent young woman named Jill Meagher who was raped and murdered in Melbourne.
Like millions of others, I saw the CCTV footage of Jill’s last sighting followed by the stalking gait of her predator, who had nothing in mind other than the extinguishing of a lovely life. But, to get back to the original subject- St Paul: such an intrepid traveller; such an obstinate adversary; such an eloquent interlocutor; such a fine explicator of the nature of belief and love and, above all, he had the quality that my mother said all true men should have: the ability to endure, whatever comes.
So intertwined are the stories of Peter and Paul that, in this song, I ascribe Peter’s Quo Vadis moment to Paul, as well. Heretic!