Aired March 5, 2016 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj5FFhOV0iY
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of March 6th, 2016.
Lost in all the hoopla of the primaries and the caucuses and the polls and the insults—and Donald Trump having his pole insulted—is another news story: a happy one, one that should make America proud. No, I’m not talking about Cam Newton getting spanked in the Super Bowl. I’m referring to Scott Kelly, brave American astronaut, who returned to planet earth last week after spending 11 months in outer space.
Think about that. 340 days floating high up in the universe. I can’t spend an hour in TJ Maxx without wanting to bite my own face off, and this guy willingly survives a whole year living in what is essentially a shmekel-shaped motor home.
Why did he do it? Not for personal gain, not to make a million bucks, not to pick up chicks—although I’ve heard the women on Neptune are kinda slutty. No, he did it for science, for the sheer joy of exploration and education. After all, it’s not like Kelly was setting a record. The longest time orbiting away from earth was 438 days by Valeri Polyakov in 1994. And back then, spending a year and a half away from Russia was a plus! Why come home? To see Boris Yeltsin vomit on his shoes? To rejoice when the supermarket has two kinds of toilet paper?
Of course, it’s easy to make fun of the old Soviet Union. “What a country!” See? I just did Yakov Smirnov’s whole act. But we must ask similar questions about astronaut Scott Kelly. He’s been gone since March 27th of last year. What did he miss? Let’s see: The Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. An Amtrak derailment. Cops killing black people. A redneck killing a church full of black people. An Academy Awards full of token black people. San Bernadino. Planned Parenthood. Isis on the warpath, Jon Stewart and David Letterman off the TV, Mets lose the Series, Bowie goes bye-bye, Chipotle gives you diarrhea, mosquitoes give you babies with tiny heads, and Michigan water kills you. Welcome back to earth, Scott Kelly!
Remember that old song, “Eve of Destruction?” Fifty years ago, P.F. Sloan nailed it with his lyrics: “You may leave here for four days in space / But when you return, it’s the same old place.” (Although gas is a little cheaper.) The point is: after all that time in the stratosphere, Scott Kelly comes back to the same crumbling bridges, the same reality shows, the same divided country, the same big blue marble getting knocked away from the center of the universe.
And if you’re wondering just how prescient “Eve of Destruction” was, look at the other lyrics: “Hate your next-door neighbor” – No need to hate; just build a wall to keep them from becoming our dishwashers and fruitpickers. And “don’t forget to say grace”—because Evangelicals have done so much with their prayers to help and unite this country.
As for Scott Kelly, he still has to re-integrate into what we laughingly call “society.” In fact, before he goes home, NASA will study him to suss out the long-term effects of space travel on mental and physical health. The goal is to figure out what shape astronauts might have to be in to go all the way to Mars. Which again goes back to the good side of space travel. Yes, it costs bazillions of dollars that could go to boosting minimum wage. Yes, it sometimes seems the only thing NASA ever gave us was moon rocks and Tang . . . and that psycho-astrogirl who wore a diaper. But learning more about the universe is always good, even if it’s just to discover that Pluto’s been screwing with us and had no intention of being a planet in the first place. And don’t get me started on Uranus. At least not in public.
So baruch hashav, Scott Kelly! Your home state of New Jersey is giving you a ticker tape parade. No, wait, that’s Governor Christie shredding his career.
In his first interview since touching down on terra firma, Kelly said that without question, he would go back into space again. Who knows? He might stay a year, two years up there. And we still won’t have a new Supreme Court justice.
You know what, Scott? If you do go back, take me with you. I can’t cook, I don’t clean, I can’t fix equipment, and I know nothing about the galaxy. But I can count backwards from 10, I can dress as a banana—so if you’ve still got that gorilla suit, there’s tons of levity right there, and I keep shabbos, so you’d have a day of rest after all that scientific record-keeping stuff. And hey, maybe I can help you colonize Mars. After all, President Trump is gonna need somewhere to put all the refugees.
This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches, in Great Neck, New York.
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