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Flight turns writer ‘Blue’ with envy

David Colburn
Posted 7/21/21

Most folks are familiar with the phrase “green with envy.” While some attribute its origins to the ancient Greeks, others turn to William Shakespeare’s Othello and his declaration …

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Flight turns writer ‘Blue’ with envy

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Most folks are familiar with the phrase “green with envy.” While some attribute its origins to the ancient Greeks, others turn to William Shakespeare’s Othello and his declaration of jealousy as a “green-ey’d monster” as the inspiration for the phrase. Whatever its origins, green has long been the color associated with the feeling of envy.
But this past Tuesday, envy took on a decidedly bluish tone for this writer, a child of the 1960s who grew up in awe of the Mercurys, Geminis, and Apollos of the race to space. And what was the origin of my abrupt color shift?
The aptly named Blue Origin.
On Tuesday morning, I sat down in front of my computer with my usual cup of extra dark coffee, a couple of pieces of toast slathered with smooth (never crunchy) peanut butter, and pulled up the Washington Post website, to which I subscribe. It was to be a typical start to a typical day.
But in the center of the page was a live video stream of the impending launch of Blue Origin, the rocket that was about to take the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, and three other passengers to the edge of space. Bezos, known as the owner of the online shopping behemoth Amazon, also happens to own the Washington Post. While he doesn’t get involved in the paper’s editorial content, how could the Post not cover live its owner’s historic flight?
Like millions of other kids in the 60s, space flight fascinated and enthralled me. I bought and assembled models of all of NASA’s spacecraft and used them to do my own simulations while watching similar ones on TV. Out in the attic of the barn behind our house was a cardboard refrigerator box that I had converted into a spaceship that carried me, my sisters, and numerous friends on many a thrilling mission, aborted only by the sound of Mom’s voice calling us to dinner. Like millions of other kids, someday I wanted to go to space.
But my dreams of being both a fighter pilot and an astronaut were crushed by an eye exam in fourth grade – unable to read the teacher’s chalk writing on the blackboard 15 feet away, I knew right away I’d never qualify to be either. It didn’t lessen my interest or desire one bit, but it did change my reality. I’ve said for decades that the one regret I have about my mortality is that I’ll never have the opportunity to fly through outer space to “seek out new worlds and new civilizations” or more mundanely to simply wave at an orbiting satellite on my way past it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do that won’t ever happen.
So, as I watched on Tuesday I was totally envious of billionaire Bezos and his three passengers blasting off in Blue Origin as I sat and watched, wholly incapable of following. It’s just not fair – I wanted the experience as much as any of them. With Bezos, Richard Branson, and soon Elon Musk, space has become the new playground of the filthy rich. I didn’t watch Branson’s flight, didn’t intend to watch Bezos’s flight, and won’t watch Musk’s.
The reason is simple – I’m sorely afflicted by Shakespeare’s green-ey’d monster. In this, I am completely derelict in adhering to the Tenth Commandment, for in truth I totally, completely, 100 percent covet my neighbor’s rocket ship. Unless Marshall and Jodi Helmberger give me one super-sized Christmas bonus, I’ll never be able to afford to buy a multi-million dollar ticket into space in my lifetime. Unlike the inclusiveness of the future portrayed in the numerous iterations of Star Trek, commercialization has for the time being turned space into yet another realm of the haves and have-nots. So, Mr. Bezos, a fast phooey on you and your billions and the nanny-nanny-boo-boo of a ride on your Blue Origin rocket ship. It’s of little solace that it was named New Shepard in honor of astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. That Mercury flight opened a dream every American kid could aspire to. This one did not.
Whew, glad to get those sour grapes off my chest so that I can return to fully reveling in my life here on terra firma in the North Country. For I am quite content with my station in life in the early years of my seventh decade on the planet, with a better job, house, truck, camera and cat than I need or deserve, living in beautiful country among terrific people. I find it more than OK that station is firmly planted on the ground instead of circling the globe high above. Possibilities realized are ever so much better than dreams never achieved.

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