Friday, May 16, 2008

Let Me 'Splain it This Way

Many friends and readers are sending me links to this video of the professional jet fighter pilot who jumped from an airplane over the Swiss Alps and cruised to earth in a nice little 18-minute flight with his jet-powered wing-thing. They title the emails, “HERE’S YOUR JETPACK!”

It’s a nice sight to behold and looks like a thrilling ride, but no, that’s not my jetpack.

The only way I will stop asking the question “Where’s My Jetpack?” is when jetpacks are affordable to common folks like you and me and will safely convey us to and from our places of employment or the grocery store. It would also be nice if they didn’t sound like F-18s at full throttle and could fly for longer than a couple minutes on a tank of fuel. Another real benefit would be if they were available at Wal-Mart. I want them easy enough to operate that my Mom could handle one.

But more than that, “Where’s My Jetpack?” is at its heart a joke, a lament and an encouragement. The jetpack is simply a symbol of all the other things that were supposed to be here by now, promised to us by the advertisers, by Disney, by the government and all the other dreamers. As it says over in the sidebar in the “What’s The Meaning of This?” section: “The future is now, and we’re still waiting.”

And we will wait forever. Maybe the jetpack will be here in a hundred years, but I really ask the question to keep people from getting too pessimistic, believe it or not. It’s not just about a lack of technology or futuristic fun that hasn’t arrived. It’s about that grand Utopian vision that we will never achieve. As the song goes:

Where’s the end of war and freedom from disease?
Where’s the milk and honey from sea to shining sea?

Where are the crime-free cities and rockets on our backs?
Where are the smooth moving sidewalks? Where’s my jetpack?

The biggest lie ever foisted upon our optimistic species is, “You shall be as gods.” Here are some things I know about the future:

  • There will always be liars, cheaters and thieves, hiding behind asterisks followed by fine print.
  • Barack Obama isn’t bringing world peace.
  • John McCain is not a maverick. He's a typical phony politician.
  • You will always encounter spiteful and hateful bastards and bitches wherever you go.
  • People will likely always be starving somewhere in this world.
  • Life is only easy once in a great while.
As long as you know that the promises made to us and the dreams held out in front of us by our leaders, the media (and their sponsors) are usually a bunch of crap, you can do what you need to do, rarely being disappointed. You won’t be expecting a handout. You may be offering a hand-up. You might take a moment to appreciate what you have right here, right now.

That’s a roundabout way to arrive at optimism, I know, and I'm still working on it. But I have always learned the hard way.

A hovercraft in every drive

Instant breakfast on the table at 6:45
Rocket to the moon and race right back

to my holograph room and my new jetpack

Remember, I was gonna watch your dreams
On a flush-mounted giant plasma flat-screen

Baby, we were gonna live forever
With a wish and a pill and the pull of a lever

Heaven on Earth in a God Free Zone
Where we all get along and no one’s alone
A paradise of plenty where nobody lacks
We're all flying around with our own jetpacks

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