JFK on the condensed version of human history - 1962

I find this so cool. And it’s from 1962, so in these relative terms, it happened, oh…last night.

Condense, if you will, the fifty thousand years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first forty years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover (himself). Then about ten years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels…The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole fifty-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power…Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now, if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.

So what did we do today? Advanced microchips? The widespread availability of the polio vaccine? The civil rights movement went down sometime in the middle of the night. There’s the rise and beginning of the fall of AIDS, after breakfast (at least in the West). Most gays still can’t marry their partner, but there’s a chance we’ll get to it after lunch. Much of America woke up much fatter than yesterday. Oops. I guess there’s the internet, from half an hour ago, and cell phones, from about the same minute, and then GPS. But how is it that we’ve spent an entire day not pushing out, once again, into the final frontier? I guess everybody wakes up hungover after their 50th. Still.

So, what’ll we do tomorrow? Flying cars? More realistically, we’ll make the same cars we did yesterday. Go back to the moon? That’s so yesterday. Cure cancer? Or will we gain a better understanding of how complicated cancer really is? That’s a rough way to go into the weekend, is all I’m saying.

Carpe diem, my friends. Be mindful of every moment, and ask yourself: how can I change the world today?

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