To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
During my freshman year in college I noticed an artifact hung on a piece of string with the stanza above from Blake’s poem pasted on a small piece of wood. I do not know its origins or how long it was in that room, but I think of it as a message in bottle, imprinted only on those fortunate enough to come into its possession. I remember staring at it and imagining the possibilities. When time came to change rooms, I left it there for the next occupant to discover just as I had…a timeless gift from the unknown. It’s been 36 years since I held that piece of wood in my hands and its message is still resilient.
Pegasus II is an emotional experience for me. I have spent nearly 10 years searching for the answer to a single question, “Why does the digital world behave differently than the physical world?”, my grain of sand. That question, my great question, has been wind to my sails all these years, and never would I have imagined that the answer would be found 20 miles above the surface of the Earth. The great team that is Pegasus II and our friends at MS Research have made this possible, and especially Mark Nichols my co-founder of The Pegasus Mission. I am indebted, you allow all of us to see a heaven in wild flower.
The film crew interviewed me in Kankakee, IL at the launch site on 2/23. I did okay until the last question. “What do you think others will get out of Pegasus II?” It was at that point, when I felt a rush of emotion hit me, it literally broke me down…and on camera. The Pegasus Mission is all about experimentation, exploration, and challenging assumptions about what is possible. We do this with zeal, we believe in trying regardless of the outcome. Swing-and-miss is acceptable, appreciated, and certainly respected, otherwise we cannot learn…but try you must with everything you have. That effort, the undaunting will to try, has inspired a few people. This was something never in the “charter”, but it is the team’s greatest compliment. My answer to that question (after an emotional break) was, if Pegasus II inspires a single person to challenge the status quo, then it was all worth it. I must believe that because it is next generation of explorers that are our collective future, a future that is unknown.
I wondered over the years how many others were inspired by Blake’s words hung in that freshman dorm or whether that piece of wood was lost to time. We will never know. Yet, somehow the past of an unknown person has pierced the veil of time, lives onboard Pegasus II, and perhaps inspires others.
We fly as soon as weather permits.