Politics aside, one aspect of Hillary’s speech last Friday really resonated with me. She describes the feeling of looking up at the night sky for Sputnik as a young girl:
And my memory of that, of peering into the sky in our backyard in a suburb of Chicago, I don’t think we ever saw it although my friends claim that they had seen it, was so exciting that somehow we were connected to what that meant. And it was not only a thrill for a young girl, but it really did start me thinking.
I expect many of us have experienced that very same rush as children because we humans are born naturally curious animals. I’ve yet to encounter a first grader who’s not fascinated by science – just not necessarily aware of it. Bring up dinosaurs around most six year olds and they’ll be captivated in moments. ‘You mean ginormous ancestors of birds lived here? REALLY?!‘ Heck, two decades later, even I’m still mesmerized!
Science provides us the opportunity to ask why, to understand the world, and to figure out how things came to be the way they are. It beckons our imagination to run wild and encourages new ideas. It’s real and so alluring because many aspects of the field lie somewhere between wonder and exploration. Science remains the closest thing we have to actual magic beyond Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Now when I was a young girl, I’m positive I wasn’t labeling my curiosity as science – I had to maintain my reebok pump wearing, New Kids on the Block listening (gosh, I hope readers click on that), radical exterior of the late 80s – but I sure knew I liked planets and Mr. Wizard and whales and insects and everything under the sun and beyond… And I had a blast puzzling the big people with questions like, ‘If the universe is infinite but always expanding, what is it expanding into?’ and ‘What’s beyond space?‘ (I still want to find out so readers, please share your ideas in comments). Since adults couldn’t tell me, there was clearly something to all this science stuff and like Hillary experienced, it really did start me thinking.
Today, I’ve come a long way and proudly embrace my inner geek. I openly acknowledge science is the greatest frontier and always want to be involved figuring it out. One small piece of the great big puzzle that we’re all part of no matter what the scale. Last week’s speech reminds us to foster our innate drive for discovery so it’s not cast aside somewhere along the journey to adulthood. For I fear if we lose that, life will become terribly monotonous. Instead, celebrate being alive and having the freedom to explore, to ask questions, and to reawaken our natural curiosity. May we never lose the sense of wonder that Hillary has reminded us we had from the very beginning.