THIS PAST WEDNESDAY, December 17th was an anniversary. 111 years ago, in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright proved that Man could, indeed, fly – when Orville piloted their “Flyer One” biplane on a 12-second flight over the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The entire distance he covered in that first flight was less than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet.” Little did they realize how grandly they would change the world.
I remember my father telling me, back in July of 1969, that, in just his lifetime, he had seen the world go from horse drawn wagons to astronauts walking on the moon. And now there are men and women in their 50s who have not been alive in a time when people have not been venturing into space.
Time stretches out in an orderly, regular fashion, but events compress it into Ages, Eras, Seasons, and Periods. Next year won’t come until next year, but it is already part of what is called the “Space Age” and the “Computer Age.”
Christmas won’t come until later this week no matter how much a child may hope and wish, but it is already firmly locked into the “Holiday Season.”
When the Wright Brothers took those first, fledgling flights above the beach, they moved at a speed that could be exceeded by a child on a bicycle. Today there are aircraft that can outrun the sun, making the Day appear to expand to more than 24 hours.
Theoretical physicists and engineers talk about tomorrows when we will move at speeds so fast that Time itself becomes plastic – a day when the distance between “tick” and “tock” will be different for you and me, depending on how quickly we fly.
When Orville took his first ride on their “Flyer” he did more than test a new invention – he closed the door to the Past and opened the hangar door to untold, barely imaginable, Tomorrows.
At some point in the future Mankind may decide to measure time from a new starting point, ala the fictional “Stardate” calendar in the Star Trek TV series and films. I suggest that they could not choose a better Day One than December 17, 1903.