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An Open Letter
O. P. Kretzmann

Messrs. Chet Huntley and David Brinkley
c/o National Broadcasting Company
New York, New York


I was one of the millions who were watching you on the long night of March 16, 1966, as you were trying gallantly to bring us the latest news of the astronauts who were coming to reluctant fame by being the first men in history to ditch a space craft in the wrong place… I happened to be listening and watching from a small room in a motel on the west coast of Florida… Before I turned the black button inviting you to join me, I had been sitting outside my hut watching the new moon and a few shy stars from a respectful distance… I must report that they were very quiet and did not seem to be disturbed by the fact that down here, so far away, some of us were making new progress toward invading their ancient privacy… You can readily imagine that the contrast between the outside and the inside of my room was startling… Outside everything was as it always had been since the dawn of Creation… Inside there was the thunder of a new dawn when man would ride the moon in its course and reach for the stars that had seen him come to this planet — and would probably see him leave again…

Watching you that night I was most deeply impressed by your brave efforts between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., E.S.T., to bring us news of the astronauts when there was none… Apparently they were busy trying to hit Re-entry Point No. 3 in the Western Pacific accurately and had no time for us groundlings… They were only doing what so many of us have not yet learned — to succeed or fail with the same calm assurance of ultimate victory…

It seems to me, therefore, that your silence, even though enforced by circumstances, was curiously appropriate — a tribute to the men who were heading down into the sullen waters of the Pacific…

Perhaps this is the real purpose of this letter — to comment on those areas of strange silence in your work and to make a few recommendations for its future use… because they will inexorably come again and again as man reaches higher and higher and the stars come closer and closer… What will you say and do when the latest news has been relayed over and over, all the carefully assembled background material has been exhausted, and all of us are face to face with the personal task, now also so inexorable, of finding meaning in silence?…

One course is obvious… You might make an effort to set the whole business in its proper perspective… For example, I found myself applauding when in the depths of all this waiting silence David read a statement by a prominent scientist asserting that the whole business of reaching the moon is really for the birds… He was implying that one billion dollars could more properly be spent to feed the hungry in Viet Nam and India, to give the new African purpose and dignity, and to com fort the lonely and beaten in Harlem.

Perhaps that technique could be expanded… At the moment when the chattering radio is totally quiet one of you might begin to read from an ancient book: Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hast understanding? Who hath laid the measures thereof if thou knowest, or who hast stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened, or who laid the cornerstone thereof? When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy, and God said, Hitherto shalt thou come but no further: And here shall thy proud ways be stayed. Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days and caused the dayspring to know his place?… Or you might wish to turn to selections from Greek tragedy (the Hybris)… Hamlet, Faust, Blake, or Alice in Wonder land might also be appropriate… Almost single-handed you can make the space age a lesson for all of us in humility, wisdom, and adoration… While the astronauts are exploring the heavens, you would add the dimension of eternity to the jig-saw of space; and do not forget, please, that you would be addressing the largest audience in the unsilent history of man…

Or if this would eventually become monotonous the silence might be filled with the sound of music… Parenthetically: At one point on the night of March 161 expected David to pull out a phonograph and present a brief human echo of the Music of the Spheres… He and Frank McGee were desperately tossing the ball back and forth (Frank was visibly tiring of his painted ships and planes on a painted ocean) and the silence from space was broken only by the pounding of our hearts and becoming unbearable both for you and for us… So — it would appear that the addition of music to our space program would be strangely desirable — and, of course, philosophically and theologically fitting.

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