“Shoot for the moon- even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” This was the motto for a recent graduating class, one I’ve thought about numerous times. It’s true that having goals is an important ingredient of our society, but part of me has always wondered- what’s wrong with being happy while grounded on earth?
In theatre the “extras” are those actors and actresses cast to lend realism to a scene. They are in the background, doing routine activities, living routine lives. Off stage, these are the “grassroots” people who help make the world move, function, have vitality. They don’t often make the news, nor do their pictures end up in history books. But their stories are the cultural icons left to future generations: quilts, farming technologies, roads and bridges, unique dialects, religious beliefs, work ethics, morals.
Sometimes this group of steadfast individuals even makes it possible for others to “shoot for the moon.” They are the parents who push their children to go further, the coaches who place their players in the limelight, and the voters who stand behind their chosen candidates. Grounded on earth, satisfied with their roles as “extras,” they aren’t somehow diminished because they haven’t landed among the stars.
According to various myths the famous Greek hero Achilles was once given two choices: he could stay home and raise a family and have children who would carry his name through the generations, or he could join the Spartan army and travel to help defeat
As graduation approaches for another group of high school seniors, I’m reminded of the musical “Fame” and how that group of students left school searching for a way to become stars. They planned to “live forever” and to “catch the moon in their hands.” As a teacher, I wish the very best for each of my students, but more than anything, I wish each of them to have satisfaction with becoming who they choose to be. It is okay if those choices are based on a solid foundation rather than elusive fantasy.
I believe reaching for your dreams isn’t a bad thing, but neither is the decision to look around at what’s wonderful right here and now in your life. If you want to see the stars, we’ve got a great view of them here on earth.
I believe it’s okay to have contentment while being earthbound. Despite all the troubles our world faces today, the earth is still a pretty amazing place to be. Anonymity doesn’t equal loneliness or dissatisfaction. It simply means your name’s not written in the stars.
(This was submitted for NPR's "This I Believe" segment.)