Only a Rocketman

by Anurag Ojha

There is a song that has been haunting me last few days.

“Rocketman” was originally performed by Elton John in 1972. Many artists have covered the song since then. I like the version covered by James Maynard(Puscifer/Tool) the best. It has a feel of Pink Floyd and gives me the chills every time I play it.

This song is set in the future. It’s in a time when space travel has become common.

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine a.m.
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

You can tell from the first two lines how the astronauts flight has become something trivial, just like you would pack your bags to take a bus to the next city. There is a deep sadness and fear in the lines that follow.

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Its going to be a long, long time before the astronaut returns back to earth. His greatest fear is that when he returns back home, he will no longer be seen as a brave hero – the astronaut who put his life at risk to travel to the edge of space.

The song was written over forty years ago and yet it is relevant for all times and ages. Professions once seen as noble lose their awe and respect over time. In India, there was a time when a Postman was one of the most respected and educated person in the village. Being a Policeman or Firefighter was something a child aspired to be. A time when soldiers returning to America from the fields of battle in Japan and Europe during the world wars were seen as the finest men. Being a freedom fighter or laying down your life for other people was considered heroic. Being a Teacher and imparting knowledge was a job of great responsibility. Do these people still enjoy the respect they once did?

I wonder if there is any value in trying to preserving old perceptions? I think perceptions in society are like glaciers which inch slowly, constantly changing the landscape. A few well-intentioned people will grieve about the Glacier heading toward their beautiful meadow, they might even dig in with shovels hoping to change the course of it. They should realize the futility of their efforts and accept the change. The only way they will find joy in this change is if they can find beauty in the deep valley that the Glacier has carved behind.

But is there something fundamentally wrong with desire to be seen as hero. In a time when space travel becomes common, how different is being an astronaut from being a truck driver really. I think the struggle in everybody’s life is equally worthy of respect. There are countless heroes who life remains unsung and their courage uncelebrated.

Albert Einstein once said:

If you want to live a happy life,
tie it to a goal. Not to people or things

Our actions cant be guided by the prospects of getting adulation from others.