“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” (Analects of Confucius)
Fifty years ago tonight I was a young naval officer joining a bunch of students gathered around the TV in the common room at Pine Hill Divinity Hall (now Atlantic School of Theology) in Halifax. I was living aboard ship at the time so my recently-widowed mother, then a summer student, invited me to join them for the live broadcast of the first attempt to land people on the Moon. Just before midnight we were straining to interpret the grainy image of Neil Armstrong making his way carefully down the ladder of the lunar lander, waiting breathlessly to hear what he might say. What we heard was “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, which seemed ambiguously puzzling. It turned out that what he meant to say – and what he was sure he had said – was “one small step for a man…” which, of course, would make perfect sense. The did-he-or-didn’t-he” debate went on for years and was the even topic of academic study as recently as six years ago. For heaven’s sake – who cares! The moment was a shining achievement.