Sunday, January 25, 2009

Steeples or soup kitchens?

I've been mulling over how organizations spend their money on short term and long term goals. For instance, in all the years I've lived in my neighborhood, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine has flip-flopped from constructing it's carved stone towers to shutting down the stone yard and concentrating on community outreach. It depends on who is in charge and how the economy is doing. Do you tend only to immediate needs or put some soup money into the future? The cathedral is a huge tourist destination, the carving and building is rather exciting--think donations--and it also keeps stone masons employed. But you can't argue that hungry bellies and souls need nourishment too. Currently the towers are not going up, seems as if both need to happen.

NASA is a bit like the steeple, one can go to church without one, but pointing to space has unexpected returns. I hope Obama's presidency doesn't forget to support efforts that ecourage curiosity and exploration. Good inventions come out of the work of moving people into space. Good things also happen when people aren't required to find specific get funding, scientists and researchers must pick from a narrow range of projects that sound profitable to corporations and universities. Half of all science experiments fail to prove anything but that failure is part of how people create new models. They also need to explore those "hmm...that's odd" moments. Look out, but also, look up. So here's to feeding the hungry and building for the future.

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