Anousheh's dream comes true
Posing a general question on philanthropy
October 13, 2006
I read a lot of emails opining on Anousheh Ansaris
self-funded $20-million expedition to outer space, as the first
Tourist, realizing her long held childhood dream.
At first, I
like everyone watched incredulously, and I will admit, rather annoyingly
with a good dose of jealousy to boot, at what
appeared to be nothing more than a spoilt rich person's exercise
in excess, an awful waste of an awful lot of money.
blogged her way across my day from the outer sky, sliding past
the horizons of my web browser and the earth, telling
this was so inspiring or that was so incredible, describing every
daily detail of every meal inside her clean white habitat, I
could at first only think of the many other things one could
the money being spent on this glorified roller coaster ride.
I had plenty of company in this misery. People everywhere would
talk about it and there was a relatively high amount of
buzz about her as the trip proceeded and the days in space went
on and on and on. The BillionDollarYouTube.com video messages
didn't help things, as we watched Anousheh grinning and spinning
in space, while attempting to describe how she could not describe
I could feel the anger in my heart building.
am old enough to know that when these kinds of feelings come up,
it is probably prudent to not act, (or write) on them
away, and to wait to see if time (and usually further discussions
with Cameron), will allow a more focused and reasonable understanding
to take hold. I think they call it Perspective.
So, just as I
promised Cameron I would, I watched Anousheh speak on the Oprah
Winfrey show about her experience in space, and
as always happens with Oprah and often with Cameron's advice,
a few things.
I think I understand Anousheh a bit better now,
maybe from looking into her eyes, via the TV screen at least. This
is not an obvious
bratty-self-serving rich person. She appears to be quite decent
actually, and the smug arrogance I perceived at the beginning
of this whole issue, was replaced by an understanding that this
in fact something she really really really really really wanted
to do since very early in her life. And that is perfectly fine.
Your money, your choice Baby.
This being said, it also explained
the seemingly equally questionable x-prize/ansari prize project,
in which Anousheh challenged a
commercial venture to create the first non-NASA attempt at space
multi-million dollar prize was ultimately won by a couple of
other millionaires who spent more to win the prize, than the
amount. Again, your money, your call.
Granted, one would have
wished for the perfect Cinderella ending instead, the one where
the starving engineer emerged victorious
after years in his heavily mortgaged garage, enduring the unending
ridicule of his neighbors and friends who scoffed at his crazy
notion to one day "Show everyone that a commercially private
venture really could make it to space!" But alas this was
not to be, and once again the masters and commanders of global
markets won instead. Damn the Man!
But somehow, the whole idea
of commercialized space travel, put into a bit more perspective
now, does not sound that crazy anymore.
that is what pioneers do. Maybe pioneers do that crazy thing that
everyone thinks is crazy, ridiculous even, until they
do it, and then it doesn't sound so crazy anymore. Maybe, that
is what they call vision. Whatever it is, I don't think I have
ever had one, or at least not since I stopped smoking weed. And
this may be what drove me a bit off the deep end... not the not
smoking weed... but listening to Anousheh's incessant inspirational
expressions during her trip.
I still hold that, in my opinion,
you can certainly do much more than this, with 20 million. And
to me the whole "So What?" aspect
of commercial space travel, with all the problems in Iran and
incidentally here on earth to solve, is still largely up for
debate. But the
usual list of things that anyone of us would make, that could
be addressed with this fortune such as, children's health research,
orphanage funding, sponsoring the arts, cultural outreach programs,
world hunger, an unlimited litany of philanthropically more worthwhile
activities, are all too painfully obvious. Too painful to ignore
as we watch Anousheh wave to us from BillionDollarBoobTube.com.
it is the obviousness of these lists of other things that raised
the ire of so many, including myself on what appeared
initially to be misplaced priorities.
her on Oprah,
talk about her childhood dream, I could only see the child in Anousheh's
eyes as she spoke, clearly
was a changed person. Maybe for good. Maybe for the good of us
The one thing that struck me as most poignant during
her interview, was her observation on what it felt like, looking
earth, that "It was an amazing moment, and you couldn't
see any borders, you couldn't see any signs of wars, none of
those troubles that
you hear about on the news everyday. It was just pure peace and
Maybe now that she has literally gained a different
perspective on the world, and has had a first hand impression
of how beautiful
the world can become, she can see herself as we see her. That
she can now use her newfound fame, and more than ample fortune,
speak smartly out against oppression and stupidity, and to
actively do those things that only people like her can do, for
she has seen anew. Those things which most people are not fortunate
or notorious enough to do.
One thing we all know for certain
is that through luck, fate, or destiny, Anousheh has the grace,
courage and will for a
literally godlike ascension to the heavens. Let us hope and
pray that she
has also gained insight that compassion and responsible stewardship
comes with being a supernatural being.
Welcome back Anousheh!