On June 30th, 1971, Alfred Worden became indisputably the most “alone” man in the history of the human race, as he orbited to the far side of the moon aboard Apollo 15. At that point, he was 2,235 miles away from his two fellow astronauts in Mare Imbrium on the moon’s surface, meaning the distance between him and the nearest human being was larger than could concievably ever have occurred on Earth (and slightly larger than on previous lunar missions since a wider lunar orbit had been used for scientific purposes). What’s more, the average distance between Worden and every other living human was also larger than had ever been possible before, since aside from the twosome on the moon the rest of humanity was some 240,000 miles away. And since the moon at that point was directly between Worden and the Earth, he could not even hear a live human voice for the full hour it took to re-emerge from the moon’s shadow.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest in western Brazil, there’s a man in his late-40’s who hasn’t seen another human being in at least 3 years, and who hasn’t encountered anyone who speaks his language in almost 15. He’s a native american whose village was destroyed by bulldozers in 1996, and appears now to be the last of his tribe. In 2007, the Brazillian government declared an area of 31-square miles in which he is known to travel to be off limits to any further development or incursion, and since then no one has even attempted to contact him. We know from the occasional flyover that he spends his days hunting wild game, collecting honey from wild beehives, and occasionally making ceremonial markings on trees or digging ceremonial pits. It is likely he will live at least another 10 years, and he’ll likely never again speak to anyone who can understand him. He may go the entire time without seeing another soul.
These two stories, both of which I wound up thinking about this week (although for unconnected reasons) got me wondering at what point in my life I was most like either of these gentlemen, and I encourage you to do the same. Read more of this post