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Al Borden's Mistake

On December 9, 1972, Albert Robert Borden strolled from the Palms Convention Center, just south of the Kennedy Space Center, and walked toward the beach, some quarter mile away. Borden left his car in the parking lot. He’d figure out a way to go back for it later. We know this because in June, 1973, he wrote about the night in his post-flight journal.

Speculating now: as Borden stepped to the sand of Cocoa Beach the thought did not occur to him that an injustice had occurred or that he might be its beneficiary. Which is not to suggest Al felt indifferent to the consequences of what had happened. As a poet, Al understood the ripples produced when a large stone plunges into a shallow pond. So, it’s at least possible Al sensed the injustice and hoped he would end up on the winning side, even at the expense of his friend and colleague, Bo Cunningham. Not that it mattered, really. Considering the Al Borden we know -- and more on that in a moment -- if the injustice worked against him, Al probably wouldn't bother to have it remedied.

But not everyone is like that – despite the fact that there are areas of life in which you must take your licks then go about your business. There’s no point in pretending you can take a swing at God, though many people spend their lives attempting to do exactly that. So, why do some people keep throwing?

If, by some mercy, you make it through your early years without being too much hurt and too little loved, you will likely be a friend to all men. But if the equation is unbalanced, if you are, say, hurt only a little, but loved too much, then you will be spoiled and will expect your feelings to always be accommodated and you will be indifferent to the suffering of others. Or if you are hurt deeply, but loved too little, you may want to make others hurt too, to make them pay for the pain inflicted upon you all those years ago. And in that case, you will not be indifferent to the suffering of others because that will be the point.

We know Al Borden in part through the words he left behind. Having said that, no matter how specific and well-rendered, art can at best reveal an incomplete picture of the artist’s soul. Having said that, based on Al Borden's poetry and, if it means anything, on the eyes that look back at us from all those pictures, we can confidently say that Al Borden was a man of love and little or no malice.

He merely experienced a commonplace bit of luck on that December night in 1972. And as I said, had it been the other way around and Al felt that in this instance luck had deserted him – which for at least an hour or two seemed to be exactly what had happened – we can be certain he would not have sought someone to punish. Unfortunately, one of the enduring injustices of our universe is that the Al Bordens of the world, who would never think to use men to punish God, are themselves more likely to be punished. Had Al understood that simple truth, he might have gone straight to his car and driven back to his hotel instead of walking down the beach “on the whim of a fairly hopeless wish,” as he would later write in his journal.

Just knowing that one thing might have saved his life.

© Mark Dodson

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