Most people, upon hearing the word "Moon", would point to the sky and ask "That thing?"
Richard Anderson, on the other hand, has another answer, and a lot of other questions. Fancying himself as a futurist of some sort, Richard has made it his personal quest to always be ahead of the masses, technology-wise. The moment I set foot in his house, I knew to some extent he had reached his goal. Few steps from the main door, a movement-sensing chandelier automatically turned on as the two of us walked beneath it (at which point Richard made an expression so smug it was basically asking for a punch, but the follow-up smile helped me put away the hostile intention). As I traced his step to the living room, my eyes feasted on a multitude of unconventional appurtenance, among which were a clock that ran counter-clockwise, a poster of a women whose eyes were fixing on me, an aquarium the size of a bathtub with no fish swimming in (or perhaps I could not see any), and a mini hologram of R2-D2. Of course.
All of that served as the dessert before the main course. His "living room" was not so much different from the wardrobe of a shopaholic, a kingdom for hoarding. Obviously, Richard expressed no regard for the aesthetic orderliness, what with bizarre-looking devices being displayed in no particular pattern. It was almost as if he threw them against the plastic shelves the moment he entered the room, leaving them to fall into their own place. I asked him how he could find what he needed in a room as such. Richard shrugged.
"The future is messy," he said, his lips barely parted.
At his invitation, I picked a random chair and sat down. As a reflex, I leaned back, and almost jumped out of the piece of furniture when I felt it move in sync with my body. Richard laughed at my reaction, and assured me that it would not eat me alive. Having said that, he approached a nearby glass cabinet, his back against me, as if to conceal a treasure trove. As he turned towards me again, I couldn't help but notice the childlike grin on his face, normally reserved for boys who just discovered a new toy. In a sense, perhaps that was Richard.
The table in front of me, moments ago empty, now bore the weight of two spheres and their holders. The glass beneath the items lighted up. The table could tell if something was weighing it down.
Now, to answer the question at the beginning, those two spheres in front of me, not so different from two makeshift balls carved from a chunk of styrofoam, are "Moon"- special lamps modeled after our planet's only natural satellite. To me, at that point, just another waste of human capital and creativity.
Pointing to the one of my left, Richard explained."This is the old model. I bought it before it was even on the market. Contacted the lead designer, and had it shipped to my house in two days. Paid $1000 for the bastard."
"What's so special about it?" I asked, squinting at the banal piece of styrofoam.
"It's a moon-shaped lamp."
(It's a lamp. And also a moon. It's a moon lamp.)
The nonchalance with which he answer my question nearly made me laugh. At that point I really wished he had given me a drink. Or really, just an empty cup that I could bring to my lips and stop them from curving upwards. With great restrain, I managed to just blink.
"It's not that absurd when you really think about it." Richard said, pressing the button on the holder.
Surely the light emitting from the lamp was easy on the eyes, and for a moment it really felt like the moon was in the room. I could tell the patterns on the surface of the lamp were industriously crafted to resemble those on the moon's. Credit when credit is due.
"It's much cheaper now, but I am not bitter about that $1000 price tag in the least. I was among the first to possess it after all."
Or course. The feeling of being among the first was truly something worth paying money for. This I agreed with Richard. And so did thousands of people who lined up in front of Apple stores whenever a new iPhone was on the shelf.
"But why a moon-shaped lamp is special?" I asked, still squinting at the object.
"Didn't you just answer your own questions?"
I opened my mouth, then quickly shut it.
"Why is a blue dress different from a red one? The colors are different, but in the end they really are just dresses, serving the same purposes. Why bother making dresses of different colors?"
I had no intention of answering. Partly because I thought it was a rhetoric question, and partly because I guessed Richard had a better answer.
"With that mindset lots of industries would go up in flames. Fashion, for one. No more Gucci, Versace, Chanel, this and that. But people want different things. That's it. No further explanation needed. People want different things, and there's nothing wrong with that. I want a moon-shaped lamp, so I got one. Why not?"
Richard pressed another button. And the light turned honey-color.
"I find it funny that people who spends days thinking about what models of car are the best for them ridicule me for spending one minute deciding I would like to buy a moon-shaped lamp."
I spent one minute deciding to buy a Mini Cooper so I just assumed Richard's jab was not aimed at me.
For a minute or two, we just sat in silence observing the mini moon glowing in front of us. Then, without any word, Richard reached for the one on my right, still dark, still a piece of styrofoam.
"Aren't you excited about the future? I'm not talking about any invention or discovery in particular, but the general idea of "future". How endless are the possibilities?"
"Certainly both of us would not live to see the terraforming of Mars, but it's completely possible to live a few decades ahead of other people. Or at lease feel like living it."
With another pressing of button, Richard turned the second lamp on. He carefully placed the sphere a few inches above the holder, then let go of it. In front of me, an object is levitating. As if to dispel any doubt I might have, Richard slid his hand into the space between the lamp and the holder and moved it around. I was surprised he did not have "Defying Gravity" played in the background.
(It's time to tryyyy...Defying gravity)
With a clap of his hand, the light in the room was off. The mini moons became the only sources of light, and one of them was rotating mesmerizingly. The holders were not visible, and I was under the impression that Richard had shrunk the actual moon and displayed it in the room just for fun. Curiosity got the better of me, and I gave the lamp a spin. Any faster and it could kick itself out of the Earth's orbit. Richard chuckled before holding it still, bringing it to a halt.
"It's not the first hovering toy on the market, but certainly the best. For me that is. But I bought others too. I have an Earth model in my office. Few other planets in my bedroom. And a plant coming tomorrow."
(I suppose this is the type of plant Richard was referring to)
Bring his hands together, Richard let light return to the room. As the mess in the room became visible again, I felt much less displeased by them
"It's all about atmospheric decoration, you know?"
I really didn't, but still I nodded.
"People do it all the time, they just don't realize it. They buy pine trees for Christmas and throw ornaments on them. Hang socks around the house, and leave presents by their fireplace. My style is just a future-theme party all year round."
When Richard put it that way, it makes sense. People wait till big holidays to decorate their house in a particular style. He does not wait. Decoration is something he can do anytime.
"It's like living in the future," Richard said, spinning the lamp slowly."Small things, but they count. You have to admit it's kind of cool to have a levitating moon as a lamp. It messes with people's head a bit too. As I said, the future is messy."
As far as I know, Richard is certainly not the first, nor the last person in the Future Club. Futurism dates back to the early 20th century and has only grown more prevalent ever since. Fascination with what to come is in each of us, and it manifests in various forms. The fashion industry, for one, has been experimenting with digital ink and heat-adjusting materials. My encounters with people like Richard makes me understand better the saying "the future is here". You cannot help but feel like you are travelling a few years or even decades ahead when you witness people relentlessly search for designs beyond our time. A levitating lamp with the shape of the moon is one such example: it gives off the atmosphere of an era far ahead, the suspension of the tangible in emptiness ( like a space shuttle floating in the universe). It is a small thing that counts. It is special and different. Richard was dedicated to the quest of furnishing his house, so the little details matter. He is a collector, as are many of us: those who try to stay at the forefront of fashion trends, those who hunt for every single cover of their favorite books, those who search for the most obscure album of our favorite singer. His obsession with the future, at first so bizarre and alienating, now seems pretty standard and understandable to me.
As I think back to the conversation I had with Richard, I begin to understand why he turned his living room into a hoarding place. The same reason why teenagers have hundreds of pictures of their idols in their phones, why an avid reader ( or any of us, actually) fantasize about their own library with thousands of books. He really loves the future, that's all. And in love, little things matter, so something as seemingly insignificant and trivial as a moon-shaped lamp takes up a special place in his treasure trove.
Like Richard, at one point most of us have already taken part in the wave of futurism, to varying extent. The first Kindle users were readers of the future. The first Tesla buyers were drivers of the future. And the first social media users were, well, typical citizens of the future. In the year of 2018, people are seeing the rise of artificial intelligence. The robots are actually taking our job. Siri and Alexa can actually be sarcastic. And smart houses are slowly finding their way into the mass market (Richard has fewer reasons to be smug now, but then again I'm sure he will just find something else to be smug about). A levitating moon lamp, which sounds ridiculous and unnecessary at first, is actually a small and obvious part of a future household, a standard decorative piece.
I mean, when you think about it, phones can talk to TVs now, clothes can change colors, people are connecting to the whole world via a device the size of their palm, doctors can print human's heart. Are we supposed to agree that a moon-shaped lamp ( a levitating one at that) is the craziest thing ever? Well, if indeed it is crazy, put me in that camp then.
P.S: If you want to try the gravity-defying lamp out for yourself, feel free to research more into it at https://larosashop.com/products/lunar. And you can also get the original version, the one Richard spent $1000 on,at one-fourth that price: https://larosashop.com/products/moon..