“We’re still pioneers, we’ve barely begun. Our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us,
cause our destiny lies above.”
Cooper to his father in the movie Interstellar
Imagine hitching a ride on the Rosetta spacecraft as it sped into the darkness of space in March of 2004 for a ten-year flight to rendezvous in 2014 with comet 67P/C-G. (http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov/).
First, you’re launched along a trajectory of visual splendor following the cloud veiled, blue-green face of Earth for a year-long orbit around the sun. From there, a gravity assist flings you into a close flyby of ruddy and hopeful Mars, laced with tantalizing signs of alien mysteries and microscopic ancient life. The miracles of astrophysics slingshot you to the asteroid belt, back to earth, and to the belt again. You have traveled to the furthest reaches of the solar system, nearly a billion kilometers from the sun, its warmth and light growing so dim that for a time Rosetta shuts down all but the most essential functions to conserve energy.
Finally, in November of 2014, you watch the first ever landing on a comet as Rosetta’s robot lander, the Philae, alights on the surface. Comets have both terrified and fascinated humankind for millennia, and now, humans have a presence on one of those comets and can closely monitor its fiery transformation as it approaches the sun. Pictures are taken, analysis of the comet’s composition and other data are transmitted and jubilantly welcomed by knowledge hungry scientists back on earth.
At the end of its mission, Rosetta will usher the comet to its closest pass of the sun, termed perihelion. Then, the lonely wanderer will have fulfilled it’s purpose: mission accomplished, mission terminated. And you need a ride back to earth.
Round-trip passage on Rosetta is not possible, but we have launched into a new year and quite literally another odyssey around the sun; through space and time we embark on Mission 2015
Ever since my teacher, Mrs. Hawkins, read A Wrinkle In Time to my fifth-grade class, I have dreamed of space travel, of vaulting the limits of the known in order to visit other worlds. Madeleine L’Engle’s book is wrapped in wonder, and filled with starlight, alien creatures, and mind-bending tesseract spacetime travel. Ideas like these still propel my hopes and fuel my imagination, sending me to the theater nearly every time a real science fiction film is released.
“Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.” (A Wrinkle in Time)
In the spirit of the movie Interstellar, I fire up the imagination of childhood to make plans for 2015. With such imaginings, plans become journeys and shirk the mundane. For this year’s journey I have decided to work at seeing things differently, adopting an active spirit of inquiry. I’m searching for a more evocative approach to the fresh slate of time and space awaiting me on this journey across 2015.
We are literally hurtling through space. Vast amounts of data bombard us every single moment, second, nanosecond. This sensory overload pulls at us like the gravity of a neutron star, inescapable, though we manage not to let it consume us. Every day there are limitless options, but always a limited amount of time. The closer we get to that neutron star, the singularity of too much information for the mind to handle, the faster our time leaks away like oxygen through a growing pin prick in a space suit. Thus the need for balance, a delicate orbit where the sensory data can be observed and understood without becoming our destruction.
At NASA everything is planned down to the fractions of each second in order to accomplish highly technical and highly refined projects. Mission control is all about engineering the perfect plan and foreseeing all the variables; with hope directing every second, every motion, every calculation.
The demands of my own personal “astronaut training” here on spaceship Earth have been daunting: physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s daunting for all of us. At times I’ve been tempted to cut loose and simply drift, foregoing any hint of NASA like planning of my life. But I can no more choose not to act with intention than I can choose not to breathe. Choosing to drift would still be a choice with consequences.
I shouldn’t and indeed cannot tighten up control of my life with NASA-style precision ; but there should be and will be planning. In 2015, I am taking inspiration from the beauty and brilliance of the cosmos, respecting the organic flow of my life in a fashion similarly to the astronaut’s and astrophysicist’s, the engineer’s and mission control specialist’s respect and reverence spaceflight and exploration.
My Mission Control for 2015:
Silence: I will give my mind and body more restful, rejuvenating, silence. Silent time away from noise, data, conversation. Even time silencing my thoughts. Think of the silence in the vast spaces between the stars.
Slow Down: I am going to slow down: move slower, think slower, find calm, use the pause and the breath. Think of motion in the absence of gravity: graceful, flowing, floating.
Move with intention: Too often instead of controlling my life, life controls me. Whatever is in my face gets my attention and action. I will take a lesson from the finely tuned precision of a NASA flight plan, paying more heed to intentions and priorities, doing what is most important now, for love of and commitments to myself and others. If I’m always swept up by that immediate impulse to take care of what’s in my face seizing my attention, all that’s being satisfied is that impulse, and not the plans and intentions built from a place of desire and caring.
Mindfulness: Certainly a ten year journey to the asteroid belt would give an astronaut plenty of time to meditate, contemplate the wonders of the universe, and gain greater self-awareness. My hope is that by tending to a few key practices, I can create a similar, albeit less isolated space for greater mindfulness in hopes to cultivate an atmosphere of contentment in mind, heart and body.
My mission Statement for 2015.
It may not give me the ability to tesseract my way to far off solar systems, but hopefully exploring my own soul creatively using the imagery spaceflight will foster travels in inner space as awe inspiring as the splendors of the universe.
“Well, the fifth dimension’s a tesseract. You add that to the other four dimensions and you can travel through space without having to go the long way around. In other words, to put it into Euclid, or old-fashioned plane geometry, a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.” A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle