Today I went to space, well sort of. I went to the IMAX at Glasgow Science Centre and immersed myself in the awe inspiring ‘A Beautiful Planet’. Filmed by the crew of the International Space Station it gives a first hand account of what life is like in space. Now while I really should’ve been impressed by the science of it all, I have to confess what really took my breath away were the views of Earth. I have always appreciated the beauty of our planet (I may be into triple figures with photos of sunsets….), but there is something quite special when you see it viewed from space.
Major Tim Peake then came on to talk about his experience of living on the ISS for 6 months. I had followed this particular mission avidly so it was lovely to see and hear him talk in person. Earlier this year I’d had the opportunity to hear Commander Chris Hadfield’s experience as well. What struck me was that while they both spoke with enthusiasm and passion, it was also with a pragmatism I found really refreshing.
There was a question asked of Tim Peake about how to become an astronaut. His reply was to emphasise that while aiming to be an astronaut don’t loose sight of doing something that you really love in the meantime. The implication being that while it could be a foundation to future space travel, becoming an astronaut should not the sole aim. In Chris Hadfield’s book he talks about the limited number of people who are chosen to train as an astronaut. Even then you’re not guaranteed to go to space after years of training.
There was no hint of regret about it though. Obviously they both got to go to space so I guess that worked out for them. That said I genuinely got the sense that even if they didn’t go to space they knew they would’ve still contributed to something important. Something that matters. Something bigger than themselves.
So as I re-calibrated my brain and headed back to Planet Earth I thought about this. At work we are to be ‘person centred’ and think about ‘what matters to me’. Our children are being taught at school to be ‘successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.’ This is all good stuff but I have some concerns. Increasingly the talk is about the person alone. We don’t talk about the person in the wider context. How does that person fit into the family or what do they contribute to the community?
I worry that by being so person centred we will loose the ability to see beyond ourselves. There will be no shared sense of meaning.
Just as my brain was becoming weighed down by the gravity of these thoughts I was reminded that ‘we’re all just motes of dust here for a twinkle of time…’
I work with many people whose main aim in life is to make others better. They do this because they love what they do. Promotions and projects will come and go. Most will disappear into the ether of time however what will remain will be the people. So make it matter!
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”