“What’s the big deal?”

This week I sat on my couch watching TV. Nothing unusual about that, it’s one of my favourite places.

What was slightly unusual was that I watched live, in high definition, while four astronauts launched aboard the latest Space X Crew Dragon space vehicle, a commercial partnership between NASA and Space X.

I watched live, in high definition while the launch rocket returned safely to earth, landing on a drone ship in the north Atlantic Ocean after depositing its cargo in space.

I watched live as the Crew Dragon orbited the earth a couple hundred miles above the surface, and at thousands of miles per hour.

27 hours later I was back on the courch and watched live, in high definition while the ship approached the international space station, a football-field sized mechano set similarly orbiting the earth, docked and the four went aboard to greet three other astronauts already on the ISS.

As an aside, there are only 6 sleeping cabins on ISS, so one of the new arrivals has to sleep on the Crew Dragon which will remained docked at the ISS until next March. I guess it’s like a visitor sleeping in their caravan parked out on the driveway!

All this happened less than 60 years after the first manned space flight, 12 years after Space X flew its first rocket into orbit, five years after they first successfully landed a launch stage rocket, and six months after the first crewed Space X test flight.

By any measure, the pace of development since Yuri Gargarin did a lap of the earth in his Vostock spacecraft back in 1961 is astonishing. It’s a testament to human ingenuity, determination, technology, ability to learn and problem solve, ambition, creativity, collaboration, desire to explore and a thousand other things.

Honestly, as I sat there I was gobsmacked as I processed what I was watching. Sure none of what I saw was the first time you could live-stream a rocket launch or watch video from the ISS, but I guess there are moments when you realise the significance of what’s happening.

As I watched, enthralled, my 13 year old wandered past. I called her over, told her what I was watching, how amazing had been the technological growth and how astonishing it was to be able to sit on the couch in Brisbane, watching all this unfold in real time hundreds of miles overhead.

She said “What’s the big deal dad? It’s just some people going to space.” and went back to reading her book. She barely feigned interest for 10 seconds.

This is the same kid who will never know life without the internet, or mobile phones, or streaming video. Youtube started two years before she was born. She beat the iphone into existence by a handful of days.

It’s no insult to her of course, she only knows what she knows. She’s only lived the life she has. She has never known any different.

To me though, it was an extraordinary thing to watch. And I was left pondering the meaning of it all.

Just how much further will human ingenuity, ambition, creativity (and yes, greed) take us over the next 60 years? I’ll be approaching my 110th birthday by then, so I’m not sure I’ll see the answer, but can you imagine what we’ll be up to if the rate of change continues?

I put that experience alongside the global scientific community’s response to the COVID19 pandemic and the phenomenal rate of development of treatements, medications and vaccines for a disease essentially unknown 12 months ago.

When we collectively put our mind to something, there’s almost no limit to what can be achieved.

My last thought was to wonder what other things could be figured out if only we could genuinely turn our collective will and wisdom to it. World peace. Global food security. Clean energy. Heading off the looming environmental catastrophe. Calorie free chocolate that tastes amazing.

So many possibilities.

And in 60 years time, some 13 year old will say to their dad “What’s the big deal?”

ideas

A little while back I was in a workshop. It’s an occupational hazard.

On this particular day the facilitator invited us to peruse a collection of prayers from Australian writer Michael Leunig. Perhaps better known for his cartoons (and those are not without controversy), Leunig also writes a series of whimsical, fascinating prayers (or reflections…by another name) ideal for the purposes of the workshop I was in.

I wandered along the table, reading prayers, smiling to myself, enjoying Leunig’s way with words and interesting take on the world – but really just skimming the surface of each of them. And then this:

God help us with ideas, those thoughts which inform the way we live and the things we do. Let us not seize upon ideas, neither shall we hunt them down nor steal them away. Rather let us wait faithfully for them to approach, slowly and gently like creatures from the wild. And let them enter willingly into our hearts and come and go freely within the sanctuary of our contemplation, informing our souls as they arrive and being enlivened by the inspiration of our hearts as they leave.

These shall be our truest thoughts. Our willing and effective ideas. Let us treasure their humble originality. Let us follow them gently back into the world with faith that they shall lead us to lives of harmony and integrity.

Amen

Michael Leunig

There’s so much about this prayer that captured me, that I was honestly not quite sure where to start. As I sat with it, read it, prayed it, I gradually fixed on the line “Let us not seize upon ideas, neither shall we hunt them down nor steal them away. Rather let us wait faithfully for them to approach, slowly and gently like creatures from the wild…”

There’s so much going on in our world, and in our own individual lives, that it’s easy to feel rushed, overwhelmed, overloaded with stimulus. At least in my own life it’s mostly self-inflicted. I’m not prepared to confess the number (for the sheer shame of it), but each week when my phone tells me how many hours a day I’m averaging addicted to just that one device….well….it’s not pretty. Where could an idea approach slowly, and gently like a creature from the wild when I’m constantly cramming my own mind full of data, input, other people’s ideas?

Leunig isn’t necessarily writing about devices, or attention, or busyness and their impact on space for ideas to surface…but those are the things that come to mind for me from this prayer.

Make space. Sit quietly. Walk gently. Meander aimlessly. Allow room to breathe, and think, and simply be. And when that idea approaches like a creature from the wild, look at it with curiosity, with wonder. And see what happens next.

That’s what I’m thinking about today.

workshop description: the art gallery

I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with ministers and leaders of Uniting Churches in a Queensland city in recent months as they work together to try and figure out what the future looks like.

It’s been enjoyable to be a small part of what is a gentle process of sharing stories, getting to know one another, and slowly activating an imagination about a shared future.

Last night was the next step in the process, and a fun way of encouraging imagination, creativity and building something together.  We had about 35 present for an evening event we dubbed “The Art Gallery”. Read on for a description of what was a fun, creative and imaginative night of resourcing leadership. Continue reading

workshop description: create-a-cafe

Last week we ran the first of a series of “Hobart 2020 Cafe Forum” gatherings.  Designed to provide opportunity for people to explore the themes of the report “How then shall we live?” for the Uniting Church in Hobart, we tried to take a creative approach to this gathering.

The key themes of the report that formed the basis for this gathering are collaboration, creativity, innovation, imagination and community.

This post records the shape of the event, some of the thinking behind it, and a simple recording of what happened. If it’s an idea that has use for you, please feel free to run your own create-a-cafe gathering….either along similar lines to what happened in Hobart, or better still, shaped to fit your own context.

Hit the link to read all the details:

Continue reading