I find it pretty easy, in year 2 of the current presidential administration, to fall into moments of not only deep concern but near-despair. Never did I imagine how much damage could be done to so many parts of our country’s structure in such a short time. Never did I conceive of how much disrespect and aggression might be visited on individuals who seek dignity and respect in our country.
I could, of course, go on at length. One of the reasons why I like to come to church is because it’s a place where I can gather with people who share some of these concerns, with people of true conscience and imagination and bold ideas. And it’s those bold ideas that have been lifting me up recently – and maybe this is true for you as well.
Take Elon Musk. A few years ago I had never heard of the guy, although I did know something about the car he created – the Tesla – and his company, SpaceX. The 46-year-old South African is worth more than $20.4 billion – which is great for him – but what’s great for all of us is his dedication to making space exploration accessible for more people. I grew up watching space launches. I can remember my mother making Mercury Rocket-shaped pancakes, and sitting in the cafeteria at school watching the Apollo launches. I watched the first moon walk on a grainy black and white television while on Star Island…there’s a crazy confluence of timelessness that’s really out of this world!
Elon Musk just sent his red Tesla into space, with a ‘starman’ dummy inside, playing a loop of David Bowie’s “Ground Control to Major Tom…” WOW. And then, two of the three rockets that launched the Tesla into space came back to earth and landed – in perfect synchrony – on the pads they were targeted for, just like it was all planned. OMG.
Musk’s 10 rules for success (of which there are actually 11) begin with “Act despite fear,” and include “Expect to fail” and “Inspire greatness.” I can get in touch with those ideas for they leave open the possibility of brilliance and the reality that we are human and fragile.
And then, there’s the Olympic games. Years ago, in ancient Greece, the games were a source of inspiration and motivation for different tribes who came together. Now, we get to observe them in South Korea as members of so many countries – including those that previously have not communicated with one another – compete in arenas and on ski slopes and eat and rest together in the Olympic Village.
The Games, the Spacex launch – these are Big Ideas. These are audacious occurrences. Which reminded me of a hymn that I love (“The Morning Hangs a Signal”) that has the verse, “The soul has lifted moments, above the drift of days, when life’s great meaning breaketh in sunrise on our ways. Behold the radiant token of faith above all fear, night shall release its splendor that morning shall appear.” (#40, STLT; Words – William Channing Gannet, Music – William Lloyd). That hymn, with a tune written about 200 years ago and words penned before the beginning of the 20th century, evoke the same notions: that if we aspire toward greatness, great things may happen.
There’s plenty to be worrying about these days – that’s for sure. But there are these bits of inspiration that keep popping up…and if we hold on to those signals, the ones that rise above all the noise and worry of these days – maybe we can find our own Starman to focus on, leading us into another galaxy of crazy, brilliant, inspiring ideas. May it be so.
Deborah Weiner, Interim Director of Religious Education