Healers, Soldiers and Faith

It feels almost like a betrayal to talk about something peaceful — almost like I don’t deserve such indulgences. And neither do you. After all, we have important work to be done, making certain we remain free to both collectively and individually find our way into a future blessed with openness, creativity and energy that is not simply hopeful, but actually inspiring.

I’ve been hearing a lot from people about faith recently. Not just faith in God. Faith in Science. Faith in humanity. Faith that what is right and good will somehow just happen. I hear these things, but not, perhaps, how you would expect. With God, it becomes the righteous and just desserts – and inevitability. With humanity, it becomes the failures, the greed, and our mindful paths toward causing our own destruction. With the trust in whatever happens, it becomes like ostriches burrowing themselves into isolated bunkers in grim futility, desperate to remain positive. And with Science, it’s pure invisibility and impotence, except for what trivialities might find their way into our hands through commercial enterprises, or land upon us with devastation.

So very much on the outside has been broken, laying in fragments in all directions, while we try pretending otherwise. In this midst, is it really any wonder that we might speak of faith? Faith in the many things outside of us, that are supposed to lend us meaning? But those structures of words, of institutions, of beliefs and ideals which we rely upon to define ourselves, have become transparent. We speak of faith, because we have no faith, yet we know within our very bones that something critical within our lives and hearts is missing.

That’s why I wanted to tell you about something today. It’s about two men. They are asleep right now. I wish I knew their dreams. But their waking actions, I do know. They are builders. One devoted their life to the science of healing. The other devoted themselves to the arts of war. Earlier today they were working together at a common cause. I watched them and listened for hours on end as they methodically plugged along upon their tasks. It was obvious, and surprising, that there was much love between them. You can see such things in the little details, the way tools are passed between them, the way they look out for one another, and the unthinking comments made between them while passing the time.

However, these two men were not upon our world. They were way up high, and past the sky, falling through space together. They could easily die. They no longer know what is up, or what is down. They can see the entirety of everything we know and hold dear, condensed and contained within an impossibly beautiful, living and moving sphere. One was a healer. The other, the arts of war. Yet earlier today, you could truly feel the love. And the sense of awe. Of other-ness.

After this, how could I even mention a Hollywood movie about “extraordinary rendition”? How can I mention the clandestine kidnapping and torture of our own people? In seeing that thin, beautiful and delicate layer of white and blue, is it necessary even to say that polluting our little biosphere is stupid, and ought not be done? Could I ever make sense of why someone might want to rule this little planet, and what it might really mean to them, anyway, if they could? After such a view of where we live, after such a vast perspective, all these things seem so petty, pointless and wasteful. Standing here on the ground in our stupidity, or rather, our lack of vision.

Most people think these two men are weightless. But they’re not. They’re just falling. And falling. Falling. And they’re falling, in an immense circle that brings sunrise, and sunset fifteen times each day. They attached the large outboard section with just four little bolts. There are eight other people inside right now. They receive their energy from sunlight. They sleep in mid-air. They can see the stars and the moon with a clarity we cannot imagine.

Most of us forget what we have done. We have built a cabin in the sky that flies around our world. We send people to it so that we might learn. We have taken baby steps, only to be pulled back, mired and trapped by our crazed and abusive parents. The costs to the US for the ISS since its inception 1993 until its retirement will be around $100 billion. Bush is now wanting to spend over $200 billion to carry on this “war” for a few more months. And he wants another war, too. I think it would be good for everyone to hear what astronauts have to say about our world.

I suppose in my naivety, it is difficult to understand why, if we must continue giving the military/industrial complex so much money, that we cannot instead focus their efforts upon the vaster spaces outside our world that benefit us all with transformative nature discovery, with the wonder and hope it brings, rather than the tiny and mean-spirited ways they choose to focus upon within our world. Why should we remain here, chewing upon our own arms and legs until they’re bloody, or fall off? Would these men, supposedly with honor, and capable of so much, be content when all the world is molded to their vision? Perhaps they do, after all, lack imagination. Perhaps they do fear any challenge with a hint of possible failure, or one that does not provide some form of direct power over other creatures. I suppose that is the nature of bullies and thugs.

So, as our leaders sell us down the river, our governments imprison us for smaller and smaller reasons while turning us over to corporations for, practically, slave labor, and the business people take all they possibly can from others for themselves, and the rest of us are left wondering about faith… what are we left with, other than burying our heads and waiting for something, somehow, to just happen?

Well, for one little thing, you have me. And I’ll do anything I possibly can for you. I mean that. And amazingly, I know that almost all of you would do the same for me. But I’m not so sure that you would, for each other. It sounds strange to say, and I’m not sure why. But you would do all that you could for each other, if you knew each other, the way that I know you. You wouldn’t be able to help it. Even if you knew better, and had all kinds of reasons. Maybe we do that kind of thing for some form of beauty that needs to survive, or maybe love is just too clever in its subtleties to be reasonable. Or maybe it’s because really, we’re all kindof falling, in great big arcs, across all the world and its crazy inhabitants. Maybe it’s because something actually does matter.

And if that is faith, it’s an easy one, and gentle. But it’s nothing I could sell. It’s nothing to instill. Mostly because, it’s already there. And it always will be. And it’s worth everything. We forget a lot of things. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we even forget who we are. But what really matters, never seems to change. We know what it is, without even saying. It is us.

So, you know, there were these two men way up past the sky earlier today. One of them is Scott Parazynski. He’s the healer. The other one is Doug Wheelock. He’s the war guy. Both of them are around 45 years old. During his first time outside, you could hear how frightened Doug was. Scott had been there before, though. He helped reassure Doug. The terms of beauty and amazement were used a lot. I have a feeling they will be friends for a very long time.

On this day, too, that “Homegrown Terrorism” act I wrote about a couple months ago, where the government can act upon even what you’re thinking, has passed overwhelmingly in the House. And the hydrogen technologies that have provided power for the space shuttle for decades, still cannot be used by us, for clean energy on Earth.

There are insane people controlling the collective destiny of us all. They are the people who crave power. They will say or do anything to gain it, and keep it, directly or indirectly. They are lost. And they will harm us in their struggles to gain their own meaning and desires. They are stubborn, obtuse and ruthless upon the paths they choose. The sphere of the world extends merely inches from their body. You, and I, grant them this by our lack of faith in each other. Our faith, grounded in hopeless inevitability and impotence, is not faith.

Later in the evening, I watched as the astronauts all put on their red shirts and gathered together, floating all at different angles, for a press conference back with Earth. Doug, the West Point graduate, was asked a question by a serviceman in the Army. “What’s it like for an Army soldier who’s so rooted on the ground to be up there in space?” Doug’s answer almost made me cry. It’s about helping each other, and counting on each other. And it’s the highest possible ground, the ground which every soldier should stand upon.

Scott was staring at him as he answered, and I’ll never forget the big, silly grin on his face as Doug spoke those words. Something very deeply rooted in him welled up at that moment. Something that only those two fully understand. Both of them, up in that small shell whirling around the world, with the entirety of all that is gaping underneath them, and surrounding us all.

And I thought, let’s look here, instead.

Scott Parazynski Doug Wheelock