Covid-19 Update #2: 20 March, 2020
The only way we will overcome the current Covid-19 crisis we are facing is to truly embrace the truth that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.
To illustrate what I mean below is an excerpt from the upcoming book Floating in Darkness:
“Laying here on my back with my knees in my chest, pushed down into a container custom molded to my body, U2’s song One begins to play in all three of our headsets. A few days ago each of us was asked to pick a couple of songs that the Russian launch personnel could pipe into the spacecraft to pass the time during periods of relative boredom. One was one of mine. I knew at a very deep level that my Russian crewmates and I were about to embark on a mission of unity for all of humanity and I felt One was the perfect soundtrack for what we were about to do.
As I think about the words straining forth from the melodic substrate, a certainty of beauty washes over me.
You got to do what you should
I can understand why the words are beautiful, they represent unity, a beautiful concept. But I can’t really understand why the underlying melody is also beautiful. I find myself trying to dissect what is physically happening. Each individual note is nothing more than a mathematical equation, a sine wave with a specific frequency that traveled on a radio carrier wave from the launch control center to our spacecraft to the small speakers in our headsets. The speakers converted the electrical frequency to vibrational energy that traveled the short distance to my eardrums. Although my brain cannot make out each of these individual notes, when all the notes are taken together, my brain perceives the vibration on my eardrum caused by these notes to be something beautiful.
With each other
Each of the notes lasts for only a short duration but all the notes, taken together, make up the song. Some of these notes, when taken by themselves, may, by themselves, not communicate to me beauty but none-the-less, the overall beauty of the song would not be possible without those specific notes. This being the second time I’ve strapped myself to tons of high explosives with the intention to light it, I find myself yet again pondering my own mortality. Each of us, like the individual notes of a song, only exists for a brief period of time. I wonder if I and all of us are like the individual notes of the song of the Universe. Our unique note lasts for the duration of our physical life but the contribution of that note to the overall song lasts forever. It dawns on me that only you can be the specific note represented by your potential. No one can play your note but you.
But we’re not the same
To think of our lives in this way makes it apparent that not only am I a distinct individual I am also the universe. Just as the orbital perspective represents two sides of the same coin, when we dolly-zoom out to the big picture perspective from space while keeping the worms-eye details on the ground in focus, so too when each of us dolly-zooms out to the scale of the entire universe, we do that without losing our individual individuality. When we choose to be kind to someone or help someone, or some creature it’s not that we’re necessarily being altruistic any more than we are being altruistic to our hand when we pull it back from a hot stove.
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
There’s a distinction here that is becoming very clear as the countdown timer marches closer and closer to the moment of truth. I think back to a thought I had on the middeck of Space Shuttle Discovery after our third and final spacewalk of the STS-124 mission. I noted that what was clear to me from the perspective of the spacewalk was we are not from the Earth, we are of the Earth. But to dig a little deeper, we are not in the Universe, we are of the Universe. In other words, we are not part of the Universe we are the Universe. I believe the Universe is infinite and as such, every point in that infinite Universe must also be infinite. I am two dolly-zoomed sides of the same coin. I am both a distinct finite individual and the infinite universe. It’s not that I’m a universe and you are a universe, it’s that we are the same Universe. We are one, all of us—every living thing.
Below is a version of “One” featuring Mary J. Blige. MJB and I went to the same high school in Yonkers NY (but not at the same time). I brought one of her CDs with me to space. I photographed the CD in the window of the cupola on the ISS. That photo is in the header of this blog post.
As you listen to this beautiful song remember, what happens to ONE of us happens to ALL of us – stay safe, Ron