Reflection 256: Being There

April 19, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

“Being there” means to me being in a place with all my senses alert so I am open to that place telling me about itself. As astronaut Edgar Mitchell reported being on Apollo 14 returning from the moon in 1971, looking out the spacecraft window as it spun every two minutes to even-out solar heating so the craft wouldn’t get too warm, for a time seeing on each rotation first the earth, then the moon, then the sun, then the earth again, and so on, each body in turn rising and setting, rising and setting, rising and setting.

Imagine being in a place where that sequence would be possible at that rate under those unusual conditions. Imagine the experience of witnessing that cycle over and over again. Of having the privilege to have such an experience, of being present to such a cosmic progression, with the stars ten times brighter than usual for a background, of being one of the few people in all of human history to be in such a position in the universe to see such a sight.

For Mitchell, it was a life-changing event. As reported in Ascent Magazine, and retold in the Christian Science Monitor (Jan. 23, 2012), in Mitchell’s words:

It was overwhelmingly magnificent…. I realized that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft had been manufactured in an ancient generation of stars. It wasn’t just intellectual knowledge—it was a subjective visceral experience accompanied by ecstasy—a transformational experience (Richard Schiffman, ‘Do we need spaceflight for the perspective?’).

That’s what “being there” means to me, being alive and fully present to a place at a singular opportunity. Looking back over my life, I see such events strung across my lifetime like pearls on a necklace, each shining with its own radiance. The latest such event happened last week when I made my rounds through the watershed of Taunton Bay in Hancock County, Maine, touring among sand pits, blueberry barrens, streams flowing through thick woods, ponds, wetlands, sparse human settlements where my ancestors grew old, now seeing outcrops of Sullivan granite, now Ellsworth schist, now glacial erratic boulders imported by ice sheets from the north.

I was looking to photograph details of the watershed to illustrate a PowerPoint I was putting together for presentation at a conference this coming Saturday. But I got more than mere digital images. I received confirmation that I was exactly where I belong in the universe, celebrating the land, water, and sky around me, the very landscape that makes my life possible, bearable, and at times such as that, wonderful. You’d have to have been there seeing what I saw to get a sense of what I experienced on the inside—a powerful sense of belonging where I was at each stage of my journey.

OutletofDonnellPond_96 MillBrook_96BlueberryBarren_96Card-Mill-Stream_96SandPit_EFranklin_96 

No, I was not in the exalted place astronaut Mitchell achieved in 1971. My experience was notably terrestrial—on the surface of the habitat where I live. But I have a sense that habitat spoke to me as powerfully as those heavenly bodies spoke to him. Out of all places in the universe, I was where I belonged at that moment in time. I knew exactly who I was and what I was doing. I couldn’t imagine engaging my surroundings anywhere else. I didn’t need to invent any other persona to meet the expectations I or society might cast upon me. The whole time, I was fully conscious and engaged as myself. For me, days don’t get any better than that.

No, I won’t go on to found any Institute of Noetic Sciences as Mitchell did in honor of his personal experience. But I will show my slides this Saturday, and that will be sufficient for me to make myself happen as I choose. To engage my subject as I choose. To be fully myself in the presence of others I trust will feel empowered to be fully themselves. How to get to that place, and actually be there—that is the topic of CONSCIOUSNESS: The BOOK.

I plan to write more on the topic of “being there” in future blogs. Until then, I remain, y’r friend, –Steve

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