Our existence is closely connected with our spirit of exploration. Ever since we were born, or ever since we developed an awareness of our individuality in the universe, exploration has perhaps been an integral part of that which defines us. The inquisitiveness of infants is essential to their learning and education and identity. The discovery of cause and effect, colors, shapes, patterns, textures and the like, become the toddler’s playground.
As we grow a bit older and traverse through grade school, middle school, high school and college education, our desire for exploration of the world around us often expands. The more we know, the more we often want to know, for we discover that we know but little. It is this innate internal programming which is connected to our survival as a species, that inspires us to send probes, robots, and humans to explore space, our own moon, moons on other planets, and the planets themselves.
Fifty years ago, in what was then a ‘race to the moon’, we saw human beings and human teams undertake an exploration journey that still inspires many. The landing of Apollo 11 on the lunar surface was an event that crossed national and continental boundaries in its impact. Humanity at large, believed a bit more in themselves, in their ability to dream big and achieve those big dreams. The event brought us closer to the stars. More importantly, when the lunar explorers looked back at earth from far off distances, their photographs of earth brought us greater awareness of our own planet.
It is human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice, really; it’s an imperative – Michael Collins, Apollo 11 Astronaut
And that is the serendipity of exploration. The lunar missions were primarily focused on going further than humans had ever gone before. They were, in a sense, outwardly directed, away from earth. However, the farther outward they traveled, the greater awareness, appreciation, and reverence they developed for ‘home’. Many an astronaut has often remarked about the sense of Oneness that they feel with Earth when in orbit. This cognitive shift in awareness is called the overview effect. Exploration is perhaps akin to having a spiritual realization, a kind of enlightenment, about the connectedness of it all. It ought to be no surprise that those who have traveled beyond, are often the greatest proponents of exploration.
As we celebrate Apollo 11 fifty years on, it is reasonable to ask – why did we stop? Why haven’t we returned, or even gone beyond? Did we lose our desire, our will to keep exploring? Perhaps it is no different than when we reach a certain ‘milestone’ in our inner exploration. We start thinking that we have ‘arrived’, and that we don’t have much more to discover. Distractions and complacency sets in, hubris grips us, and ‘fifty’ years may go by before we realize that we took just one small step… an important step, but it is time to awaken and take the next giant leap.
P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering on twitter – Sunday, July 21 at 9amET in #spiritchat. We will share stories about exploration, discovery, the explorer’s spirit, and much more. Namaste – Kumud.
“We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth.” – Bill Anders, Apollo 8 Astronaut (‘Earthrise’ photo by Bill Anders)