I love history – Not simply the general sweep of humanity’s past, but I enjoy the small, distinctive tidbits of the past life of this earth, and how it’s recorded and memorialized. Today is a very significant day. No, not just because this is Bastille Day, which celebrated the storming of the French prison, and the start of the 10-year French revolution, which tore the country apart, and only ended with the rise of Napoleon. I’m not even talking about 1850, when the first public demonstration of making ice by refrigeration too place. Certainly, an important date in history.
Nor am I referring to that day in 1940, when the Brooklyn Dodgers faced the Chicago White Sox, and the star player PeeWee Reese of the Dodgers lost track of the ball being pitched to him among the mass of white shirts in the center field stands, and was beaned behind his ear, and ended up unconscious and had to be taken to the hospital for 10 days with a concussion. As a result, Spalding sportwear company designed a batting hat that covered the exposed ear and saved many more batters from injury.
I’m not even talking about the acquisition in 1987, when Greyhound purchased Trailways bus line for $80 million. I once rode a Greyhound from Dallas to Grand Forks, North Dakota – it only took 34 hours. But that’s another story for another day.
No – as I looked at today in history, the one that caught my eye included elements of both space exploration and colossal mistakes. It was July 14, 1967, in the midst of the Space Race. U.S. Manned space missions were thrown into chaos in January with the fire on the launchpad with consumed what became Apollo One and led to the deaths of three astronauts. The next manned launch would not be until November 1967. However, the year saw an incredible number of unmanned craft. By July of ’67, 167 satellites had been launched that year from a huge number of countries. The biggest event, however, was the launching of Surveyor 4. I’m sure you remember that. Surveyor 4 was scheduled to fly to the moon, and make a soft landing, and analyze the surface, all in preparation for a manned flight, which would happen in two years and one week.
It was described as a perfect launch, and a perfect mission – up until 2 ½ minutes before landing on the surface, when space control lost contact with the lander. It was a perfect mission, they said, until the spacecraft blew up. Interesting that four months later, Surveyor 6 landed successfully in the same area on the moon.
You know, I’ve had some “missions” like Surveyor 4: perfectly planned ideas, perfectly launched beginnings, and perfectly engineered and worked out, all the way until things blew up. I won’t recount those experiences in detail, but let it be known there indeed were some spectacular fails! I mean, you almost have to stand in awe of how well things blew up, or fell apart, or just plain spun out of control. If it weren’t for the fact that it was a failure, it really was something significant to see.
Not to generalize things too much, but I would suppose you could name your great failures as well; and I write that word in the plural, because part of what makes us human, and such adorable creatures is our ability to really foul things up now and then, or to end up just short of where we need to be for an experience to go into the success column. We know how to blow it big time as humans…
However, I choose to believe that we are only partly defined by our failures. After all, a failure is only a matter of opinion. I still love the response of Thomas Edison when, asked why in creating the lightbulb, he had so many failures and no results. Edison said that he had thousands of results! Thousands of ways he now knew the lightbulb would not work. He’s of course known for the success, but it had to come after the failures.
If we are able to see our lives, not as snapshots of our failures or our successes, but as a video that shows the progression of knowledge and discovery, of things that didn’t and then did work, I believe we will find ourselves living more fully in lives of grace and freedom. Placing ourselves under the judgment of “not cutting it” only brings us to a brittle and strident life, where there is no room to be in awe of the way something didn’t turn out. Instead, if we make room for failures which become the pathway to a future success, then we have the room to grow, and in truth, live larger, more adventuresome and more intentional lives.
Go ahead and make a mistake on your way to success today – it’s a grand stepping-stone, even if all you end up with for a time is something blowing up. That’s not the end of the story.
Word for the day: chronoception. The word, broken up, means “awareness of time.” Beyond the five senses normally attributed to humans, it is believed we have over 20 different senses, one of which is the ability to feel or sense the passing of time. It’s not sure whether it is neurological or physiological, but humans, and most mammals have an innate, although not necessarily precise sense of what time it is. I do know that every night at between 8:45 and 9:00pm, our Siamese cat, Thor, comes downstairs, and talks to Cheri, telling her it’s time to go upstairs and read before bed. Every night. And he doesn’t have a wristwatch.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.