After a week of transit, nervous and excited first contact, dinners, speeches, tours, drinks and mild goofiness (rinse, repeat in Florida), today marked our entry point into the chewy stuff – the beginning of the SSP core lectures.
Some brought laptops. Some brought fresh notebooks and shiny pens. We all cracked them open and waited, expectant, wanting. How would our lives be changed by what was to emerge? More amazingly, how could these lectures possibly fulfill the needs of engineers, lawyers, geologists and artists (ok, artist – just me) all at the same time? How could we, the representatives of 31 countries, find common ground? How could we, the class of SSP 2012, not only break the language barrier, but work together to build a spaceship of dreams from the shards?
It’s a tall order for any teacher.
Luckily for us, Jim Dator, first up to bat, was no shrinking violet. He wove a tapestry of space history that highlighted the space dreams of artists, the cool brilliance of rocket engineers, the hot and cold wars of humanity, and the pragmatism of bristle-tongued politicians. For the first time I saw the rich threads come together in a vastly complex, sometimes disturbing, but completely elegant design that included us all. When he said “dreams and stories proceed and produce reality” and nobody disagreed, I let out a breath that I didn’t realize I had been holding. Without imagination, there can be no new reality. Beautiful validation. Math skills? Not my strong suit. Imagination? Check. I’ve got it in spades.
The best part? Looking around, I saw myself surrounded by a room full of whip-smart engineers with the ability to turn those dreams into reality. I can create dreams and they can turn them into reality. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. These engineers are my new best friends. And sprinkled throughout the rocket scientists? Why, those just happen to be the silver-tongued future policy makers and business leaders who I just know will spin the heads and crack open the wallets of the biggest space naysayers to date.
In the afternoon, as we bravely stood up one-by-one to debate the human presence in space, I saw each of us again in all our motley spirit. We were at turns brash, nervous, witty, confident, shy, passionate, clever, determined, bizarre, succinct, and even a little irrational. Our eyes were shining and cheeks flushed. We stumbled over our words but soldiered on, determined to be the best of ourselves. Seeing us like that, I fell in love with humanity all over again.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.