Star Trek, Cathedrals and Us

“To boldly go where no man has gone before” is a phrase many of us know from the opening of Star Trek.

The phrase actually originated in a 1958 White House booklet written to galvanize support for the space program in the wake of the Sputnik flight and captures one of the driving creative urges we human beings possess. We seek, quest, explore, and discover from the moment we are born. What we choose to pursue, how expansive our search, with whom we collaborate, how persistent we are to a great extent determines the vitality of our lives and what we contribute in the years we are given.

Lately, I have been thinking how the economic metrics that dominate the media and our politics are not actually what energize our greatest accomplishments. They may be easiest to discuss and to logically defend and of course do need to be taken into account but if they are ultimately determinative we lose the best of the human adventure.? Isn’t what can’t be captured on a spreadsheet ? our emotions, values, imaginings and dreams ? the real reasons for our greatest accomplishments?? ROI, cost-benefit and risk-reward analysis are important measures but would we have the pyramids, cathedrals, great art, classic literature, inspiring music, space exploration, cures for rare diseases and the list goes on ? if it wasn’t for our awe and wonder at the unknown and our curiosity to know, our passion to leave something worthy to future generations, and our desire to feel we did something enduring with our time here. Aren’t these the intuitive and emotional reasons we do the really important things in our lives?

So what are our cathedrals? What are we doing personally as individuals and collectively as a society that may not make sense relative to our bank accounts or GDP but may well have purpose across years and decades?? What are we building knowing not only that we may fail but also that we may not live to see the return on our investment? What are we doing that may not make economic sense and that we may not even live to see but are the speculative enterprises which just might lift up human hearts everywhere?

The inspiration for this post came from this incredible video showing how NASA successfully landed the robot Spirit on Mars surface January 4. 2004. It’s worth a watch!

Send this to a friend