10 Things I Would Like to Do in Outer Space
Postscript: Before I wrote this, I envisioned this list to be wacky, whimsical, irreverent and spot-on as a cultural analysis, or perhaps a children’s book. In the end, my earnest side came out, and I found myself “The Wizard of Oz-ing” toward the end. That’s okay. My 25-year-old self is congratulating me for finally owning my love of being earnest.
So, I’ve landed in outer space, and I’m floating around, and I’m thrilled that I haven’t passed out or died. This is how it is by now, so …
- I would like to just stop and breathe.
I can’t remember when I really breathed for the last time. I’m still alive, so obviously I’m breathing as sure as I’m writing this (i.e. as much as we can be sure of anything). But I can’t remember actually doing the breathing and that’s the important part, isn’t it? If we don’t remember something, it can’t possibly affect our lives in a way that really counts? Not that I want to judge. But I spend too much time doing, and running, and hurrying, and oh, worrying, and this doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for stopping. Or breathing. I can’t say my priorities are in order in light of the glaring truth that “breath is life”. I would like to know, now that it’s clear humans can feasibly breathe in out space, what it feels like to have a rush of air fill my body, and for my lungs and belly to fill so wide, and then to just let it all gooooo … I don’t know if it’s sad or ironic that I need to hurtle myself into outer space to find my breath, but this is still the thing the very first thing that pops into mind.
- I would like to listen to the silence.
I can’t remember what silence sounds like. It must be there, punctuating the noise like a profoundly simple period, just like my breath’s there as an unwavering fact. But if the tree falls and no-one’s in the forest … Anyway, I know from my film student days watching silent movies that silence is not at all quiet or empty; it sounds a whole lot like a loud, even potentially invasive sound. I want to stop hearing sounds like traffic and yelling and TV screeching and what they call “white noise”, all of which slowly and persistently ooze into the fabric of our being us without our conscious awareness. I want to know what it sounded like for the first flowers and trees and rocks and amoeba and tiny land creatures once they first found themselves on our planet. Which means I want to go all the way to outer space to have an experience of what Earth once was and frankly can still be if we do it right. I accept this. I want to arrive in outer space, and hear the same huge darkness all around me. I want the Sound of no Sounds. I want to take a bath in the quiet and enter the kind of loud silence that tells me my mind is in need of a sound detox so that I can hear my true self again.
I would like to not look down for awhile.
I know it seems my desires for outer space seem boring, or not unlike what I might look forward to in a sensory deprivation tank. In many ways, I think I’d be pretty happy in one of those, and fulfill my goals, which seem driven by the need for inner peace (en route to world peace, of course). Still, there’s something very enticing about the idea of leaping off Earth, which, of course is also in outer space, to another vantage point in outer space, which humans have collectively built so many fantasies upon. I don’t have the perfect perspective of Earth, it goes without saying, because I’m only one person in one place at any given moment on this ever-spinning ball of hot fire and cool waters. But I’ve been around a little bit and I’ve read and heard things and have a pretty good picture of Life on Earth. My Life on Earth is as big and as small as the next person’s. I don’t want to go all way into outer space just to look down on Earth and be nostalgic or rueful, or even to have my perspective change from seeing it all tiny and blue. I don’t actually want that frame of reference. Not yet. First, I want to give outer space a shot by giving it my full attention. I want to not look down, where I have too many habit patterns and expectations all balled up and leaving a spitfire of negativity in its wake (I’m afraid I’d be able to see it if I looked down), and move right ahead into this cosmic experience.
- I would like to look into all the delicious space around me.
Now that I’m fully ensconced in space and not looking down, I have plenty of time to look around. Earth be gone. (For now; I haven’t been gone long enough to miss it yet, and I have a high threshold, anyway, for being away from home.) Outer space is not going to be like the Earth that dwells within its realms. I’m not sure where I’m located in outer space, but I can be pretty certain that there will be no tall buildings, electrical wires, congested intersections and bulldozed forests to seize at my heart. I can’t say for sure what I’m going to find (outer space had me at silence alone), but I imagine that since Earth is smaller than one tiny speck of sand in Great Big Picture of All that Is, I’m going to run into a lot of space, and I want to experience for the first time in my life what spacious space feels like. I felt in once, in a great panic, as I lost my dad’s hand under a huge wave in the ocean and there was a great sense of the enormity of all things mixed in with the panic, and I’ve attempted to find this enormity over and over in meditation, with mixed results. But in outer space, I will find the dual blasts of Space and Silence – I can’t wait.
- I would like to talk to the stars up close.
I really would. Not just see them, but converse with them. I talk to trees at home and really enjoy it. I’ve also engaged in dialogue with the stars from home, the way I’ve talked to some of the greatest thinkers of all time as I’ve plowed their books on my worn futon. How many times have I laid down on the grass to stare up at the stars on a clear night, and wished I knew how far they were, really, from me, and how close or far they were to each other? How many times have I wanted to make these trips? This is my Everest. I want to climb upon the stars and leap off them and find another star-landing to mount. From Earth, we see shiny or less shiny seas of dots, and some of them form constellations, or pictures or patterns we’ve found and built sciences and myths upon. We name them like we own them, and we dream about them, and we have named celebrities after them, as a genus. Once I’m in outer space, though, I want to forget all that, and just get as close as I can, knowing that in Outer Space Time, they are no longer merely bright, but the source of the nighttime brightness we see on Earth. I would like to ask them what they life has been like, what they’ve seen and done. What they know.
- I would like to talk to the people I love.
I’m a Gemini. I like talking. It was inevitable that talking to people and things were going to come up on my list of Universe To-Do’s. Of course, I won’t have a phone or computer, and I’m more than a little bit relieved to know that, though I’ll confess that in my bid to not forget about the world, I’ve become one of the very last people I know not to have ever graduated from a regular cell phone to a smart one. In any case, when I say I would like to talk to my loved ones, I mean in my head, of course. Or rather, my heart. I’ll need both, truth be told. I can be a very distracted human when I’m at home. Plus, since conversation and communication come very naturally for me, sometimes I think I’m communicating excellently, only to realize that I talked far more than listened (I’m sorry, it was so unintended!), and didn’t take enough time to really feel the presence of my loved ones in front of me. Ideally, I don’t have to travel as far as the Moon and Stars to “hear them”, but at least now, in Outer Space, I’ll be able to sit my loved ones in front of me, in the eye of my psyche, and really see and consider them, and love them with all my heart, and just … listen. This is how talking will look, in Outer Space. It will look like listening.
- I would like to have intergalactic conversations.
I’m still on the talking. Maybe I’ll learn more about Geminis in Outer Space, closer to the source. As I said, communication is big for me, and I didn’t come all the way to Outer Space to not make new friends! Oh, the things I can learn! I don’t care where they come from, or what colour they are, or what language they speak, because I’m assuming it’s a given we will be reading minds, if not outright transcending them, in Outer Space. I want to meet them all! Everyone has a story, and there is just so much I don’t know, and so much I want to know. What better way than through the eyes (or whatever sensory organs or devices are going on here) of the creatures who live here! I’ll be happy to talk about Earth too, but first, I will listen. I’ve already learned something, in Outer Space. I will listen, and I will try to broaden my perspective on how things are by discovering how things are like for others. Then I might be able to come just a little bit closer to expanding my vision of how things can be for myself, and for all of us.
- I would like to go on a road trip to all the distant galaxies.
I love travel. As if traveling to outer space isn’t laborious and exotic enough, I’d like to take it further. I wanted to be happy as a clam grounded like a tree, but I’m not there yet. It goes without saying that I would love to universe-trot and find out, proverbially, of course, what TV shows they watch, what travel looks like for them, how their homes are conceived and styled, where they shop, and what is pretty, ugly, useful or functional for my new friends. Or, I’d just like to see what kind of cosmic soup any or all sentient beings are surrounded with on a daily basis, if they have anything resembling the notion of “day”, that is. I’m sure I can’t really grasp a galaxy or a few of them any more than I can fathom the layout of a shopping mall with any degree of “big picture”, but I would like to wade in and, one step at a time, mingle and explore my way through it all.
- Speaking of days, I would like to see if time stops in outer space
I mean, time can’t stop, because chronology doesn’t really exist. Besides, the way we experience time depends on so many factors, from who we are to where we are located. Thank you, Einstein’s relativity theory! We’ve all heard stories of how the lucky few go into outer space for a few hours or days in Earth time, and return looking exactly the same to an Earth 50 years in the future. I won’t be able to experience this as a stoppage of time as long as I’m up there of course, since I’ll be breathing (finally!) and doing things and it must feel a whole lot like how I do those things at home. But if I end up with the silky smooth, taut skin of a youth upon my return home, I’ll try not to be too boastful about it. Still, though, without calendars and clocks ticking, it feels like landing in outer space would generate a sound like a vacuum sucking all regular things out of my life, like Time, which I will capitalize upon, because we perceive it, like Truth, to be so monumental. What would a world without boundaries look like, without regretting past actions and panicking about the future? Can I boil and egg properly without a timer? Will I learn to be instinctive about how I act? I guess I’m not really talking about time, but what I would be doing with it and I can re-conceive it, and I just want to know what I’ll come up with.
- I would like to orbit the Earth.
I guess this moment was destined to come. Okay, I’m ready, and I don’t feel guilty. Guilt, I’m trying to tell myself, is a Home thing and not an Outer Space thing. I acknowledge that I love being in Outer Space and I also acknowledge that like Dorothy, the protagonist of my favourite movie of all time, I’m allowed to have being away remind me how much I have to be grateful for at home. I’m allowed! I’m not lonely yet, per se, but I have been out and about for a while, and I’m starting to really get how ginormous this sea of our existence is. Now it’s time to see what my home looks like from the sky. Fair? I want to do this slowly, without any sense of rush or purpose. I don’t want to have any expectations and I don’t want to project my newly-minted experiences onto my home planet. Maybe I would like to have special, magical goggles so I can filter for different things like oceans, trees and awesome cafes (truth: I do miss those), but overall, I just want to hover, linger and make my way around the globe, just close enough to feel like I actually live there and just far enough away to see little more than its beautiful array of colours. I’m not saying that I do or that I don’t want to stay in outer space forever. I can’t know that yet. But if and when I decide to orbit Earth, I want to wade back in, slowly, so that I’m careful to dive back to exactly where I was. I want to be in that perfect sweet spot where I know I can safely land back home, but keep my head and heart in the stars. And I want to continue to do this all in glorious silence, and the most mindful of connections far and wide.
Instinct tells me that today is the last day of this project, and in honour of this, I repost my favourite shot of the series.
It’s not the most technically perfect short. It’s funny and blurry and a bit distorted.
What I love about this photo is that it is brimming with life.
This street, even this country, is not always brimming with my life, the way I experience it, anyway. But perception is a strong ally and a worst enemy, depending on our perspective. When I’m feeling low, I see an old street with an aging population and abandoned buildings – an abandoned commitment to life, and renewal.
On better days, I look around and see so much life it bursts my heart.
Life is just … life. We choose how to see it, and what to see.
Let’s choose life!
Thank you so much for your interest and participation. xo
Most of us pass through typical milestones or rites of passage as we grow older, designed to propel us into a new stage of being.
These include going through puberty, getting our driver’s license, landing our first “real” job, getting married, having kids and so on.
All the world’s cultures have their own variations of rituals associated with the various (and varying) stages of life, from birth and coming-of-age to unions and ultimately death; we have much to learn and gain by studying how the peoples of the world celebrate growth, time, nature and transition.
If we’re lucky, and really attending to these moments, we can recognize all the subtle shifts at play—in our bodies, minds and psyches—as we morph from one phase of life to another.
On the other hand, we risk creating an imbalance between these big rites of passage and the rest of our “ordinary,” day-to-day lives, masking some truths about time and experience that can help us move beyond a life of delusion and toward peace and satisfaction.
Time doesn’t stop between Great Big Events, and life has an abundance of fascinating things on offer in these in-between spaces.
Maybe we’ve gone through those highs leading up to a wedding, or even New Year’s, imagining that some mysterious forces are going to transplant us right into the life we crave. The lows that come afterward remind us that the best thing we can do for ourselves is create a situation where we don’t attach to big dates, and thrive every day.
One of the core meanings behind rites of passage and even the change of seasons is to gently coax us into deepening our connection with the universe, and with ourselves as a harmonious part of it.
What better way to do this than to honour the very magic of existence by learning to celebrate the inevitable fact of change, and beauty of where we find ourselves each day?
“There is nothing you can see that is not a flower. There is nothing you can think that is not the moon.”
~ Matsuo Basho
We are in constant interplay with the world. We are changing, growing and evolving right alongside it. There is no keeping up, or reaching some fixed, pre-established goal. We are the life, we are Basho’s moon and flower, we are the goal.
In practical terms, we want to step out of our listless daydreams (though daydreams certainly have their place), and generate awe—an “aha” that serves to remind us why it is ridiculously amazing that we are here.
We don’t need to organize a huge event to do this, or spend a cent. All we need to do is find a way to flip a switch.
Sometimes this happens spontaneously, like when we find ourselves in nature and are suddenly overwhelmed by the serenity and beauty around us. Guards drop, thoughts slip away and only the present remains. Some consider these moments to be enlightenment.
We can’t always put ourselves directly in inspiration’s way, though, and these are the times when it’s helpful to have some tools up our sleeve.
One of my favourites is what I call: The Rose-Tinted Glasses Experiment.
I was inspired to do this when I was studying cinema years ago, awestruck by how the greatest filmmakers took full advantage of the knowledge that worlds, film and otherwise, aren’t passively received—they are made—and that directors have to actively create what they want audiences to experience. Films like The Wizard of Oz and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I wanted dozens of times each, utterly captivated me with their unique and highly expressive views of the world.
The Rose-Tinted Glasses Experiment is so easy it almost feels like a trick, but it’s amazing how a very simple intention can so thoroughly change the way you see things.
All you have to do is go outside and take a walk—you can also do this on a bike in your car, but it’s best if you can be as distraction-free as possible.
Now pick a colour.
With this colour in mind, just hang out and do your thing, and consciously put your proverbial rose-tinted glasses on, except the glasses are in your mind, and you can choose any colour you want (rose is not everyone’s cup of tea).
Now, with your chosen colour, tune into your environment and become aware of items of this colour around you, and awaken yourself to a world filled with this colour.
The first time I did this, I chose yellow. I figured there really weren’t that many yellow things around, and I was curious what would happen.
A new world opened up before me. A part of a billboard here, someone’s umbrella there, a shirt in a display window, another ad…the world was teeming with yellow!
Then I picked red, and the same thing happened.
Moments earlier, I was in a yellow world that had now turned red. The world, of course, didn’t change at all, but I was able to use my mind to create a world of my making, because the world is simply too large and grand for our limited brains or minds to take everything in. And so we filter. We normally do this subconsciously and in predictable ways, but with this exercise, we are taking hold of the reins.
This is empowering in itself—and helps overcome feelings of lack of control—but the important part of this exercise is that we can use it to jar ourselves out of boredom and complacency and learn to attend to things all around us that otherwise remain invisible.
We often don’t realize how stuck we’ve become in our conditioned way of seeing things, and this applies to the physical world around us as well as to our responses to things like discomfort and conflict. This “rose-tinted glasses” exercise is a great way to rewire and observe that there are endless perspectives available to us, some of which can be much more helpful and liberating than others, and all of which are a great celebration of change.
Who knows what is awaiting us once we have the heart and mind to see, and make every day an ordinary-magic rite of passage?
Bonus: See how they Think Pink in the classic film, Funny Face, here.
*Published under a different title in elephant journal, here.