Escape Velocity

August 23, 2012

Saturn V rocket

When I was young, I remember being awestruck at the massive power of the Saturn V rocket as it lifted astronauts into space toward the moon. It took so much effort to get that rocket off the ground. But then I would see animations of what would happen once the stages had been cast off and just the top of the rocket, the Command and Service Modules, were in space. The maneuvering looked effortless.

Specifically, it took over 7.5 million pounds of thrust to get to the first 220,000 feet. Once in space, the Service Module needed about 100 pounds of thrust to change position.

Apollo 8 Acceleration graph

Every day we live our lives in the gravitational pull of our belief systems. And every one of them starts from the inside out – trailing back generations often without our knowledge. My parents made lifelong decisions based on how they were raised – and I did the same. Modes of behavior were formed based on what I believed about myself and the world around me. As invisible as gravity, these definitions regarding who I was and what I could become created a pull that seemed as inevitable as the earth turning on its axis. If I were born into another family… or in a far off culture… my center of gravity would have been completely different but just as strong.

We need to create meaning out of everything we encounter. It tells us who we are – and what we need to do to navigate in our environment. There is quite a bit of evidence that says that everything happens about a half a second earlier than we perceive it. And in that half a second, our body and mind create the reality that makes sense for us based on everything we know. We are constantly telling ourselves a story. And as our story becomes stronger through time and experience, its pull can become nearly impossible to escape from.

Everything we experience becomes a story we’re deciding to believe.

That doesn’t mean that outside forces don’t count. The economy that we have collectively bought into has created crushing poverty for billions. But that poverty comes from a system that promotes massive inequality – and defines poverty on its terms. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This is why escape velocity requires so much effort. While it’s possible for some to wake up and dramatically shift their circumstance by changing their story… for many, it will take all 7.5 million pounds of thrust – which translates to a collective shift in priorities…. one person at a time.

What I’m talking about is a (r)evolution – remembering that we actually share a common space – both on this earth and in our hearts. Once we escape the pull of old stories and long held beliefs that no longer serve our common humanity, it will take very little effort to correct our course. Just like the Service Module in space, a small adjustment is all it will take to stay on course once love and compassion are guiding the ship.

We’re trapped in the false gravitational pull of a political structure… an economic system… definitions of power and control… that on the surface seem impossible to change.

But it is possible. We got to the moon in a decade. Why can’t we get to our hearts in a minute?