Story Musgrave Interview Part 2 With Gabrielle Reilly
Gabrielle Reilly: I am asking you unusual questions that people wouldn't normally think to ask an astronaut because I know that you are so much more than that.
Story Musgrave: Yes you have to be careful when you put people in a box. I am an astronaut but today I am a professor of design, today I am an artist, I always was an artist. The fact that you're an artist doesn't mean you can't do space things. So you have to be careful about these labels and boxes. It only means that you did that. I was a surgeon also. It turns out that I use the same operating system to acquire all skills. People say how do you do so many things. I don't, I only do one thing. I only do one thing. I look at the details. When I am in someone else's playing field, I look at all the details of whatever discipline it is; surgery, space, art, and whatever else and I look at the details and I scope out what I am going to have to do for someone else on the playing field. I look at the details and I do them. So for me the cosmos is all one. You know I learnt from Olympic Champion ice skater Dorothy Hamill how to do space walks. She has got her own passion, her own talent, her own experience; she knows what she wants to do. She plays with it, she comes up with a script, and she comes up with a score. She was going to do the Olympics so she repetitively practiced that until she got it down.
They told me what was broke on the Hubble Telescope with the spare parts and I developed the dance. But you see, it's that relationship between if I know how figure skaters do it then I know how I'm going to do it on a space work. It's that kind of synthetic thinking that I picked up from somewhere. The whole darn world is one place and one thing and I just apply the same the approach to everything I do so it makes it all easy.
Gabrielle Reilly: Hmmm, that is very profound. You're quoted as saying "Getting out of the comfortable path, which is what exploration is all about." I would also go further and say that living a full life is when comfort is not paramount and exposing yourself to being uncomfortable is healthy. The thing I tell my kids is the thing to fear most in life is being too comfortable, it breeds complacency. It diminishes your human potential and life satisfaction. What are your thoughts on human comfort level and how we live our lives today? With air conditioners/heaters, comfortable couches, TV's games, etc, people don't want to go outdoors and resent any form of adversity. Our drive and resilience seems a long way from that of people from the frontier era. You can clearly see the rise and fall of populations throughout history fall prey to this human dynamic.
Story Musgrave: Yes. I have a restlessness that keeps me in constant motion. "Restlessness" might have a negative connotation but in my case it is not. So it is constant motion. It is constant curiosity, its exploration, it's looking for what to jump into next with both feet. It's looking for a place to surrender myself to. That's also a strange concept which you may have run into in my book. So you can't know a place until you have given yourself over to it. If you come to conquer it you will never know it. Because conquering another culture means you've brought your culture to it and you're forcing your culture on the other culture. So you really haven't been metabolized and swallowed up by the new place. But that's very important for going into space as well. If you think you are going into space to conquer it, and we use those words "we're going to conquer space, we are going to conquer the mountain" Then you will never get to know it and you're not going to conquer space if you go into space with that attitude you're going to get very sick, very fast.
He talks about two codes. He talks about the human code and he talks about the cosmic code. The human code is all kinds of information and experiences you have which are constructed and created by the human being. So when you look at the monitor, you look at the tube, you read a book, you read a magazine, any type of multi-media, any form of social networking, all of those kinds of things, texting and so on; all of those things are designed, created and given to you by humans, so that is the human code.
But as Barry points out there is the cosmic code and the only real truth is codes from the cosmos. The cosmos means Mother Earth of course which is the most powerful and most immediate influence, but it comes from the totality of nature and it is out there and that is where the real truths lie. So related the idea of comfort, the comfort you're probably immersed in is the human code, so you are learning from other humans. You're listening to the code of information delivered to lessons coming from them as opposed to lessons which come from the nature and comes from the bigger picture.