Merry Christmas from the Oasis. By Owen Zupp.
In the interviews that I’ve seen with Astronaut Jim Lovell, he comes across as a humble, well-balanced individual in a field of human endeavour that undoubtedly entertained a fair share of egos. His fame spiked in more recent times when the 1995 movie, “Apollo 13”, chronicled the drama of the onboard explosion and the incredible teamwork and leadership to return the three astronauts safely to earth. In an historic understatement, Lovell advised Mission Control at Houston of their predicament with the words, “Okay, Houston we’ve had a problem here.” (Famously misquoted as “Houston, we have a problem”.)
Lesser known are Lovell’s words on looking back at the earth for the first time during an earlier mission, Apollo 8. As the blue earth rose above the horizon to a backdrop of the black void of space, Lovell reflected that, “The earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space”.
With Christmas upon us for another year, Lovell’s perception rings true in many ways. Whether it be COVID or some other phenomena that threatens us, we are all on the same small lifeboat in space. To quote a term of these pandemic times, we all exist in a “bubble”.
And in a season of “giving”, the language sadly seems to centre around, “Me”, “My”, “I” and “We”. Human nature is prone to using our own situation as the ruler by which we measure hardship. This Christmas, for some hardship is having to wear a mask, for others it is the intubation tube that ventilates their lungs. There are those whose Christmas dinner plans have been spoiled and others who are spending yet another shift on the frontline in a makeshift Intensive Care Unit watching first-hand, the death toll climb. There are nations locked down and mass graves on Hart Island, New York.
We are so fortunate in Australia that our major debates are whether borders should be closed, or not, and our outbreaks of late are small in numbers. People speak of economic pain and governments of accumulating debt. Yes, these are issues. Kirrily and I are both stood down from flying and will most likely be for 2021 as well. Equally, we are healthy and with our family. Material things can be downsized, and expectations can be modified but those who have lost family members can never bring them back.
So, my Christmas wish is that we all be thankful for what we have, rather than what we believe we should have. Consider others in our words and actions and use real suffering as the barometer of our situation, rather than the minimal impact of COVID on our privileged existence. There are those with an empty chair at the dinner table this Christmas.
Jim Lovell was correct when he saw our earth as an oasis – a small, beautiful, and isolated outpost in the vastness of space. In turn, we are a transient blink on the face of that oasis. Let’s make the most of our brief moment in time and use this festive season to serve as a reminder to be thankful for what we have.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.