Over the past two weeks it was reported that Russian cosmonauts emerged from an isolation module the size of a bus, in which they spent a year and a half together sequestered from the rest of the world on a simulated return voyage from Mars. While the men noted their ability to cope well with imposed adversarial conditions, the researchers monitoring the exercise also noted the psychological stress associated with the mock mission, made more bearable through the demands of – like real space missions, a busy daily schedule.
Researchers noted that stress associated with a simulation mission is generally worse than that of a real mission, given the absence of euphoric moments of discovery and achievement. I have to wonder though… how much stress might have been associated from moments realizing that – 14 months in and everything you’re engaged in is essentially pointless? The sacrifice, the attention to detail, the genuine effort toward success… all to serve… well… nothing.
Of course the mission served in an abstract way, the study of certain conditional aspects of what ‘might’ be reality, but for real… every ounce of energy the men put into their daily affairs served only one very real purpose – to survive forced capsule incarceration and emerge alive in 520 days. I bet that felt pretty real when one guy decided he wanted the only window seat the whole time.
Simulations offer an extraordinary opportunity to test responses to anticipated conditions. But what happens when conditions occur outside the scope of anticipation?
Also in the past two weeks, a jet aircraft had to make an emergency landing when the co-pilot radioed to authorities that the pilot had “disappeared into the back” of the plane and the co-pilot was now recieivng directives from someone with a thick foreign accent attempting to access the cockpit. Can you image what that co-pilot must have been thinking? He had no idea of course that the pilot had simply gotten stuck in the bathroom and the person with the accent was merely trying to inform the co-pilot of the situation. Every scrap of simulated training told that co-pilot to be on his toes, and I bet he was seriously considering plan B, which might have included a quick trip to the bathroom himself. Although the plane made an emergency landing in LaGuardia, everything settled down before the fighter jets scrambled.
If you stop and think about it, we simulate a lot things, and not just for training purposes… we engage in facsimile environments relative to everything from social interactions to competitive sports on television-based gaming stations. TV, itself, provides a portal into what looks real, but can be easily manipulated by production means and PR people.
Good grief, even the stock market is simulated wealth and security. Traded speculation kept it hovering (even on a 1700 point loss) at 11,700 on the 17th, even at a time when so much of the country is without jobs, homes, hope for the future.
We simulate health and mood through pharmaceuticals. We simulate food through genetic modification and additives.
With so much emphasis on what we can design and pass off as real, I’m beginning to think maybe we have forgotten the value of reality altogether.
Given these circumstances, it’s not too surprising that our own federal Congress can no longer recognize even a vegetable. I don’t think some of them would recognize a carrot if it jumped out the ground and sliced itself into their salad. Just today they ruled that pizza is now a vegetable. I know there are a lot of folks out there suffering identity crises – men wanting to be women and vice versa… but I’ve never known a carrot who wanted to be a pizza or vise versa.
Congress can’t even recognize the limits of its own power, and now thinks it can simply proclaim something… as something it’s not… just because they say so. Congress says the bail out of banks and a failure to prosecute was fine, so we’re supposed to believe it’s fine. Congress says the stock market indicates the economy is fine, so we’re supposed to believe it’s fine. Congress says a pizza is really a carrot, and we’re supposed to believe that. Congress says corporations are people, and we’re supposed to believe that too.
That kind of thinking says a lot about how our fabrications are failing us at every turn. We are now so mired in what we think is real – from education to energy – we cannot recognize the value in things as they are, and work within that framework to preserve and develop the greatest potential within… and that goes for the potential of our systems and the potential of our selves.
All this imitation has cost us our identities – including our flaws and our latent means of overcoming them. It has allowed us to dwell in a place of dysfunctional and destructive denial. We lose our ability to discern reality as it is. And that costs us personal accountability and the chance to better ourselves and our world as it is serving us or failing us.
So what is real? Andy Rooney passed on over these past two weeks. That was real. He was beloved by so many, and encouraged writers to write the truth. That’s something to remember as real consequences mount against our ability to recognize and embrace them.
Real is the majestic 65 foot tree chopped out of the Sierra Nevada forest on November fifth to whither in front of the US Capitol in a ceremony marking a season of ‘good will’, and incidentally infusing a the Hill with a bumped up round of tourism.
Real is the Occupy Movement’s ‘Move Your Money Day’ in which an idea begun and shared on Facebook translated into 80 million in deposits relocated from big banks to credit unions.
Real is Dorli Rainey, an 84 year old woman drenched in mace by Seattle police on the 16thas she demonstrated what she believed was real… a real opportunity to physically occupy a space in her home town and display real discontentment over real and degrading conditions, really affecting her as granted by the real authority of the US constitution. Real is when just one person stands against mass delusion and challenges the artificial perceptions that define our boundaries, our subscriptions, our applications, our conscious regard and common sense.
As we continue to react to our own perceptions blurred by the inability to recognize what is real and what is imitation, what is natural and what is forced, what is acceptable and what is unconscionable… the challenge to grow beyond what is limiting us grows more complex and challenging.
Full immersion in reality; interaction with the physical; investigation of the holistic and unvarnished truth; our embrace of the flawed and uncomfortable; and, the rejection of synthetics in favor of authenticity – this is what will rescue us from ourselves and our imposed notions of an ideal reality.
Until we do, we are destined for a genuine collapse, and if we aren’t prepared to accept reality as it is today, the eventuality of a harsher tommorrow is sure to impose even an even greater and very real sense of shock.