“Human, We Have a Problem”

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, Apollo 13, most of us know the most famous line from the film, and the situation on which it was based; a NASA mission intended to continue lunar exploration. The ship’s commanding officer, Jim Lovell, (played by beloved actor, Tom Hanks) was reporting to Mission Control about potentially disastrous malfunctions of the spacecraft and (slightly misquoted in the movie) said, “Houston- we have a problem.” A dramatic series of events ensued, culminating in the safe return of the ship and its crew to the Earth. They got home! A perfect Hollywood ending… roll credits.

Friday morning, as I was considering the state of my personal life, the world, and my place in it (all before having even a single sip of coffee, mind you) I heard myself think, “Humanity, we have a problem,” and started composing this post. I decided to change the title to “Human, we have a problem” because it is a more direct play on the original quote but I mean to communicate to the whole of humanity.

We are, collectively, experiencing a critical mass of disastrous malfunctions of our “spacecraft,” Planet Earth, that is- at the same time- similar to and entirely different from those experienced by Lovell and his crew on that fated lunar landing mission in April of 1970. We are, metaphorically, in a “dark side of the moon” moment as we are forced to seriously weigh the consequences of decades of environmental and social degradation and injustice. The global COVID-19 pandemic, real-time catastrophic impacts of industrial processes and global climate disruptions, and massive sociopolitical unrest are cascading and compounding existential threats to our individual and interpersonal well-being. We are, as a species, being overwhelmed with fear and stress. We are breaking down. Our only home is breaking down. Hope is fading.

Can we right this ship, break through, and get our happy ending?

Clearly, the myriad complex and intersectional issues we face as human beings in this time are not as easily resolved as a movie plot. I think there is value in thinking about our lives, circumstances, and the way forward as a narrative, however. This is our story to write. We choose what to do next. What if we choose hope and possibility rather than believing we are doomed? The crew and support team of Apollo 13 chose to create solutions rather than getting stuck in despair. They were, like us, hurtling through space, with limited resources, but rather than focusing on lack and being victims of circumstance, they focused on what truly mattered to them, chose ingenuity & imagination, and adjusted their expectations in order to survive and rejoin their human family on this beautiful, blue planet.

What we face is overwhelming when we perceive ourselves as small, alone, and insignificant. Each of us has immense power that is obscured by all of the false stories we learn as children. We are told we are not enough. We are told we are not worthy of love and belonging. We are told to follow arbitrary rules we had no part in making. We are told what to want. We are told not to feel. We are told there is one right way. We are told to obey. Fit in. Shrink. Forget.

Unlearning all of the lies we have been taught is painful and disruptive and we feel ill-equipped to consider new ways of being within our selves, with others, and in the world.

We have become “addicted” to our hidden shame and isolation- in as much as we know on some deep level it is killing us but we continue to cling to it because it is familiar and we think we need it. As with any addiction, admitting we have a problem is the most important step. The next step is admitting we need support from others to break the attachment to that which is killing us. In connecting with those who have been there too, broken through, and found new paths toward truly being and belonging in the world as healed, whole, thriving, and creative members of our human family, we are able to envision- then enact- new lives based on Truth.

The good news is that there is a significant and growing global movement of people who are writing and living new stories for humanity. This movement is difficult to see when we only recognize small parts of the larger whole. Wherever and however individuals and groups are committing themselves to challenging the status quo and demonstrating alternatives to our political, social, economic, and cultural norms- that is the movement. As the challenges we face accelerate and aggregate, so too our collective shift toward justice, renewal, and regeneration accelerates and grows. Observe. Listen. Feel. Know. Be. Connect.

Human, we have a problem. We are also the solution.

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