My grandfather’s birthday is today, April 11. If he were still alive, he would be 102 this year, an auspicious number in space flight.* I’m remembering him today, as I share a bit of the inspirations that have lofted and lifted over the past few days.
It’s been an incredible flight of ideas. This past week, I attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference, held at the Computer History Museum, and stayed at the Ameswell hotel. There are so many connections between science and creativity in these physical spaces. The worlds of math, poetry, and meditation are connected. There are separate strands interwoven, and the underlying theme could easily have been We contain multitudes (Walt Whitman). Now is a time of great possibility, in seeing themes and worlds converge.
My grandfather, a hero of mine, worked on projects with ultrasonic bonding, developing spacesuits for NASA that were impenetrable to the outer atmospheres. I grew up entranced by his work. He would take me to the lab, show me some research and a project, and I was inspired by the process, the experimentation, and the ongoing conversation. The work was dynamic, iterative, and useful. Theories were explored and put into practice. This was beautiful to me.
Earlier in his career, my grandfather had been part of the Air Force, and worked as a meteorologist. I recently found a letter he had handwritten to me while I was at university. He had sent it along with books about weather patterns and aeronautics. “Dear Caitlin, I thought these books on meteorology (aerology in the Navy) might be useful in making a career decision,” the letter begins. My grandfather went on to talk about basketball, travels, and his own studies. He closed the letter with “Do good work as we know you will and we’ll talk later.” Reading it today, I’m honored and touched, thinking of him wanting to invite me to follow in his diverse and curiosity-driven career path. It fits, and though he passed away when I was just in my twenties and still developing into the person I would become (I’m still on that path!), I sense that he and I really saw each other and knew each other. It feels good to be seen, and to take time to listen and notice what can be hidden, quiet, and subtle. This can be what emergence looks like.
I’m a close observer, and I often choose to look to the skies, whether it’s to watch cloud formations or to stargaze. I’m a scientist and a poet. At Wisdom 2.0, I encountered amazing people there who are also both, and more. I found people who speak a common language that is open and curious. We want to be astonished by the world, and to seek out wonder and delight. It’s been motivating and encouraging to be surrounded by people I would call “realist idealists,” at this place and time in history that can feel like a time of cynicism, doubt and ideological separation. Heart-centered missions coupled with data-driven insights.
I could say more about this… my grandfather would have loved these discussions, and the talks happening on-stage. I plan to write a fuller, separate reflection about my Wisdom 2.0 experience. Stay tuned!
The Ameswell is a space that he also would have appreciated, for the aesthetics as well as the intention to mix work, experimentation, freedom and a sense of play. The reflective design is appealing to the full senses there, with a mix of natural wood, glass, colorful artwork, interactive objects and dynamic materials. You move through the hotel and have chances to notice details in all directions that have a sense of intrigue. You’re invited to look up, higher than eye gaze. To get curious, and to dream beyond limits. To relax, too, and let the sense of possibility and wonder override any feelings of anxiety. Each space is a metaphor for discovery, and for that scientific-meets-spiritual search for deeper meaning.
I appreciated the merging of philosophy and practical that was present in all parts of this Wisdom 2.0 journey over the past few days. In the coming hours, I’ll be augmenting this passage with more details, pictures, quotes and thoughts about my grandfather. April 11 is also the day he passed away. Endings can be beginnings, and there are portals everywhere, if we slow down and open up enough to perceive them.
*102 is a special number in space flight for many reasons. Here’s just one: “AS-102 was the first time a Saturn rocket carried a programmable guidance computer. Previous launches had used an onboard “black box” that was preprogrammed. On AS-102 it would be possible to reprogram the computer during flight so that any anomalous behavior could potentially be corrected.” (Wikipedia)