The Final Frontier of Self-Exploration
Ask anyone who knows me fairly well, and they’ll probably tell you that Star Trek is one of my favourite television programs. As a child, I often thought about space and the universe as being, you guessed it, the final frontier. It wasn’t just William Shatner’s way of talking about the great unknown; my uncle had worked as an engineer on the lunar excursion module (LEM) from the Apollo missions; one of the most indelible memories of my youth was that of the Challenger disaster. This is, in large part, what led me to study space history with a focus on ‘frontier’ as a part of my dissertation.
On a more philosophical level, however, and as I ponder these ideas further, it occurs to me that space, whilst seemingly infinitely vast, is also fixed. We can know the science of it, after all. We have explored it. We continue to make strides and advances in that arena. The mind, however, remains as much a mystery to us today as it was a century ago. Sure, we understand how different medications and past events can lead to certain neurological changes, but your mind is more than just a collection of events, the ‘you’ of who ‘you’ are is more than just neurons. Thus, perhaps the greatest journey we can all take is one of self-exploration. Learning about ourselves, who we really are, can help us to love and accept ourselves. It can become the platform to which we can venture off into the final frontier of self-knowledge and growth.
All of this sounds a bit too philosophical. What is the actual benefit of self-evaluation and exploration?
As I mentioned above, you are so much more than just a collection of events. You are an agent, an actor. You do things. You affect things. Your mind, similarly, is not simply a device by which neurons fire and cause you to act in certain ways. Recently, Justin and I were meeting to discuss the idea of self-understanding and the concept of the ‘mind’. The thing about the mind that eludes us is we don’t often know quite what to make of it. We have a brain, after all, but our minds are more than that. In some ways, your mind and your heart are what makes up your being: your soul. The real you.
Think about that for a second. Isn’t that astounding? You are, after all, more than just a wife, a mother, a husband, a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, a father, or a student. You are a unique individual. You have experienced pain, love, joy, fear, and a whole host of other things throughout your life. Those things have helped to shape who you are and who you became and who you are to become. The benefits of self-evaluation and exploration then, are tremendous.
Think back to the analogy of ‘space’ as the final frontier. What is the benefit of space exploration? It’s a legitimate question. You’d be surprised at how many times in my ‘History of Space’ course, I get students who ask that question, echoing senators and politicians from the past century. One need only look at the way we live our lives to see the benefits. Scratch-resistant glasses (which for some, like half our team, are pretty important), mobile phones (and cameras in your phones), CAT scans, the modern sneaker, and the microwave are just some of the technological advances we’ve made coming out of the Space Age, but it isn’t just about technology. We’ve learned about how our DNA works, made strides in understanding how micro-biological organisms thrive (all too important in our post-Covid world), and even been able to understand our planet, its climate and weather, in a more profound way.
That’s a pretty impressive list of ways space-exploration has helped humanity.
Now turn that question back around…If we as a species can discover all of that simply by looking outward, what profound things can we learn and discover by looking inward? By examining our minds. By seeking to understand our motivations and are inner-most needs and desires? Maybe you struggle, or have struggled, with infidelity or anger. Perhaps you feel a general sense of non-belonging in various groups or can’t seem to make friends that care about you on a deep or profound level. You might struggle with addictions and other compulsive behaviours that you can’t seem to stop or limit. These struggles that you have are not what define you! And, what’s more, by learning about your ‘you’, by exploring the ways in which your interior life harmonizes with your brain and your relationships with others, you can heal.
Self-exploration and contemplation have a purpose then. They’re tools you can use to help you overcome the struggles and pains you have. To break through the barriers to helping you love yourself, love God, and love others. Just like space exploration has helped us to learn about the effects we have on our planet and has provided us with tools for living (such as the laptop or phone you might be reading this on), self-exploration can help you learn about our relationships with others and provide us with tools for living.
This sounds great, but incredibly difficult. How do I start?
Just like Neil Armstrong began his journy out of the LEM with one small step, self-exploration starts with one small step too. It’s all about starting! In the coming months, our leadership team will be unveiling their approach towards healing and growth, much of which correlates with this blog. If you struggle to figure out where or how to start, trust me when I tell you that you are not alone. Neil Armstrong didn’t just get in a rocket and fly to the moon and then hop out. He had a team of engineers, an army of mathematicians, and the backing of the world’s biggest and best superpower behind him. You aren’t alone either. That’s why we’re here. Reach out today!