Kneiling… August 28, 2012

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I don’t know much about him.

I mean, I know his name–Neil Armstrong. I know that he walked on the moon. I’ve picked up bits and pieces about his history by listening to spurts of conversation over the past couple of days on the news blabber.

But honestly, I have chosen to remain ignorant about his specifics, and only consider his life as it pertains to me. Yes, I have granted myself a bit of indulgence. I don’t want to study the life of Neil Armstrong to discover patterns of behavior, reveal his denominational affiliation or find out if he’s conservative or if he’s liberal. I am fed up with that type of analysis. I am interested in what Neil Armstrong did and how it pertains to me.

He arrived on the scene in 1969 with his crew cut and space suit, climbed into a capsule which certainly promoted claustrophobia, and was exploded into outer space, to land on the moon.

It fascinates me that in that same time, the United States was fighting a war in Viet Nam while simultaneously opposing the same war, with young folks marching in the street. We were reeling, trying to recover from two recent assassinations in the previous year of Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. We had just elected a new President and were on the verge of fulfilling a promise by another President, who was also assassinated, who vowed to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Also in the midst of this pursuit of the moon, a bunch of hippies from New York were planning a rock concert, which ended up being one of the largest music festivals ever held. They called it Woodstock.

All of this was going on at the same time. (If we’d had a twenty-four hour news cycle, they actually would have had something to report on instead of trying to make hay out of all the straw polls.)

There was a sense that to do anything less than pursue radical excellence was to be  un-American. Even in my small town, our church started a coffee-house, which had grown to 125 kids showing up on Saturday night, in a town of only 1400. When some of the parents objected to the fact that the coffee-house was held in a church and they didn’t want their children pummeled with religion, our board just went down the street and rented a small house where the young folks could have their gathering. Nobody argued about it; nobody called it religious persecution. We just adapted.

In the midst of this confusion and activity, Neil Armstrong, from Wapakoneta, Ohio, took a trip to the moon. He walked around, said his famous line–“one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”–and returned, received a couple of medals, waved from a car in some parades and went back to being Neil. He didn’t host a new reality show. He didn’t start a business off of the fame of being the “Moon Walker.”  He didn’t appear incessantly on television news programs as an authority on every subject thought to be even partially peripheral to his expertise. He didn’t demand anything.

He walked on the moon and then he came back and lived on the earth.

It is a style I would like to study–a better way of “kneeling.” Some people take their posture of prayer and rise to condemn the world around them. But Mr. Armstrong did his “Neiling” and returned to be just one of us.

Here are three things I have learned about “Neiling:”

1. Do something well until somebody notices. Then you might get a chance to do it even better.

2. When you get that chance, do your best walking, your best work and leave behind an example of magnificence.

3. Don’t make a big deal about it, but instead, blend in with your fellow-human beings, thus confirming that the same potential exists in all of us.

It is ironic that the death of this great astronaut is simultaneously commemorated with the termination of manned flights into outer space. They say he was very upset about that. I would imagine so. Someone who prospered and excelled in a season of war, protest, rock and roll and dancing on the moon might find our times and attitudes a bit anemic.

This I know–an eighty-two-year-old man passed away who quietly lived his life with one major exception: for a brief season, to each and every one of us, he confirmed that there was a man in the moon.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. What a wonderful way to be remembered!

    Like


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