How fragile we are

Joan F. Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California - February, 2003

The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, was yet another confrontation with the abruptness that humankind has to digest at times. An event that would otherwise have only interested a select group of people suddenly became the quintessence of one more demonstration of human's fragility.

Here were seven society members, who excelled in their lives, devoted themselves to science, and became role models to various groups. Yes, various groups, because one of the beauties of this team was its diversity. There were two women on board, of whom one was an immigrant from a country best known for its poverty and conservatism. There was an African American in the crew; personifying the fact that dreams can come true for all ethnic groups once you break through the pattern of victimized thinking. There was a Jew among these seven, representing perseverance, strength, and leadership, being the son of a holocaust survivor, as well as the first astronaut of his national descent.

An interesting blend of humanity, brought together by science. And fate. And we will probably never know how aware they were of the fact that something was about to go terribly wrong, just before it did. Or whether they were aware at all. The best we can console ourselves with is that it hopefully happened too sudden for them to even realize it.

These are the moments in time that force us to face a reality that we should actually carry in our hearts and minds all the time: No matter how much or little we know, and no matter what our social standing, our ethnic, educational, or cultural background is, we all have at least these two things in common: being born and dying. What greater confirmation of the interconnectedness of all living creatures could there be? Don't all plants, animals, and human beings share this very destiny? And isn't this realization, then, an ultimately humbling one?

So, can it be that occurrences like September 11, 2002, and the recent perishing of the Columbia crew, are deliberately brought upon us to make us realize our unity? Perhaps. But unfortunately, we don't. For tomorrow we will continue life with the same standards as yesterday: we will keep on ridiculing ourselves by being mr. or mrs. So-and-so, hiding behind our titles and positions, because we are too scared to take our real, vulnerable selves out of the closet; and we will persist in creating distances with the ones that we meet on our journey from birth to death.

One wonders if a race that brands itself as intelligent shouldn’t understand by now that harmony and peace are all that eventually matter, and that everything else is futile. Our long studies, our prestigious positions, our impressive mansions and vehicles, are just the tools we provide ourselves with to earn respect from our fellow humans. However, respect should be determined by the mere fact that we are different, yet similar in so many ways. Respect is what we feel now for the Columbia astronauts and the gracefulness with which they departed from us. Respect is what we should feel toward each other as well, in the grocery store, at work, in traffic, and in the club. It's the foundation for peace and harmony. And those are the only things that matter...