Determining your place on the world stage
Published 11:25 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Recently, I’ve been watching a show on Apple TV called For All Mankind. It dramatizes an alternative history of the Space Race, one where a Cosmonaut from the Soviet Union was the first to step onto the surface of the moon. This sets off a chain reaction that dramatically changes the course of scientific innovation, both American and Soviet, resulting in advances in space exploration that haven’t yet come to pass in the real world, our world. Think large, sprawling lunar colonies and an eventual mission to Mars. And all of this happening in the 1980’s! I’ve said this before, but I love alternate histories because they allow us to imagine possibilities beyond the sometimes coldness of our present age.
It’s also fascinating watching this show as Russia’s war of terror in Ukraine continues to go largely unchecked by the other major military powers in the world. We are, day by day, bearing witness to what might be the end of Ukraine as the world knows it. We collectively hope not, yet we must admit that we are ultimately powerless to end the conflict ourselves, which may lead us to feel powerless in every respect.
But I’m not convinced we are as powerless as we feel. Have you heard about folks all over the world using the rental platform Airbnb to funnel money to Ukrainians in desperate need of resources? People are simply going online, making reservations to stay in Ukraine, but not actually going anywhere. They’re using ingenuity to get money directly into the hands of those who need it the most. Don’t forget the two Harvard students who used their web-design skills to create a platform that allows Ukrainian refugees to be paired with host families in other parts of Europe. Two individuals ignited a powder keg of generosity, and all from behind the warm glow of a computer screen. Some other citizens of the world have even dropped everything to join the Ukrainian resistance. While that is a possibility for only a select few, the fact remains that there is far more that we can do to help Ukrainians then what we might believe at first glance.
So, now is the time for all of us to imagine not a dark, depressing dead end to discerning our role in this crisis, this collective moment that impacts not only Ukraine, but the whole world. Now is the time for us to imagine that the typical division markers, like those of language and religion, cannot and will not prevent us from taking the time to think about, or to perhaps even pray for, the wisdom and courage to respond as the world needs, as the Ukrainian people need. Only you can determine your place on the world’s stage in this epoch-defining moment in human history. But you can’t determine your place if you are first unable to believe that you indeed have a place on that stage. If the creativity of Harvard students and Airbnb patrons shows us anything, it’s that resistance to the horrors of war doesn’t always have to involve bombs and bullets.
Perhaps one day something like the imagined history of For All Mankind will give way to a new reality where we are indeed able to move beyond ideological warfare. Until then, we take glimpses of hope where we can get them, even if they are first found on a television show.
And if there is no hope to be found anywhere, then perhaps the only thing to do is to make our own hope. We are stronger and wiser than we give ourselves credit for. And we are not as helpless as we have come to believe.
Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.