My year of the Astronauts…

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Last night I met Chris Hadfield…In a very “The Secret” circumstance, I decided, sitting in my living room in Hanoi last spring…watching him re-enter Earth’s atmosphere…that he was on my bucket list. I wanted to meet Chris Hadfield. How was that going to happen? Well, leave it to The Universe…Fast forward to June, 2014…I was in Truro; Chris Hadfield was in Truro (Jeez Universe, I had to drive 10 minutes…Couldn’t you have delivered him to my door somehow??)

But wait!…in case I got distracted… an opportunity to meet another NASA astronaut, Dr. Mary Ellen Weber, came my way in May of this year.

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Bottom line? Astronauts are REALLY cool! Smart…driven… kind (Does that come from seeing where we all share a tiny speck of space?) Dr. Weber spoke to over a hundred young girls at a Techsploration event at the NSCC Truro Campus this spring. She explained to them that they have to be vigilant about finding opportunity…When she was a ‘girl’ there were no female astronauts.  A handwritten ad for sky-diving lesson on a college student billboard caught her eye when she was 19?…She discovered flight…Eventually, she completed two missions to the International Space Station and logged 450 hour off of this planet. As she explained it…When you are looking down on the earth, nations and borders mean nothing, you realize “I’m an Earthling…That’s home.”

She also had a message that resonated with this 50 something…Dr. Weber is… by my calculations… in her early 50s…She was talking to some young girls and said “Yeah, I was thinking that too…I might like to go back to University and be a veterinarian” …I think this NASA Astronaut/Chemical Engineer  is seriously thinking about going back to University to be a vet. Why? Because she realizes she has exactly one more lifetime ahead of her (20-30 years) and (Yay!) she plans to use it.

…And when Chris Hadfield was nine years old and watched Neil Armstrong step onto the moon, there were no Canadian astronauts…but that didn’t stop him. What an amazing man! A Canadian who has been the Commander of the International Space Station…A Canadian who put the space program back on the map (A weird comment…but, that was a program that was off the map literally and figuratively) He put a human face on that whole program we grew up with that threw people and dogs and monkeys off this planet…He was/is a worthy addition to anyone’s bucket list…and as I walked away last night he asked about the rest of my bucket list…I told him…he said “There’s still time.” …Yep, there’s still exactly one more lifetime.

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My Fat Buddha

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My Fat Buddha sits beside my television. He was a gift from a friend leaving Hanoi. Now, I have to say, this little fellow has always bothered me…I never understood why Buddha was represented as a jolly fat man?

Siddhartha Gautama, the prince born approximately 560BC who eventually  became the Buddha was, according to legend, exceptionally good-looking.  He was married and had a son before he left it all behind at the age of twenty-nine to search for enlightenment.

As the Buddha, Siddhartha  specifically stated that he should not be idolized.  He was just a man and he spent his life teaching people that anyone could do what he did. He readily admitted that he had temptations and weaknesses; admitted it was difficult for him achieve enlightenment, and that he could fail at any time. He didn’t set out to establish a new religion, and he didn’t see himself as a God.

Because of his specific instructions not to idolize him, for the first 500 years or so after his death there were no representations (pictures, statues) of the Buddha at all…

But as the number of his followers grew, so did his legend and people did come to pray to him and to venerate him.   And, if they were going to worship and pray they needed an image of their idol. So it was that hundreds of years after his death the first representation of the Buddha appeared.  One of the main tenants of Buddhism is that each man should be his own light and make his own way and that tendency towards subjective truth influenced the various depictions of the Buddha.

In search of enlightenment, Siddhartha tried lots of stuff…As an ascetic monk, he practiced extreme self-denial. So, yeah, I understand the skinny Buddha.. .

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One day (many years into his search) while Siddhartha sat under a Bodhi (fig) tree, enlightenment came to him. There are many statues of the enlightened Buddha…

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There are even statues of Buddha as a female (in case that’s what speaks to you?)…

female buddhaBut what’s with this FAT Buddha?? …Well, here’s an explanation provided by a friend…

Buddha was a man. He didn’t want to be worshiped, but he did want people to follow his example and attain the enlightenment he attained.  Since Buddha’s wish was that people emulate him, someone started to look at which images of the Buddha worked for this goal…Could you see yourself as a starved monk? Probably not… As an enlightened soul? …Most of us aren’t there yet… What about as a Buddha content with what he has?   …enough food, happiness , children …

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This is where the Fat Buddha comes from….mystery solved.  This Buddha is a reminder that we have all the sustenance and joy we need. So now my Fat Buddha sits by my television reminding me to be happy and satisfied…I like him a whole lot more these days.