Spaced Out

I don’t dare show Missy the latest Internet sensation. Not yet, anyway.

Not if I want to preserve the speakers on my computer.

By now, I think most of you know Missy, the developmentally disabled young lady who’s become both our ward and our dear friend. When it comes to music, she’s never seen a volume knob she didn’t like, blasting out rock anthems and Christmas carols alike as though they were the closing act of Spinal Tap. Cool video? Even better – and possibly even louder.

So once Missy makes the acquaintance of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and his unique, zero-gravity take on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” … well, all bets are off.

If you’ve not run across Hadfield yet, you have my dearest wish that your Internet connection gets repaired soon. Recently returned from five months in orbit, the International Space Station commander capped off his tour – a tour already marked by frequent, and often witty, comments to the folks back home –  by recording an outer-space music video, with the aid of a three-person production team and a handy Larrivee guitar.

“This is a marvelous, marvelous experience,” Hadfield said when he first assumed command. “The only thing that gets me mad is I have to sleep.”

How do you beat something like that?

Now, I’m a long-time space lover. So are many of my friends. There’s a lot of solid, sober reasons ranging from economics to psychology to the value of the numerous spin-off devices. But in making the case, it’s easy to overlook one of the most basic reasons of all.

It’s fun.

Almost sounds childish to say it, doesn’t it? In a way, it is. After all, that’s what gets a lot of kids hooked on space to begin with – not the dollars and cents, or the need for a new frontier, but the fact that space is so cool. A world where you float into your clothes, where Earth turns into a marble, where your music video comes with its own special effects; really, what’s not to like?

That kind of joy is important.

It’s OK to do fun things. In an often grim and cynical world, it may even be important to do them, for our own survival. We’re a playful species by nature, and something about that play – the art we create, the songs we write, the things we build purely for the pleasure of building – gives us the spark to not just keep going, but to make the going worthwhile.

In a recent column, I mentioned the importance of doing what you love. This is part of that. If you have to put it into pragmatic terms, the fun now can open the door to the passion later. A teacher once commented that “I open their mouths with laughter, and while they remain open, I feed them a point.”

That’s not to say that the road to any skill or career is going to be bedecked with Muppets, rainbows and space guitars. Anything worth doing requires work, sometimes very tedious work. But it starts with the joy. And if it doesn’t turn into a career – well, you’ve still found something that makes your mouth smile and your heart glad.

What’s wrong with that?

“Decide in your heart what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction,” Hadfield once said to a student online. “Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow and the day after that.”

And if that direction happens to include a space guitar – well, I suppose you just have to live with that.

I just hope my speakers can.