Years ago, and for many years, my brother and I were partners in business. We always joked we stayed in business for years longer than we wanted to be in that particular line of work because we loved being together every single day. Work was merely our vehicle for relishing and growing our friendship as brother and sister.
I could write an entire book on the escapades we shared growing up, the jokes we coordinated and played on our favorite teacher (#sorrynotsorryMrsOsborne), the fact I was even in that class as a sophomore alongside my senior brother, the locker we shared at his insistence — and the love notes he would leave for me reminding me every day how important I was to him and how happy he was to be my brother — the open arms and heart way he completely took me in to his life, to his friends’ circle, to his love of soccer and the NFL, the late nights we spent discussing politics and SNL as a commentary in the late 1990s, and the way he picked up the phone and took my call all the way from North Carolina while he was in the middle of South Korea. My brother was my best friend.
We worked primarily with middle managers and taught them the soft skills of leadership, the things no one teaches yet expects you to know when you find yourself in a position of management. There’s also a pretty big distinction between management and leadership, but that’s a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down right now. I’m only talking about this because I wanted to give you some context for what it is I want to tell you.
So during these monthly training sessions, we would often play games to engage everyone together at their tables to work together, you know soft skills in action. And one of the games we used was an exercise in deductive reasoning. We showed a clip from the gripping movie, “Apollo 13,” starring Tom Hanks — you remember the scene in which they realize they need a square peg to fit into a round hole in order to make it back through Earth’s atmosphere without burning up like a brisket on the barbecue? It’s tense. And it’s all about cooperation and truly coming together to create the solution that saved those astronauts’ lives.
Anyway, we gave everyone a piece of paper that included a list of 15 supplies on the space ship. The assignment (designed and used by NASA) is this:
Scenario: You are a member of a space crew originally scheduled to rendezvous with a mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon. However, due to mechanical difficulties, your ship was forced to land at a spot some 200 miles from the rendezvous point. During reentry and landing, much of the equipment aboard was damaged and, since survival depends on reaching the mother ship, the most critical items available must be chosen for the 200-mile trip. Below are listed the 15 items left intact and undamaged after landing. Your task is to rank order them in terms of their importance for your crew in allowing them to reach the rendezvous point. Place the number 1 by the most important item, the number 2 by the second most important, and so on through number 15 for the least important.
I’ll go ahead and tell you — yes this is a spoiler — but your numbers 1, 2 and 3 must be #1: two 100 lb. tanks of oxygen (remember there’s no gravity on the moon, so these aren’t going to weigh much at all and will be easily carried), #2: 20 litres of water (apparently you lose a LOT of liquid on the light side, so you’ll need this to replace what you’ve lost), and #3: is a stellar map (because obviously the stars are your only navigational tools in that location).
Next time you’re given this test of your mental agility, you can impress everyone with your celestial knowledge. You’re welcome.
But anyway, that was a lot of back story to tell you that I’ve been thinking about the dark side of the moon as a place that actually exists, and that you and I can’t exist there, at least not for long and not without the right supplies. And I was thinking about my brother, who loved facilitating this exercise; he would always get so excited talking about the possibility of being on the moon in the first place, and then showing the movie clip, which he illegally spliced together, seamless blends between the chopped-up scenes and portions of dialogue — he was always so proud of that compilation and made sure to tell me after class had ended and we were left alone cleaning up our supplies and laughing, how proud of that illegal clip he was, not because it was illegal, but because he’d made something without seams. He was like that with his driving, too — from the moment I started driving he demonstrated on repeat the importance of pressing the clutch and shifting the gears without anyone knowing or feeling it had happened. I think I’m such a good driver because of him.
Ever since his accident, the seamless bond that always existed between us got ripped. It can’t ever be repaired and that’s only the fault of the driver who ran the stop sign on that clear morning five years ago. My helmeted and lighted brother on his bicycle both went down as court evidence. Even now, and since then, I do feel like one of us is on the dark side of the moon — separated from the other, and no amount of oxygen, water or stellar maps will ever bring us safely back together.
This heart of mine aches for and misses my brother who traveled to death and back again. He’s physically here still, but forever changed. If I could take a trip backwards, I’d just use it to make a quick phone call. But I don’t think space ships or mushrooms as modes of transportation travel backwards, either one. We’re only always moving ahead in time and I’ll keep using my right now moments to close my eyes and remember all those hours we spent together imagining which supplies we would need to have when he and I get stranded on the dark side of the moon: laughter was our favorite one, every single time, and it’s not even on NASA’s approved list.