“Unprecedented”. That word.  I think I will scream if I hear it said again. I know, I know the world is not the same, I just need to look around me and see that working on day 55 of this pandemic I am at still at home with my kids scrambling around my ankles. What a year 2020 is going to be for everyone to look back on.

In my new locked down life there has been plenty of reading, lots and lots of thinking interspersed with uninspiring bouts of TV watching. I get the feeling even Netflix is running out of inspiration. The one thing of late that has gripped my attention has been the launch of Space X’s Falcon Nine.

Having been in my teens in the 80’s I remember those awful moments when amidst the wonderment of The Challenger soaring up into the blue skies of Florida, the greatness of America being shattered (in my head) when The Challenger exploded in front of our gawping and then weeping eyes.

To witness what we saw this last week has bought all that wonderment flooding back. I have an app on my phone that now lets me know when the International Space Station flies overhead and I run to the window craning my neck to look up to catch it flying past at thousands of miles an hour – or is that us spinning? I forget. Anyway it’s amazing. Space is amazing. Science is amazing. Mainly because of the very vivid reminder of what man (or rather Elon Musk) is capable of.

Of course I know it is not just Elon Musk. It is teams of people that have got the Western World venturing forward into space again. At the apex of it all sits two fathers of America, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. Out they strode in their sort of not real Spacesuits. It looked like they were kitted out to do a bit of DIY. The cool calm as they sat in their upward facing chairs, intermittently making thumbs up signs to the camera. I kept looking at the top part of their chests to see if I could see the ribcage rising up and down as the adrenaline was coursing through their body. But no, cool as cucumbers. How is that even possible?

We watched them fly to the ISS. Pretty much all the way. We watched them sleep. We watched them eat and we watched them arrive.

As they came through the hatch to greet the astronauts already on the International Space Station I watched eagerly to see how they would engage with one another. Had the knowledge and psychological effects of COVID 19’s “no touching” travelled as far as the Space Station? There was a moment of hesitancy as it seemed there was the question floating in space do we fist bump, elbow or shake? But no it was hugs – big bold beautiful hugs between men in space and it was a beautiful moment at this particular moment in time. Thank God.

Crashing back down to earth, one of the things that has surprised me in all this Pandemic activity is the speed at which we have become adept at avoiding one another. I will walk down the road with my kids and if someone is coming in the other direction either the oncoming party will cross to the other side of the street or we will, with now almost unconscious intention. Whilst that level of respect and care is very touching it is also sad as it is all done without the slightest attempt at any acknowledgement. No looking at each other to even say in so many words “thank you for moving.”

We are living with fear. As a consequence we have lost a little of that natural easy intimacy when we acknowledge each other and it is dangerous for us as human beings to fail to acknowledge one another, as over time our sense of being able to ‘trust” is undermined. When this eases and we are able to do more things unrestrained will this acknowledgement fall back into place. Will we begin to look at one another in the eyes again? If not how do we bring it back with ease?

In the room when working with teams and facilitating workshop sessions, one of the team analysis exercises that tradesecrets’ run is an exercise called Can Pussy Have a Corner….sounds disgusting…but it is not. It is a transactional exercise using eye contact to establish contracts…contracts that reassure and express understanding for relationships to build between colleagues. A look that says “I got you” or “I understand where you are coming from” looks that build trust. Eye contact that is cursory or careless can lead to misinterpretation of intention as the exercise (when played) proves and can have dire consequences.

When we come back together finally – working together as teams in one space there is going to need to be some attention paid to how we build this trust amongst colleagues. Without the emotion and relief of reaching the International Space Station we are going to need an understanding of the impetus that binds and connects us.

For now when you are out there on your way today or tomorrow to Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s or just walking down the street and you come face to face with someone where one of you has to make a move try a little harder to look the other person in the eye and with your eyes say “thanks”. See how it makes you feel and see what reaction it elicits in those you look directly at.

I know we can’t rush back into each others arms and that distance between one another needs to be respected but we can look at each other in the face and in that moment where our eyes make real contact we say “I see you, I know you are there and not even “I got you” but that you exist.” This I am sure restores some of the balance we temporarily have lost.

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