The Ego Stays Grounded

July 22, 2019

“Climb mountains not so the world can see you,
but so you can see the world.”
― David McCullough Jr.


When I was born in the Fall of 1970, the Apollo 11 mission was only a little over a year old.  But even though I grew up understanding what a massive achievement of science and human determination the first moon landing represented, I didn’t have the sense of awe felt by my parents and others who watched those events unfold in real time. 


Knowing that the mission had been a success, for instance, I had no sense of the uncertainty that surrounded the proposition of both getting men to the moon, and bringing them home alive (only decades later was a speech discovered that President Nixon would have delivered to the nation if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were not able to make it off the Moon’s surface).  So it was with great interest that I delved into all the accounts of the Apollo 11 mission that surfaced this weekend on the 50th anniversary of that monumental achievement.


Funny enough, it was one of the more trivial details of that massive endeavor that I found most profound: the creation of the mission patch.  For as long as it’s been putting Americans in space, NASA has created a special patch for each mission, with a unique design and the names of the astronauts involved.  When it came time to create the Apollo 11th patch, however, astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins decided their names should be left off.  They were only three of more than 400,000 people who were involved in making the moon landing happen, they reasoned.  Furthermore, their accomplishment was done in the name of humankind.


To me, the humility those pioneers showed is every bit as inspiring as their courage.  I don’t think it’s any accident that “modesty” tops our Student Creed’s list of the values whose sum is Black Belt Excellence.   Our actions achieve greatness when they serve a greater purpose.  We grow when we recognize that we are only a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

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