Space – the final frontier

How many of us I wonder recall those words spoken at the start of Star Trek and as a result what memories does the phrase evoke for us. But it’s odd, because I believe it’s a very real frontier for us now – not one that lies millions of miles away in a galaxy far, far, away, but in our everyday waking lives and in the world that is coming into being around us.

I came to this realisation, when to talking to a participant on a recent workshop (thank you George for the inspiration). He was grumbling with affection about the exploits of his lads, whose ages now escape me. They were, frankly, exuberant normal children and were therefore a bit of a handful. In our conversation I happened to ask George what he was doing when he was their age. George fondly recounted times down on the local wasteland throwing bricks as I shared stories of cycling down the main road to the local woods. George’s wasteland and my woods are now full of new homes.

Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against new homes and re-development of wastelands, but what it bought home to me foreseeable is how little space we now have in the world; where do we go to play? Where can we go where we are not surrounded by rules?

Space takes many forms – in my initial conversation it was the physical space to just wonder off and be exuberant rowdy children. I believe our children do have less play space and that which they have is more manicured and tended than it ever was before. More children have more expectations on them than they ever did before – expectations about what they should and shouldn’t be learning; what progress they should be making as they go through school compared to their benchmark FFT data and so on. Again I’m all for raising the standards of education, but we’ve lost the space somewhere and replaced it with fear.

This translates into working life. You need the right qualification for everything and anything; the required competencies; the appropriate professional memberships. There is no space for those who haven’t. Your dairy needs to be full, your network buzzing, your tweets flowing.

Where’s the space all gone?

All of the above are being driven for very positive reason; but all somewhere somehow are driving out the space. The space to be a child. The space to be different. The space to explore. The space, critically to stop and think about who we want to be – not what we want to have or do.

We need to find a way to find the AND in our world again. To create a world where there is an expectation of high quality AND a tolerance for individualism and difference. Where there is rigour AND creativity. Where there is compliance AND challenge. Rebellion AND acquiescence.

For if we don’t , in driving out the space we will drive out all the great things that come with it. Tranquillity. Reflection. Difference. Uniqueness. Tolerance. Daring. Creative challenge.

As our physical space shrinks and our opportunity space shrinks by virtue of just more and more people (for those of you who are 60 ish the world’s population has tripled in your lifetimes and the planet hasn’t got any bigger). We need to find ways to create other places. Find time to be still and seek out tranquillity within us. To let imaginations soar and give others the time and space to dream and to laud those dreams not crowd them out. To give each other the time and space to become the people we can be instead of the people that we are stunted to be.

Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad – or an economist.’

Space is becoming our final frontier – we need to find ways to conquer it.

Adrian is a Senior Consultant at The Red Thread Partnership Ltd