Science the mess out of it

Published 7:38 am Wednesday, June 16, 2021

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In the movie “The Martian”, Matt Damon plays an astronaut who was mistakenly left behind on Mars after a freak weather storm forced the rest of his crew to leave ahead of schedule.  He was left behind for dead. Only he wasn’t.    

He woke up, realized he was alone—really alone; stranded on Mars—gathered his resolve to survive, decided to look for something that would give him a fighting chance to be rescued, and said: “In the face of overwhelming odds I’m going to have to science the mess out of this”. 

You may have guessed that he didn’t say “mess”, but this is a family column.

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The movie comes from a book written by Andy Weir, a software engineer who taught himself enough about space exploration to allow him to write about it.  His sequel, “Hail Mary” has just been released in time for Father’s Day (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

I’ve always loved a good survival story.  This one strikes me as “Apollo 13” meets  “Cast Away”, and it is a ripping good tale indeed.   The entire story is about just how many people have to come together to science the mess out of this problem to give one poor abandoned man a chance to survive.

The astronaut was trained as a botanist, and he—very creatively, mind you—finds a fertilizer source that allows him to grow potatoes in Martian soil. 

The story then pivots to NASA, where they simultaneously try to find a way to try to save him and to not tell the crew that they have abandoned him. 

By the time the crew finds out—a  NASA employee tells them against orders not to—another NASA employee has found a way to bring him back.   And it involves the original crew.

NASA orders the crew to not try. They go rogue and try anyway.

When the only rocket that can take the required supplies into space fails, the Chinese realize they have a rocket that can work and they offer it.

The effort, the science, and the pure push will, never stop.

What lesson do we take from our stranded astronaut?

Colossians 3:23 reminds us that whatever we do, we should to it heartily, as though we were working for God and not for men.

I wonder what our lives would be like if we—every one of us—were not only working but working hard, working creatively, working with pride in every detail.  What if we had a work ethic that said that each of us would do our very best every single day, and that out standard would be to please the Almighty, not just the fellow who signs our paycheck?  I think we would be working for more than just that paycheck. And I can’t imagine how productive we’d all be.

Maybe what you do in your everyday work is not science.  Maybe your job is complicated and requires advanced training; maybe your job is entry-level.  But whatever it is, the most important thing in that job is—you, and what effort you put into it.

Instead of working for a paycheck–and certainly instead of sitting at home waiting on a government handout– how about we all get up tomorrow morning, go to work. And how about when we get there we, like that astronaut,  (fill in the blank with what your job is)  the mess out of that job. 

I think it would be a better world.  And I think we’d all be that much happier.

And you never know, if you are working hard, and if no one else around you has learned the lesson, I wonder if just maybe that makes it likely that someone notices what you are doing.

And even if no one ever notices, the lessons learned from hard work are lessons that carry through to any job. 

Maybe that’s what just happens if we do our jobs at a higher level, as to the Almighty. 

Maybe the little secret inside that verse is that the rewards of a job well done are automatically built-in.

Now, go (fill in the blank with whatever you do) the mess out of your job!