Monthly Archives: November 2015

Martian potatoes


Dear Folks,

While on vacation, I saw the movie, “The Martian” and then read the book.  Some have praised the story for showing the importance of learning science and technology. Bishop Robert Barron wrote a very nice article for the Boston Pilot on how it was a statement of the importance of each and every human life.  What struck me the most is how the hero faced some insurmountable obstacles, amazing obstacles, and worked to get over them. Some things that are easy for us were huge tasks for him.  Sometimes things would go very wrong, and what he tried didn’t work.  He kept going, figuring out solutions to the problems, and moving forward.  His goal was to survive, and he was determined that Mars was not going to kill him. It was also important that he had skills in botany and mechanical engineering, which meant also knowing some chemistry and some math. In the book, he was described as being “particularly resourceful and a good problem-solver.”

This means he had both the will and the skill to deal with his situation.

When there was a problem he focused his energies toward solving it.  Of course, since there was no one else on the planet that he could expect to do anything, and that made it very clear that it was up to him.  How often is the temptation to put our best energy in to complaining and blaming about the problem, rather than channeling that energy into a solution?

He would face problems with no immediate solution, but he worked at it until he found the solution, and sometimes that made another problem for which he had to find a solution. He just kept problem solving.

Of course, this was only possible because he had spent many years building the tools to make this happen.  Without all his knowledge of science, he could not have done what he did.  He also had the habit of working at a problem until he could come up with a solution. There are many people who, when seeing a problem and not immediately seeing a solution with simply give up. What we do again and again throughout our lives becomes deeply ingrained.  Our hero had a lifetime of tackling problems and persevering. Therefore, he was determined to grow potatoes on a planet where nothing grows.

When we face a problem, how much energy and time is expended uselessly in complaining and blaming, and how much is spend in working toward a solution to the problem? I find it can be easy to lose track of the distinction between complaining about a problem and working to fix the problem. This has challenged me to try to channel as much energy and possible into what will really help, and be wary of wasting it.