Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

To Infinity and Beyond

Written by: on September 19, 2019

This past spring a documentary was released in conjunction with the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. This film was mostly made up of found footage from NASA of the crew and support staff during the mission. It was an amazing film. I brought my boys to see it in the theater because I thought it was important that they get some understanding of such a historical event. They sat entranced by what they saw on the screen while I sat and quietly cried. As I watched I was struck by the concerted, focused effort of everyone at NASA to make this mission happen and the contrast that we do not do things like the Apollo program anymore – or at least it seems that way. Yes, times are different now, but it is not like 1969 was the epitome of peace time. In the previous year there were two assassinations of major national figures along side a tense and sometimes violent national election. The civil and women’s rights movements were in full swing, the summer of love and Woodstock were about to happen and, not to be left out, there was the issue of the Vietnam war and its skyrocketing body count. Yet in the midst of all that the NASA engineers and staff kept their focus and made it to the moon. Students of the Apollo program will tell you that Apollo 11 was not a perfectly run mission, but it was close enough to be completed successfully. As I watched the film I kept thinking about the feeling of doing a great thing well, the feeling that no doubt everyone at NASA felt when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon for the first time.

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport argues that without a space and time for sustained, focused work we are unable to achieve great things. This book is quite similar to his other book Digital Minimalism in its effort to encourage people to unplug from the distractions of digital life and find a place away from it where focused effort can be made.

In the deep recesses of my being I know that Newport is right, that I need to unplug because the digital life is destroying my happiness. But the surface bit of my being is more than happy to be distracted by whatever shinny new thing that shows up on my phone’s notifications. I wonder if the trick is not to become a digital hermit and eschew all media, but rather to find the balance that allows the digital connections, but also to find a space where phones are not dinging and televisions are not flashing. As a computer programmer I have found that I need to have hobbies that are physical and do not rely on a screen. I bake, usually out of a cookbook. I make wood furniture from hand drawn schematics. Those two activities give me the time to separate myself from the frantic-ness of the digital life, while still allowing me to go back to it once I am ready to engage it again.

It will take a people who are willing to find a space in between the social norm of social media and the digital hermits to see us to the next major accomplishment. It will be difficult, but I believe those people are out there who will not be so consumed by media that they will be able to focus long enough to set foot on Mars or see the climate crisis avoided. It is those people who will get to feel the wonderful feeling of doing a great thing well and make another giant step for humankind.

About the Author

Sean Dean

An expat of the great state of Maine where the lobster is cheap and the winters are brutal I've settled in as a web developer in Tacoma, Washington. As a foster-adoptive parent of 3 beautiful boys, I have deep questions about the American church's response to the public health crisis that is our foster system.

9 responses to “To Infinity and Beyond”

  1. Great post Sean. I saw that movie as well and I too admired the courage and strong resolve of the NASA engineers and astronauts to accomplish such a monumental achievement amidst the cultural milieu they were in.

    It would be interesting to study and compare the profiles of the men and women of NASA a generation ago and the men and women of Space X today. Do they both have the same dreams, aspirations and habits?

    I too am looking forward to see more space explorations take place in our lifetime. Learning new things about space would be a given, but I’m more excited about the other cool things that are learned, discovered and invented as an indirect result of trying to reach Mars.

    • Sean Dean says:


      It would be interesting to see the similarities and differences between the workers in the space agencies then and now. It’s kind of interesting that computing power is so significantly more now than it was then (my phone is approximately 3500x more powerful than the computer used in the Apollo 11 flight), so it would be interesting to see how that changes how people work.

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    You are so wise to find physical hobbies that give your life and joy. Your life-giving activities obviously form your experience and inform your writing. What if we look back on this cohort experience with “the wonderful feeling of doing a great thing well and make another giant step for humankind.”? Thanks so much for your inspiring insight!

  3. Mario Hood says:

    What a great post Sean! I totally agree with you that living in the in-between-space is going to be the key to remaining a full function human being in the future.

    Just this morning we woke to realize that one of our toilets had been running all night and our 1st thought was to call a plumber but then I google the issue and thought I can do that. I took my son to Lowes and about an hour later everything was fixed. The best part of it was being able to work with my son and talk with about some issues he was having at school. Something that was an issue became a great opportunity with online and offline connections.

    How do you see this book helping you in your research or do you? Thanks again.

    • Sean Dean says:

      I see this book as more of a reminder of things I think we all know. I’m not sure how it helps with my research, but it is a welcome reminder to step away.

      Good job fixing the toilet with your son. Way to parent!

  4. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Lovely post Sean. Thrilled you (and Mario!) have had such great experiences with your sons recently. I wonder if unplugged, intentional time is the “Deep Work” of parenting?

    • Karen Rouggly says:

      Jacob! YES to this! Deep work is critical to parenting. I feel like good parenting can’t always be done on the fly – which is so hard! I appreciate this point here. I think we’ve all found, through this book, and our personal/professional lives, that anything good needs to happen deeply. Why would parenting be any different. Now to find more deep work time for that!

    • Sean Dean says:

      It so is! It’s difficult both because of a lack of time and general exhaustion as well as the kids attention being so screen-centric. But the best moments I’ve had with the boys have been disconnected. Now to find the time for more of those.

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