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Story Musgrave Interview Part 1 With Gabrielle Reilly 

Story Musgrave, former NASA astronaut, came from a dysfunctional family, spent nights in the forest alone at 3 and was a high school dropout.  Yet he went on to not only become a medical doctor, but also a mathematician, chemist, biophysicist, physiologist, computer scientist, poet, artist and author.  He flew 6 space missions, logged 25 million miles and learnt how to space walk from Olympic Figure Skating Champion, Dorothy Hamill.

Story talks with me about the space between his childhood and staggering accomplishments with a focus on hope and attitude.  I highly recommend this interview to everyone, but if you or someone you know is either at a low point or a turning point in life, this could be profoundly life changing for them to listen to.

It is with great honor that I welcome Story Musgrove to The Global Townhall for this three part interview plus pictures of his visiting with some of my friends around town in Kansas City. 

Gabrielle Reilly:  Hope and interest are at the very core of human potential and happiness.  For those who may need to focus on exploring hope in their life... can you talk of your life leaving high school before you graduated, going to the Marines to excel with discipline and structure and then coming to this conclusion in writings to your family "I am going to bring an end to this shifting, indifferent, no-interest, unconstructive, worthless, no-security, not-give-a-damn, miserable life that I have been living."  It is interesting to hear what your life was like at a moment in time and what you went on to do.

Story Musgrove: I had a bit of anger in me no doubt. That is not the action to everything then, the action is I'm a survivor.  I'm swimming in this stuff but I'm not getting it on me.  What went on back then ended up being my strength throughout my life.  People ask me who is my hero and I say the child that introduced me to life the child that carried got me to a point in life where I could embrace life and get on with it and do good things.  So all that stuff back there is actually not baggage and it is not negative baggage, my strength comes from that.

There was no question that leaving town, and going to Korea, that's getting out of town; I could leave a lot of stuff behind and get a new start.  I didn't carry it with me then but I think my childhood and everything up until I was sixteen or seventeen turned out to be my strength in life and even more so in later life. 

So opposed to looking at all those things you know back then and saying that was a massive dysfunctional catastrophe and that is my excuse for not doing anything in life, that is kind of victimization psychology that some people embrace but I did just the opposite with it, I turned it into a positive.  I turned it into thinking, by golly I am a survivor, I know how to swim in stuff like that and not get it on me and go forward.  They were very good times. 

Not finishing school. I got on a bus and covered thirty eight states so I really got out of dodge.  So the day I finished, left school, I departed so that was where I launched.

Gabrielle Reilly:  So you literally turned lemons into lemonade and that is the strength that carried you through your whole life.

Story Musgrave:  I did, so all that stuff is my strength.  You know I understand that is who I am, that is where I came from and that is my strength.  I don't wish those dramatic tragedies all those other human beings put themselves through, I was a part of it but I certainly don't wish that suffering on them, they did it to themselves, but on the other hand it gave me who I am.

Gabrielle Reilly:  Sometimes when I'm experiencing difficulties in life I lay down and imagine I'm looking down from space and then all of my problems seem so insignificant.  Did you have any profound experiences when you were actually in space looking back on Earth?

Story Musgrave:  I have profound experiences every day.  I just had a great one at lunch. It was spectacular.  An intern here at the company into art and you know, bright eyed and got her whole life before her and I think back to when I was at the same point.  She is a sophomore heading to Florence for a year next year and you know what I mean wow, gee whiz, I get inspired by that, you kids that are leaping off like that. 

I did not arrive at an epiphany which qualitatively I ended up on another track.  I did not do that.  It was a marvelous experience and Mother Earth is a powerful thing, the geography and the beauty.  You don't know much when you first get started, but flight after flight, you get so you can see incredible subtleties. She is just a gorgeous thing and the heavens, the aurora and the moon racing across the oceans, the purple light that goes for a hundred miles.

The freedom of the free fall condition, I will call it free fall now.  I could call it zero g as I passed over it, but it's not zero gravity it's gravity variance so it's kind of a misnomer.  That three dimensional freedom to be like a seal swimming through the water you know. 

Now that is magical and a serious cognitive look at evolutionary biology.  To look at what my system was trying to do to learn a new environment that it had not evolved to be in.  So gravity, as I point out is a massively important part off the environment that built us. We are gravitational creatures.  We didn't get dropped here, it formed our sensory system, it formed our perceptional system that could do three dimensional movements and orientation etcetera. That was a very magical to, and the beauty and the art of conducting a very nice mission.  But all of that certainly expanded my horizons.  It gave me a global and a geographical and a aesthetic perception on things, but I did not end up on another track.

I was already there you see. I was in the forest, pine forest at the age of three alone at night.  That is much further out into the cosmos than being in a space ship in later life.  You can't be further out than a three year old alone in the forest at night.  The faith that you have that it will alright.  The faith you have that you can take care of yourself. The faith that you have that this little adventure is going to go ok because you have given yourself over to the cosmos, to nature, to Mother Earth, with all the stars up there and all the animals and whatever else down below.  So I was already radically out there even though a pine forest is the most benign motherly thing possible, at three it is pretty impressive.  I built my own rafts and went down the rivers by the age of five.  I would lay on my back and let her go. I didn't even see where I was going.  I would look at the trees overhead to tell what kind of currents I was in. So I didn't end up having a quantifiable epiphany in which I radically changed my outlook, my view of the cosmos, my psychology or spirituality but it did expand my horizons.   

Gabrielle Reilly:  Your story sounds similar to the Mark Twain's memoirs that he requested not be released to the public until one hundred years after his death which fell just a few weeks ago.  He talks of riding down the rivers as a child and that Huckleberry Fin was actually based off his own character.

Story Musgrave:   Yes, people ask me why, with all that I've done, why I bother to get a masters degree in literature.   That's exactly why I got a masters degree because I read Mark Twain.  I read him and I understood what I had done and then I understood how better to express myself. So obviously when this last question that I answered for you, Mark Twain is running in my background.  You know.

Gabrielle Reilly:  Yes, I can hear it distinctly.

Story Musgrave:  Well it is not by accident because I read Mark Twain.  I mean his life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Fin and all the rest of it. But I have also done, he is not classified as a romantic, but in a way he is.  I read all the romantics, so I am a romantic in terms of immersing myself in the universe with the direct revelation of my world, the late poets.  A romantic has to be a realist first and then you can put the human into the equation and you see the reality through human eyes, the sensory system.  That is what a romantic is.  So I was that at the age of three.


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