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Paul Charman: Where's your holy ground?

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Paul Charman argues the concept of 'a pilgrimage to holy ground’ is alive and well.

Kennedy Space Centre is holy ground for Paul Charman. Photo / Supplied
Kennedy Space Centre is holy ground for Paul Charman. Photo / Supplied

I'd like to think that everyone has their "holy ground".

I mean that location you find enormously significant - maybe one you've been trying to reach all your life.

And visiting this kind of "happy place" can be transcendent, helping to close one of those big circles of life.

Okay, even allowing that some folk will find these ideas fatuous, there remains a huge field of possibilities for those of us who "get it".

For you, holy ground could be your maunga or river, so therefore quite close to home.

Or maybe it's overseas - some battlefield of Gallipoli or France which claimed the life of a relative; or a village your people hale from, back in the Pacific, Asia or Europe.

Maybe it's a sports stadium like Twickenham, or Wimbledon; or a music venue like Berliner Philharmonie, Glastonbury or the Grand Ole Opre.

Or perhaps it's a site of spiritual significance, such as the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.
Indeed, the concept of a pilgrimage to holy ground still has currency.

Within some parameters the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, is mandatory for all Muslims, and of course that includes Kiwi ones.

But not all pilgrimages have to be religious in nature, aye?

This notion was wonderfully represented in Roger Donaldson's movie, The World's Fastest Indian.

Remember Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) recounting former Bonneville Salt Flats speed record attempts to "Rusty" (Patrick Flueger).

Who could forget it?

"Bonneville. I mean I can't believe it. I mean I'm here, I've made it," says Burt.

"You know, all my life I wanted to do something big.

"Something better and bigger than all the other jokers. This is it, Bonneville.

"This is the place where big things happen . . ..

"I'm telling you, Rusty, this place is holy ground, mate.

"Holy ground. And I made it here."

I'd like to think every man/woman has a Bonneville Salt Flats equivalent.

A place where skin turns to goose bumps and the hairs stand up on the back of the neck.

And my happy place has got to be the Kennedy Space Centre, at Cape Canaveral.

This isn't a pitch for you to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

I don't care if you do or not.

But I'm glad my wife and I did last September.

It's not that the tourist pavilions and space museums there are the best around.

They're pretty good, but in terms of wow-value, display architecture designed by Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor (at Te Papa and Pukeahu National War Memorial Park), could probably knock them for six.

No, it's more that this little corner of Florida is, to quote Burt, "where all the big important things happen".

I mean the the Apollo program, Skylab, the Space Shuttle and numerous robotic missions I've followed over many years . . .

The Saturn V was launched 13 times from the Kennedy Space Center, with no loss of crew or payload.

It remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status and seeing one of these behemoths up-close at the space centre is . . . Well, it's marvellous.

To me, NASA is one of few organisations which make the news worth monitoring.
Every other media narrative seems to about corrupt politics, man's inhumanity to man, contempt for our environment etc.

NASA, on the other hand, is all about exploring new worlds.

I've been addicted to this idea since July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Exciting stuff for children at New Plymouth's Devon Intermediate School.

As the lunar lander closed in, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's comments were relayed, via radio, into each classroom.

And like everything to do with NASA, we didn't have to pay for it.

We got to watch, listen and marvel, for free - courtesy of the generous American taxpayer.

But wonderment I've experienced from the many missions launched at Cape Canaveral is beyond price.

It's even kind of transcendent, because as I learned at Sunday School: "He (God) has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Well okay, but while a lot of folk may talk about eternity, not too many go out and chase it with high resolution cameras.

Hence my love for NASA and its big gaudy home in Florida.

Or to paraphrase Burt:

"NASA. I mean I can't believe it. I mean I'm here, I've made it."

Enough about my "holy ground" -- is there a place you would describe this way?

- NZ Herald

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