Tag Archives: optimism

There Are Always Possibilities

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We are defined in many ways by the time in which we grew up. I count the 1960s as the defining part of my life*.

John F Kennedy was elected President 1960. At his inauguration in 1961 as he challenged us to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country?” He took inspiration from the musical “Camelot” to work toward an ideal, even if for only, “one brief shining moment.” During his time in office when we faced the Cuban Missile Crisis my mother (and many others) expected to be facing World War III. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, which was the first major tragedy many of us young people took personally.

In 1960, Echo, an American satellite that was essentially a 100 foot Mylar balloon was designed to reflect radio signals, but its size and reflectivity made it the first man made space object visible from earth with the naked eye. The newspaper would print the times it would be visible at night, and people felt they had to go out and see it, even if only once. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut was the first man in space. The American manned space program followed, and launches from Cape Canaveral were broadcast live. At first, someone would bring a portable radio to school so the class could listen to the launches. Later, radios gave way to portable televisions. “Portable” meant a large, heavy box with a small black and white picture tube; however it had a handle bolted to the top, so therefore it was portable. In 1967 we were crushed when all three astronauts died in a fire aboard Apollo 1 less than a month before its scheduled launch date. In July, 1969, Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely by the end of the decade.

Entertainment helped form me as well. Star Trek foretold of a future in which “There are always possibilities.” Variety shows abounded; Ed Sullivan made sure we met the Beatles. Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, Johnny Carson all entertained us and made us smile. Ernie Kovacs and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In redefined comedy, and it hasn’t been the same since. Broadway musicals included Man of La Mancha, 1776, Hair, and of course, Camelot.

I graduated from high school in 1969. I looked forward to a world full of opportunities and a chance for me to make a difference. As if to emphasize this, the musical that my high school presented that year was Camelot. Playing in the band for the play, I saw every performance. I still love the music.

And, in case you don’t know me well, I still view the world with wonder. There are always things to enjoy, mysteries to solve and music to go with it. The glass is, in fact, half empty but that only means that it is also half full.

I still believe Mr. Spock’s comment** that there are always possibilities.

It’s a wonderful thing.

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* The joke is, “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.” If the truth be told, the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll may have started in the very late sixties but more aptly describe the 70s.

** For the hard-core Trekkers: Yes, I know this is like “Play it again, Sam.” In the series, Spock never actually spoke these exact words. The phrase was quoted by Captain Kirk in the second Star Trek movie, “Wrath of Khan.”

The Good Stuff

Some of the good stuff -Music by the Moody Blues

Some of the good stuff –
Music by the Moody Blues

As you may have notice, lately I’ve been trying to write humor. Something to just cheer people up.

I look at the online news (CNN, FoxNews, NBCNews, etc.) and they are full of nothing but doom and gloom. Worse still, the stories that are real downers stay on their pages for exceptionally long times. It’s like they’re trying to milk tragedy for all it’s worth.

I know that the media believes, “If it bleeds – it leads.” Murder, for example, is going to make the headline on page 1 of the newspaper, while the good things (if they’re lucky) will end up on the middle page of the Sunday “Living” section next to the ad for hearing aids.

Therefore, if you want to be famous – kill somebody. Otherwise, if you’re really lucky and work real hard, you’ll end up with the hearing aids.

The media isn’t going to change. Sadly, they’re not going to wake up one morning to overpowering guilt and shame, repent and try to do good things. However, they ignore the fact that long term, this is not an effective tactic.

The most experienced practitioners of these practices, the print media, are dying off. It used to be that cities would have two or three daily newspapers. If something extraordinary happened, they actually would stop the presses and print an extra edition. The cliché newspaper boy shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” actually was real.

Today most cities have one and only one newspaper, and even those are at risk. It’s no wonder – the newspaper delivers the exact same information as what was on the internet the day before. Whatever the “wire services” (aka The Associated Press) decides to send out will be on CNN today and tomorrow in the morning newspaper – often word for word.

Of course, most people already got the “tweet” and so even CNN is providing second hand news.

News magazines are practically a novelty. If you’ve got a copy of Newsweek, put it in an acid free plastic sleeve and save it with your pristine copy of “Amazing Fantasy #15” (the comic book in which Spiderman first appeared.) The printed Newsweek may also become a collectors’ item.

Interestingly, not all magazines are at risk. I look forward to my monthly “Smithsonian,” “National Geographic,” and my technical magazines. Why? Because they make me think and they make me smile. My wife and I have real live interesting intellectual discussions about articles in “Smithsonian.”

“Make” magazine is full of things from basement inventors and weird and wonderful projects. Want to play around with a 3 dimensional printer – “Make” is the place to start. How about programming a credit card sized computer that costs around $30 to automatically water your plants? “Make” again.

Our kids love to learn, as did we when we were kids.

“Help me learn to ride a bicycle!”

“I want to take gymnastics!”

“Can you teach me some magic tricks?”

“Can I try soldering?”

My son recently asked us to teach him how to wash his clothes. I don’t expect that he’ll regularly take on this chore, but he was proud of himself for learning – as well he should.

This world is full of wonder and potential. It was designed and handmade by God himself. No subcontractors. No shoddy workmanship. “…and He saw that it was good.”

There’s lots of good stuff to learn and enjoy, and that’s what I’m going to focus.

Anybody with me?