Monthly Archives: February 2014

Vale la pena

Walking down the corridor I notice the transformation in the faces of past high school graduates. The firm jaw lines, the bright eyes, the “can-do” attitude, the maturity in those young faces have been replaced with a babyishness and lack of firmness. Young people haven’t changed, so what did?

When I think back to the accomplishments of young people generations past, I am amazed at the huge difference between then and now. “Teenagers” farmed, hunted, invented, taught school, went to war, were self starters creating jobs for themselves at extremely young ages.

I understand that part of the change came through parents who didn’t want their children to work as hard or suffer as much. Part of the change came through legislators who felt children should be protected from unscrupulous businessmen. Yet I can’t help looking at other cultures and seeing the difference in maturity levels and wonder if we didn’t trade off something precious.

Maybe the idea that the “teenage” brain doesn’t develop until 25 is flawed. Maybe those “teenage” brains just need more experience and responsibility. Certainly the youth of decades past were young men and women who took responsibility for their actions and pride in what they accomplished.

Maybe our search for “comfort” caused us to give up something more invaluable than we expected. The value of difficulty. The value of struggle.

Everyone knows a butterfly must struggle from the cocoon to send strengthening fluids to crumpled wings. Unfortunately when we apply that to real life we have a tendency to remove anything unpleasant or difficult from our own lives or the lives of our children.

Baby sea turtles are abandoned by their parents. They struggle down vast stretches of beach to reach the life-giving waves. Not once or twice but repeatedly. The receding waves carry the babies higher on the sand and they repeat the process–until they learn to ride the waves. It’s not just the struggle down the sand; it is the struggle in the water, learning to work with their circumstances that gives them the strength and experience to swim and survive in a cruel ocean.

Maybe it’s time we ask more not less of our young people, set higher standards with regard to personal accountability, give them ample opportunities to learn, to grow, to fail.

Yes, failure is part of learning and growth. Without it, we won’t survive.

Vale la pena.

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Indelible Mark

Certain stories have a tendency to stick with me long after I’ve forgotten the name of the book or the author. These may not be the best written stories, may not be literary stories, may not even be stories worth re-reading or have long term merits. But for me, these are stories that changed who I am, how I perceive the world; these are stories that still inspire me today and became the lodestone that keeps me writing.

I grew up during the Stupid 70s and about the only good thing that came out of that era was the short-lived experiment to allow students to custom design their classes. So, I was fortunate enough to take a journalism class for Freshman English, as well as a science fiction short story class. The story in question was in an anthology and I retell it making no apology for the poor storytelling, nor errors in the retelling of details.

He was returning home after being imprisoned in cryosleep for 75 years. His crime? Speaking out against the status quo, having a different opinion, publishing his thoughts in a small book that had the potential to influence society.

He wondered about the girl he loved and left behind, the cruelty of a justice system that had stolen everything from him. As he passed by the landmarks of his home town, he recalled their first meeting, their courtship, the high points of their life together.

Arriving at his home, he was shocked to see it had not changed. The open door, the journal left abandoned on the table, spoke of a hasty departure. Curious, he began to read. And discovered her efforts to wait for him, opportunities and risks she took in order to become part of the scientific advancements in spaceflight, travelling at faster than light speeds in the hopes of slowing time enough to be with him again. She wrote of her love, the burning desire to wait for him, the yearning for his imprisonment not to be in vain.

Frantically, he searches the house for her. Has something happened? Why is she not there to meet him? At last it dawns on him–she is afraid. Afraid time has not been kind, afraid too many years have passed and he will not see the woman he loves in the woman she has become.

With a lighter heart, he walks to the community center; the place where they first met to begin their story. She is there, a rose in her hair, fingers twining and twisting, worry lining the still beautiful face. She is there and she is his and the wait no longer matters.

Why I don’t believe in evolution

I am astounded at the propensity of the majority of humans for either/or thinking. The right answer must be either Choice A or Choice B. Such thinking never allows for the possibility that both choices might be interrelated in some way.

I’ve never had a problem reconciling science and faith. They are two sides of the same coin, interrelated, complementary, expanding the circumferential horizons of knowledge. One without the other creates a serious lack of understanding about man’s place in the universe.

However, I do have problems with evolution as an untested theory. Let’s take only one tenet: survival of the fittest. While this sounds great on paper, all I have to do is look around me to see countless examples where it falls short:
* the person who U-turns into oncoming traffic on the on ramp of the interstate
* the adult wearing shorts and no coat in 17 degree weather with snow on the ground
* the person who steps into oncoming traffic looking the other way and is angry when he runs into my stationary car
* the person who doesn’t know how to flush after himself in a public place

If evolution was a natural part of our life cycle these types of individuals should have died out and been unable to reproduce. However, every year we see a greater number of these folks clogging our cities.

So why do I believe in something other than evolution to explain the world?
* the understanding of microorganisms and decay which prevents a single fern fossilized across three distinct geological time periods from taking millions of years to fossilize (polystrate fossils)
*the sheer diversity and complexity of the universe from the braided rings and shepherd moons of Saturn which defy our laws of physics to the petrified forest in Spirit Lake following Mt. St. Helen’s eruption
*vast mysteries from the formation of a butterfly from caterpillar goo to the function of the human eye which is so advanced in function that even the most sophisticated camera cannot compete
*lastly, the account in Genesis which, long before scientist ever put telescope to sky, mirrors in poetical form the beginning of the universe (see National Geographic article)

Science explains how things work; faith explains why things work. It is only when we try to force one to do the other’s function that our understanding of life gets chaotic.

In Search of Camelot

When did we lose our optimism as a nation? While Kennedy’s “Camelot” was before my time, his dream of global cooperation and American optimism has faded over the years.

In discussing his inaugural speech with my students I realize one 1) most of them have no idea who Kennedy was or what he did, 2) most have no idea of what’s been “lost” in terms of the American dream, and 3) most were left wondering why they had to read this particular assignment.

After all, they’ve grown up in a technological age, jaded by all the “stuff” we have without any thought of what life would be like without all our space age advances. They’ve never known war, or racism, or true poverty such as the Great Depression. With the changes in child labor laws most have never held a job until they are 18.

In spite of the “advances” of our time, we’ve lost most of the wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm of preceding generations. We’ve lost the spark of exploration that drove men to the stars, funded research for new technology or innovations, and extended a hand of global cooperation.

I know things change, time stands still for no man, and both Kennedy and his world faced difficulties and ugliness. The reasons for our loss of enthusiasm and sense of adventure are innumerable and complex. We focus on the trivial and ignore the vital. We fight for frivolous and give up what is invaluable.

I don’t wish to return to the past, but I mourn for the next generation of children whose minds are molded by the inflexible, the limited, the self-centered–those who spurn truth and fear right.

I can only hope those children will look up at the stars and be inspired.

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