So, my son had a birthday party at the Museum of Flight over the weekend and I was excited to go since we’ve never been and I heard great things about it. We got to a tour a supersonic Concorde jet, Air Force 1 from Nixon/Eisenhower/JFK days, a few jumbo passenger jets, and the cabin of a space shuttle. Picture me trying to explain black boxes, aerodynamics, take-off, and gravity to a 4- and a 6-year old.
One of the signs that jumped out at me as the kids were running all over the place was a quote by JFK in the space exhibit. He said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” It reminded me of a speech Bill Gates gave a couple weeks ago at the UN Goalkeepers Event. In his speech, he says we are evolved to solve problems. He says, ‘If you want to improve the world you’ve gotta be a little pissed off. That’s why these problems get solved….There’s so much anger – the inequality is unacceptable.’ It also reminds me of my favorite MLK Jr quote, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And of course, something that Elon Musk said when an interviewer asked him why he is trying to put a man on Mars. His response was something like ‘so the future isn’t so depressing.’ We are talking about visionaries – people that look beyond the here and now and can envision something entirely different – whether it’s putting a man on the moon, Mars, or some other kind of virtual reality.
I really love this perspective. It’s not about taking the easy route, or giving up when times get tough, it’s about fighting and continuing to fight to keep moving forward. In my life, I know for sure that if I’m not moving forward, I’m rolling backward. I can’t just rest on my laurels and expect to stay in the status quo. I inevitably start slipping backward – back into bad habits, laziness, etc. Similarly, one could say Newton’s law of motion applies to progress in society. It (progress) will remain in motion unless acted upon by force – in this case, the force is the media, the mass shootings, terrorists, Trump, KKK, etc. Hopefully, these times that feel like we are turning back the clock or backsliding on hard-fought progress are just a blip or a minor setback. Despite it all, there is still progress. And frankly, if we look beyond the United States, there is real progress happening in the world (lower # of people living in poverty or dying from preventable diseases or dying during childbirth, lower infant mortality rates, etc).
Bill Gates references Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature quite a bit. In it, the author looks at homicide, war, genocide, and terrorism. And found in all cases, the long-term historical trend is absolutely downward, though there are ups and downs and wiggles and spikes. Right now perhaps we just happen to be in one of those spikes. With the increased frequency of shooting sprees and terrorist attacks, it definitely doesn’t feel like we are living in safer times. But then again, my generation (and those younger) hasn’t experienced world wars, military drafts, rations, etc.
On that note, I bought Hillary’s book today. I wasn’t going to read it for fear of rehashing the past, but I’ve been listening to a lot of her interviews and think she might have a strong message for women and girls. Plus, if that woman has the strength to continue pushing on after what she has been through, then the least I could do is read her book. I purposely avoid intense emotions at all costs – my mental health is fragile enough as it is – I don’t like provoking negative emotions when they so easily come on their own with no effort on my part. But maybe the book will have the opposite effect – will keep you posted.