Enlightened Conflict

one of those dumb days where

June 13th, 2017

do nothing sloth impossible every day jo

==================

 

“We are dying from overthinking.

 

We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.

Think. Think. Think.

 

You can never trust the human mind anyway.

It’s a death trap.”

 

Anthony Hopkins

 

======================

 

“It’s one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray.”

 

Andrea Portes

 

=====================================

 

 

nothing neon sign

 

“Nothing” days.

 

 

Its hard to believe with all that shit we always seem to have to do and all the shit that seems to be happening around us and all the shit society, people and culture claims we are demanded to pay attention to … there can be nothing days.

The dumb days in which nothing happens <albeit lots of somethings actually happen>.

 

I think this is one of those things I didn’t think about until I actually thought about it — how can a day be nothing when you actually did a shitload?

 

Sure.

 

There are some people who get busy doing nothing <I actually call this ‘the art of looking busy’ and have a piece on his coming up>.

 

But the majority of us do a shitload of something on the days which we tend to i expect nothing still too muchview as having done nothing.

 

And I am not sure that is particularly healthy.

 

You can surely assess what you have done and apply some value less than what you wished you could assess … but even that “lesser value” is not zero, therefore, it is not nothing.

 

Personally I think this happens because the majority of us have a natural resistance to nothing. What I mean by that is being associated with “nothing”, particularly in a country that extols doing, creates some sense of diminishing or diminished.

 

And no one likes to feel either diminished or having whatever we actually did do be diminished to … well … nothing.

 

Anyway.

 

What that means is we will apologize for ‘nothing’ with a variety of reasons – distracted, bored, tired, etc. – because in the end our internal integrity compass wants to point toward something to make us happy.

In fact … someone created something called the Nothing Day which has been commemorated since 1973. The day is literally about doing nothing at all. There is absolutely no purpose or intended structure for this pointless celebration.

 

especially if its nothing days

 

My point isn’t that we should celebrate nothing or doing nothing or even the feeling we actually did nothing but rather that we see “nothing” where there really is something.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

This is even making my head hurt.

 

Let me try this.

 

Far too often we fall into an all or nothing assessment with regard to our day. What that means is we could actually do a shitload but if it doesn’t meet some “something” standard it then falls to a 100% nothing value.

That is nuts.

 

==============

 

“Either I reigned supreme or sank into the abyss.”

 

Simone de Beauvoir

 

==============

 

And I can honestly say its nuts because I do it. I can reach the end of a day with a long list of shit I have done and sit back and say “shit, I did nothing.”

And I don’t think I am that different than a lot of people.

 

I could speculate why we do it but I will not.

 

Mostly it is because we think, think & think about the shit … and overthink it … and it is a death trap.

 

Mostly I think society & culture seems to put an extraordinary amount of value on tangible recognizable outcomes therefore if you just do shit … but the shit doesn’t offer some trophy outcome you can hold up for everyone to see than … well … we think we have nothing to show for it. That is also a death trap.

 

That’s dumb.something and nothing sign

 

Not only is that dumb it is the foundation for one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray type feeling … which is a pretty dumb feeling to have.

 

All I can say is that the next time you think it is one of those dumb days where you did nothing … maybe stop overthinking and make it a simple thought — I did some shit today. I will do more shit tomorrow. And eventually some good shit will happen.

communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016

 

everybody needs what i am selling deserve life

————————–

 

“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.

 

Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

 

=

David Ogilvy

 

———————

 

“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

 

=

Mark Nepo

 

—————

 

“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”

 

=

Bruce McTague

 

——————–

 

Well.

 

Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.

 

I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’

 

What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’

 

Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.

 

Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”

 

Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.

 

Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.

 

While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.

 

Look <part 1>.

 

Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.

 

This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.

 

Now.

 

Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’

 

Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.

 

Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.

 

I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.

 

And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.

 

Look <part 2>.

 

In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.

 

sell hope i canWell.

 

That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.

 

Look <part 3>

 

I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.

 

Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.

 

And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth

 

Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.

 

Anyway.

 

Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.

 

The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.

 

The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.

 

It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.

 

Sure.

 

Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.

 

Why?

 

Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.

 

on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.

 

The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.

 

Yup.

 

Huge difference.

 

Hacks say ‘stand apart.’

 

Non hacks say ‘stand above.’

 

And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.

 

Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.

 

Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.

 

Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.

 

Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.

 

In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.

Yup.

Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.

 

In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.

 

Oh.

And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.

 

By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.

 

By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.

 

Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.

 

Regardless.

 

 ===

 

“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.

 

That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”

 

==

Bill Bernbach

 

——-

 

Truth is truth.

 

Lies are lies.

 

Responsibility is responsibility.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.

 

I get aggravated.

 

No.

 

I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.

 

What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.

 

What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.

 

Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.

 

HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

In the end.

 

I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.

 

But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.

 

I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.

telling-truth-piss-you-off

I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.

 

Why?

 

They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?

 

They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.

seek_truth

===

About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.

 

ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium

July 13th, 2016

how to be an explorer

 

==============

 

“There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before.

 

‘If I have seen further than other men,’ said Isaac Newton, ‘it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

 

Isaac Asimov

==================

 

 

Ok.

 

 

More often than not we talk about the important new ideas and discoveries as “disruption” or “innovative.”

 

disrupt disruptor

The implication is that this type of important idea, which supposedly will change the world <but, more often than not, is just a nice idea which will make an impact in its own little universe … assuming it doesn’t die a quick death>, is the only type of idea we should pay attention to.

 

In other words … the implication is … If it’s not disruptive its crap.

 

Well.

 

That’s bullshit.

 

Many, if not most, of the most foundational ‘innovative’ ideas & discoveries the world has ever seen tend to be the most overlooked, unseen to the naked eye, unobtrusive ‘disruptors’ we have ever interacted with.

 

And I can even point out some examples why it is bullshit.

 

ununtrium ununpentium ununseptium and ununoctium

 

 

These are elements.

 

 

Yeah.periodic table

 

 

New elements which will now be placed in to that amazing thing called “The periodic Table of Elements.” <here is a link to The Los Alamos National Library interactive elements Table.

 

 

“IUPAC has now initiated the process of formalizing names and symbols for these elements temporarily named as ununtrium, (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118).”

 

New elements can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist.

The four new elements, all of which are man-made, were discovered by slamming lighter ­nuclei into each other and tracking the following decay of the radioactive superheavy elements.

 

 

ABOUT THE PERIODIC TABLE

 

Dmitri Mendeleev published in 1869 the first widely recognized periodic table. He developed his table to illustrate periodic trends in the properties of the then-known elements. Mendeleev also predicted some properties of then-unknown elements that would be expected to fill gaps in this table. Most of his predictions were proved correct when the elements in question were subsequently discovered. Mendeleev’s periodic table has since been expanded and refined with the discovery or synthesis of further new elements and the development of new theoretical models to explain chemical behavior.

 

All elements from atomic numbers 1 (hydrogen) to 118 (ununoctium) have been discovered or synthesized, with the most recent additions (elements 113, 115, 117, and 118) being confirmed by the IUPAC on December 30, 2015.[1]

 

===

 

Look.

 

This particular element discovery may seem fairly dry or insignificant but apparently they could be considered key discoveries which will ultimately enable future technology innovations.

 

Anyway.

 

 

In my mind … things like the elements are innovations which I like to call ‘portals to discovery.” They are the incredibly small discoveries which enable key to life doorhuge discoveries.

 

 

Just think about it.

 

 

Sure.

Maybe this discovery itself is not the most useful … maybe it’s not the most disruptive … nor the most innovative <in the traditional sense> and, yet, the smaller ‘whole’ inevitably leads to a larger more ‘life intrusive’ type improvement in our lives.

 

How do I view this?

 

As a nonscientist, non-chemist, non-whatever you need to be to actually use an element directly … I honestly could give a rat’s ass if someone has discovered some individual atoms which affects the overall relationship with other atoms it hangs out with.

 

But I do know … and I know this for sure as I can be sure … out of the process to identify a unique atom … and maybe even now that someone understands the properties of this atom … someone somewhere will have a light bulb go off in their heads and trundle out of the house with some new idea the rest of us haven’t thought of yet.

 

Yet.

 

As I type this … even though I most likely knew every element on the periodic table when I was in grade school … I doubt I could name … well … I would guess I could name maybe 75% of the elements <by looking at their signs>.

 

I would also guess anyone reading this had no frickin’ clue what this crazy enlightened conflict site post today was going to be about when “ununtrium ununpentium ununseptium and ununoctium” popped up.

 

I would also guess that this is most likely the first time 99% of my readers have thought about an element in decades.

 

That seems kind of crazy when you really think about it.

 

Most likely some of the most important things which make up how we live, eat and breathe … and live our lives … and the majority of us don’t know diddleyshit about them.

 

Why?

 

I would guess it is because they are too little. I would imagine we view them as too insignificant compared to more seemingly significant glamorized ideas and ‘innovations.’

 

Why do I guess this?

 

Most likely because … well … if you go online you will find over 3.2 million articles <in less than one second> on finding joy in the little discoveries in Life.

something missing round here

And while I didn’t read each and every one of them … the ones I did sample didn’t say shit about real discovery.

 

They were all about paying attention to the little things in Life around you.

 

Well.

 

WTF.

 

If there are over 3.2 million articles on that shit why aren’t they mentioning taking a moment and paying attention to the truly meaningful little things which have an inordinately big impact on everyone’s Life.

 

And by ‘big impact’ … maybe you should think about it this way … if today’s innovators have been successful … have seen farther than others before … it is because they have stood on the shoulders of giants … well … maybe stood on the shoulders of some element in the periodic table.

 

Regardless.

 

Take a moment in the near future.

 

Click on the link to The Los Alamos National Library interactive elements Table above.

 

Refresh your memory on the elements you learned about when you were young and maybe become acquainted with the ones which have been discovered since you learned the elements.

 

If you have a child? Maybe talk about the elements a little bit.

standing on shoulders elements ideas

In a world where some seemingly meaningless shit reaches into the headlines on a daily basis … where flashy discovery is defined by new technology and some new widget … some real meaningful shit, like the elements, couldn’t make a headline even if they paid for it.

 

Give them a moment in your spotlight.

 

Remind yourself that almost everything that is meaningful in our daily lives stands on the shoulders of some element in the Periodic Table.

a wrong turn

February 6th, 2016

field of sun flowers===

 

“A wrong turn lead me to a field of flowers and suddenly I’m second guessing every wrong turn in my life.”

 

———

Source: a thousand words tumblr

 

===

 

 

Well.

 

 

I have never analyzed nor have I seen any research with regard to how much time we use to plan out the ‘right moves’ to make in our careers and lives. I planned what happenedimagine, if a study were done, between consciously planning and the ‘in the moment analysis’ planning … those two ‘life plannings’ would represent some inordinately absurd amount of our time.

 

 

When I saw this thought on athousandwords I began thinking about how often most of us attach ‘bad’ to wrong turns and how less often we attach ‘good’ to wrong turns.

 

 

Simplistically we attach wrong to bad.

 

 

Wrong turn = Bad choice/decision

 

 

Sure.

 

Sometimes that is true.

 

 

But I think I could argue that a wrong turn simply puts you in some place you hadn’t planned on <and you assume the plan was a good plan because … well … you had planned it>. Therefore the unplanned place is a bad place because it … well … was an unplanned place <some circular logic which seems kind of doomed to conclude bad even if it may actually be good>.

 

 

Setting aside the whole planning thing … turns are part of life.

leading one way

Life is not one huge straight boulevard you place your car on and start driving.

 

Life is more often like seemingly random patchwork of inner city streets with dead ends, one ways and no left hand turns which seemingly are only placed at only the intersections which you had planned to make a left hand turn.
Whether you plan the shit out of your life or not we all make a shitload of turns in Life.

 

Some are planned.

 

Some are unplanned.

 

Some you have the time to invest a lot of time thinking about.

 

Some you cannot invest a lot of time thinking about.

 

Some end up in a good place.

 

Some end up in a bad place.

 

 

I imagine my only point is that sometimes, maybe more often than you think, a wrong turn puts you in a different better more interesting place. A wrong turn exposes you to something you maybe never imagined you would ever see, ever face or ever think about. And that is the ultimate value of a wrong turn.

 

 

It exposes you to something beyond the plan you ever envisioned.

 

I don’t propose building a Life around a disproportionate amount of purposeful wrong turning. field dirt road sunset

 

That kind of seems a little chaotic and absolutely suggests a shitload of wasted time & energy.

 

 

However.

 

Maybe we think about Life more as a shitload of turns … just a blanket ‘shitload’ … instead of categorizing them simply as right turns & wrong turns.

Turns are turns and more often than not they don’t lead you some place you can never leave they simply lead you to some place.

what hath america wrought

October 22nd, 2015

ideas urinal

Aici lo tems s’en , va res l’Eternitat.”

<here, in this place, time moves away toward eternity>

====

“This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper. “

T.S Eliot

<“The Hollow Men”>

=====

“Has it been in your experience that one’s affairs are always in order and that all life’s conundrums will eventually be made clear?”

David Stone

====

 

 

 

Well.

 

what hath god wrought

 

It is always interesting to read a historical book <What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe> and look at what is happening in today’s world.

 

 

Historical note on the title of the book.

 

 

The first telegraph message, sent by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse on May 24, 1844, over an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, was “What hath God wrought?”

 

 

At over 900 pages and pretty academic in its detail and narrative … this book is not for the faint of heart <but very interesting if you can wade through it>. The book is heavy on political history and the role politics & government played, and didn’t play, in the transformation of American society.

 

 

Simplistically you see that government has always been functionally dysfunctional constantly lurching through the decisions a country needs to make as it struggles with private versus public, growth and the well-being of its citizens <all within a Constitutional construct>.

 

 

In addition … in looking at that one particularly period of history we see everything was magnified, or amplified, by developments in communications <mails, newspaper, books, and telegraph> and mobility/transportation <trains, steamboats, canals, and roads>.

 

 

Uhm.

 

Isn’t that what technology & the internet is doing today?

 

 

 

And that magnification created the same issues we seem to discuss today:

traffic hurry disconnectd going

 

–      In 1846 Philip Hone wondered if the rapid pace of change threatened cherished values …

“everything goes fast nowadays, even the winds have begun to improve upon the speed with they have hitherto maintained; everything goes ahead but good manners and sound principles.”

 

 

 

They discussed the delicate balance of empowerment and responsibility within the citizenship … the power of government to enable individualism all the while encouraging the citizenship to use their liberty & freedoms to seek improvement.

 

 

 

–      John Quincy Adams stated …

“Liberty is power and the citizens have a responsibility to use their freedom.
The spirit of improvement is abroad upon the earth. Let not foreign nations with less liberty exceed us in ‘pubic improvement’ … to do so would ‘cast away the bounties of providence’ and doom what should become the world’s most powerful nation ‘to perpetual inferiority.’

 
Even in religious environments ‘responsible capitalism’ was discussed:

 

 

 

–      As the author points out … even in 1826 preachers were teaching …

“work hard, be thrifty, save your money, don’t go into debt, be honest in business dealings, don’t screw down the wages of those who work for you to the lowest possible level, if you manage a surplus be faithful stewards of your bounty and generous to causes.“

 

 

 

 

All the foundation things of capitalism done the right way and economic growth without sacrificing values to a better society.

 

 

 

The book does a nice job reminding everyone of the challenges any government faces.

 

 

–      Tocqueville expresses concern with the future of a democratic government.sheep

“… it rarely forces one to act but it constantly opposes itself to one’s action; it does not destroy it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize , it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes and finally reduces the nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”

 

 

 

Mostly, as I read about a country’s transformation, I was reminded that change is never easy and in the midst of progress you do right things and wrong things and there are consequences for all <and you inevitably have an opportunity to ‘wrong the rights & right the wrongs’>.

 

 

It reminded me that we all adapt.

 

 

Countries also. Just look at capitalism.

 

 

America developed a prosperous example for capitalism and ultimately exported the example. Other countries then adapted the idea creating a customized capitalism to accommodate their needs, wants and desires <which, by the way, may not match America’s>.

 

 

Yes.

 

 

America exported capitalism …. not values or rights <or democracy>.

 

Economics is what inevitably changed behavior because as country leaders desired people to be more productive <so they could be more competitive globally> they inevitably had to give them more rights, liberties and avenues to do so.

 

 

This means that the expansion of rights was driven by economics … and only curbed by that particular country’s government ideology <or the country’s overall culture>.

 

 

I mention that because we Americans tend to look outwards with a sense of righteousness … and the outside world states unequivocally … I do not want to be exactly like you.

being yourself cahnging

 

 

I struggle to understand why we in America don’t get this.

 

Our book stores and amazon are strewn with self-help books shouting “being yourself … don’t be someone else!”“learn from the best but be nobody but yourself.’

 

 

In other words … learn the shared learning and implement as an individual.

 

 

Well.

 

 

Are countries really any different? Why wouldn’t we expect another country to want to maintain its own character and way of doing things?

 

 

In addition.

 

 

The book reminded me how grumpy I get with people who continuously claim <loudly> that America is declining <i.e., going into the shithole>.

 

 

I never really thought of us as a country of whiners, pessimists and blamers <finger pointers>.

 

 

Context and perspective … the book once again reminded me of this from a historical perspective.

 

 

The book reminded me that in the 19th century there was a relatively balanced global power <hmmmmmmmmmmm … kind of like where we may be heading today?>. Oh, and yes, there was a ‘global economy’ at that time.

 

 

And the 21st century began with an extraordinary imbalance in world power.

 

 

The United States was the only country able to project military force globally, it represented more than a quarter of the world economy and had the world’s leading “soft-power resources” in its universities and entertainment industry.

 

 

America didn’t purposefully build the imbalance … the imbalance was opportunistic and reflective of contextual situations.

 

 

What that means is that no one truly knows much about social engineering and how to “build nations.”

 

The transformation of America in the 1800’s certainly reminded me of that.

 

At times it appears like America reached its strength position despite itself.

 

 

Therefore … if we cannot be sure how to ‘build a nation’ or have some formula to improve the world hubris is dangerous. It certainly seems like what is required is a careful understanding of the context of change.

 

 

Look.

 

 

Here is what I know <and believe>.

 

 

Anyone, and any country, will be successful if it finds its pride cloaked in humility <not hubris>.

 

 

I cannot remember where I found this quote but it seems to highlight what Americans should avoid at all costs <domestically as well as internationally>:

 

 

“Sweep in as if emissaries of light bringing salvation to the natives living in a dark forest. You think you are heroes because people ask for your help and advice. You think that worth works for you will automatically work for everyone else. Your teeth are whiter and your clothes are better and suddenly that permits you to be the ultimate arbiters of public morality.

You assume America, and capitalism, is the ultimate model and you end up judging everything simply by how close it comes to your own ideal. You begin to think you have carte blanche to remake whatever you want to remake in your own image.”

—-

Speaking of humility.

 

 

We, everyone in a country leadership role, lurch back and forth between what is right and what is wrong all the while every step taken on a path with a sign that says “what is best for the country & people this way.’

 

And each step nowadays seems to be burdened by this word ‘compromise.’

 

 

Compromise implies ‘giving up something that is right or the best.’

 

 

It seems like it would be better to recognize that there is no one right way and no one right answer in heading down this path … all head down the path … it is just an argument over what shoes I want to wear that particular day.

 

 

maybe we have no ideaAnd that is … well … it all seems just fucking insane.

 

 

It seems like maybe those spewing forth the idea that the other’s ideas are stupid and the path to greatness is ‘this way’ …and it is the only way … could drink from the cup of humility and accept that our past has certainly taught us that there is no one way nor right way.

 

 

Our past is strewn with greatness intermingled with some dark aspects.

 

 

Greatness doesn’t reside in our actions or accomplishments … it resides in one’s belief in hope & the future. Greatness resides in the ability to keep an eye on the horizon and the ability to put one foot in front of the other, sometimes not knowing where your foot will exactly land, on this path of ‘better.’

 

 

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson … “America is a country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”

 

 

 

 

Daniel Walker Howe writes on page 853 … “Americans live by hope for the future but their conflicting hopes for their country and their own lives provoke dissension.
Americans are constantly proposing new ideas and then wrangling over them.”

 

 

America is, and always has been, a country of the future.

 

 

America will, and always has, wrangled over ideas and hopes.

 

 

We always have and always will.

 

 

The moment we accept that, and embrace that, we accept dissension and accept that sometimes we will get it right … and sometimes we will get it wrong … because … well … while maybe being a great nation we are inevitably a great big group of people trying to do the best they can without having any specific formula for what to do.

 

 

The news of the decline & demise of America is tiring. Or maybe better said “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” <Mark Twain>.but yes ideas matters debate hugh

 

 

Frankly.

 

 

That’s why I hack my way through 900 page history books … to gain and maintain some perspective.

 

Sure.

 

Sometimes I learn something.

 

But mostly it gives me some perspective on what is happening today.
One last random thought.

 

 

 

I am not a speechwriter nor am I politician <most likely not qualified for either> … but … it slightly puzzles me that we don’t hear more Ralph Waldo Emerson or Adams or … well … many of the great American philosophical thinkers of the mid 1800’s quoted or used to make a point.

 

 

They had the ability to capture the American spirit, the American desire to ‘do things’, the American power of individualism and the American belief that government supports to ‘better.’

 

 

But, hey, that’s me.

And if they did … well … then I couldn’t use all their great words and I wouldn’t have a blog.

scrap the plan for the day

July 30th, 2015

 

======

morning plans who i am

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life.

Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto.

But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”

Carl Gustav Jung

=====

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.

If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem.

But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world.

This makes it hard to plan the day.”

e.b. white

=====

“I’ve always liked the time before dawn because there’s no one around to remind me who I’m supposed to be so it’s easier to remember who I am.”

Brian Andreas

=======

 

 

Ok.

planned what happened

 

Plans.

 

 

Plans and planning are tricky things.

 

 

I tend to believe I could write a Life version of this and a Business version of this.

 

 

Today is Life.

 

 

I have written about ‘hard to plan a day’ before:

http://brucemctague.com/hard-to-plan-the-day

—-

 

 

This time I write more about scrapping plans and how difficult we make it to do so rather than discussing actually deciding what plan to have.

 

 

Let me begin with intentions.

 

We wake up.

 

 

busy making plans notebook
We decide to head off to change, or impact, the world in any way we choose to.

 

 

We may not ‘define’ our decision as impacting … it may simply be under the guise of ‘good shit to do today.’

 

 

This also means, unfortunately, we do have a tendency to think of daily plans as ‘doing tangible things’ rather than possibly judging our plan completion under some heading like ‘teaching someone how to do things with grace & dignity & compassion.”

 

 

Which, by the way, I gotta tell ya … sounds like a frickin’ good plan.

 

 

Regardless.

 

 

Let me approach scrapping plans in a … well … curious way.

 

 

Curiosity is one of the three things I tell young people is the secret to success <the other two are resiliency and character>.

 

I tell young people this because most older people just don’t seem to have time, or make the time, to be actively curious.

 

Most older people … having inserted themselves into the daily grind and the ‘conserving institutions’ of which we call everyday Life … are less interested in curiosity and more interested in stability.

 

 

====

unexpected change

“Society, community , family are all conserving institutions.

They try to maintain stability, and to prevent, or at least slow down change. But organizations are organized with the intent to destabilize.

Because its function is to put knowledge to work – on tools, processes and products; on work; on knowledge itself – it must be organized for constant change.”

Peter Drucker

====

 

I say all of that because it means ‘improving the world’ often translates into swimming against the natural tide of ‘conserving institutions.’

 

 

This is not easy.

 

And therefore makes it even tougher to scrap the plans for the day.

 

But not scrapping pans for the day has a bigger repercussion to an individual.

 

 

I think the ripple effect for most of us is that we find ourselves waking up each day thinking ‘wow … I would love to improve the world somehow today’ <either consciously or subconsciously> and yet we end the day seemingly ot even having nudged Life in a positive <improving> direction..

 

 

Frankly … this struggle increases a feeling of negativity which can easily consume your life if you are not careful.

 

 

Between society encouraging things that don’t feel right for you, a ‘conserving’ environment, unhappy friends, media generating anxiety rating point by rating point by convincing us the world is going to end or intrusive trolls on social media … it can seem overwhelming negative as you view all of this versus what you felt when you first woke up in the morning.

 

 

Maybe that is why I love, and included, the Andreas quote … we wake up in the morning knowing ‘who I am’ without anyone trying to tell us otherwise. ‘

 

 

It is an odd, uncomfortable, struggle we face in scrapping plans.

change world and new

In our heart of hearts I believe most people want to help others and make things better in their lives <and others>… but it is difficult to make a priority.

 

Especially if we even have inkling that we have some desire to enjoy the world that day.

 

Enjoyment, these days, can be found less in curiosity and exploring curiosity and more in stability and ‘things went smoothly <as planned>.’

 

 

Just like E.B. White suggests … we are not only torn each day by enjoyment and improvement … but as Drucker points out … layered on top of our own dilemma the world around us is conspiring to suppress any improvements or changes we may decide to try and apply that day.

 

 

It is a constant battle of ‘us versus them’ on a variety of levels.

 

 

Us versus society.

 

And.

 

Uhm.

 

Us versus others.

 

 

“…But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

 

 

 

Huh?

 

 

What if the one day I choose to enjoy the world … and someone needs me <which forces me to scrap my enjoyment plan>?

 

 

What if I spend the day helping someone who can never really be helped and I miss out on some personal enjoyment?

 

 

Thinking about scrapping plans for the day makes you start thinking about is it better if one just stopped caring for others … I don’t mean entirely just becomes secondary … and how would this effect Life <your own as well as others>.

 

 

 

By the way … this ends up being more about ‘unintended consequences’ or ‘indirect influence’ on Life.

 

 

big plans ruler universe
This may begin sounding selfish … but it is not.

 

 

It relates to an important nuance … serving others to benefit someone else or serving myself t benefit others?

 
Does my plan for each day need to be a question of should I help myself … or help others?

 

 

I think I have an odd perspective on this.

 

 

And it may sound selfish but hear me out.

 

 

I tend to believe if you focus on waking up and improving the world by helping others you are focused on the wrong thing.

 

 

Huh?

 

I would suggest if you focus on improving yourself and being better every day, being the best you can be as PART of the world, you will inevitably improve the world and inevitably help others.

 

 

I know the difficulty in this approach is that you can lose out on the obvious ‘cause & effect’ feedback loop which helps feed our belief in ourselves and fights everyday negativity in that we have tangible proof we did something positive.

 

 

It takes some courage to approach it the way I suggest.

 

 

And it takes a lot of steadfast resilience in the face of a ‘prove you are doing something meaningful’ world.

 

 

Here is another thing in my favor with this thought.

 

 

All of us pretty much understand that no matter what plans you make, something unexpected is bound to happen … especially if one of your plans to enjoy the day and improve the world is a commitment to curiosity <which implies plans will be scrapped at some point any way>.

 

 

The unexpected portion implies plans are relatively useless … and maybe more importantly … scraping plans is almost standard.

 

And following that thought … it also implies it almost doesn’t matter what you actually do <as in measured tangible output and checks against ‘things done today’> as long as you have created some positive change, some improvement, around you.

 

————–

“It doesn’t matter what you do,” he said, “so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”

=

Ray Bradbury

————-

 

 

Look.

 

 

Life isn’t easy. Planning isn’t easy.

 

 

We all know this.

 

 

And my thought on approaching Life every day is tough because its approach accepts that things may not get better by tomorrow … maybe not even next week … but at some point <in the future>.

 

And while I don’t really embrace the whole ‘live in the now’ psychology I do suggest that really the only plan you shouldn’t scrap each day is improving yourself and doing the best you can.

 

 

It is like improving the pebble being dropped into each day’s Life.

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Despite all the bullshit in this world the one thing you can control is your own self-improvement. The one thing you can actually DO every day is remain curious and pursue curiosity.

 

 

You have to keep that in mind because while your plans are your plans …you need to beware … someone will always have tools to destroy them.

 

 

 

————

“Even if you have built your walls higher than the sky, someone will have the tools to destroy them. “

=

scraps of dreams pick up

via nothing-to-regreet

————

 

 

Lastly.

 

 

The plans you like, feel comfortable with, and inevitably start putting in place more often. Let’s call this your personal ‘conserving institution’ for the sake of continuity in this post.

 

 

The point here is what you feel comfortable knowing & doing. As you get older you will find a desire to do what you like doing and think what you feel comfortable thinking … more & more often.

 

As a result, you don’t see what I see <or someone else sees>.

 

 

You see what you like. So you end up seeing information that supports your point of view and your plans become less based on pursing curiosity but instead on stability & predictability <based on what you already know>.

 

You get stuck … stuck knowing what you already know.

 

 

 

Curiosity is a deliberate decision and action <I always get a little vocal when someone says ‘I am naturally curious’ because I tend to believe it is more a decision and not some innate characteristic>.

 

 

To improve yourself <and hopefully improve the world around you> you have break the existing routine of doing what you do and thinking what you think.

 

 

You have to force yourself to not only get a different perspective … but actually try and understand that perspective.

 

 

Even if you love your job you need to force yourself to learn new skills that increase your value to others <in business & work>.

 

 

You have to force yourself to look for something you would typically never read.

 

 

Inevitably you just have to learn to scrap the plan for the day if it means becoming better … and I mean proactively scrap the plan rather than have the scraps of dreams possibilitiesplan scrapped for you.

 

 

So go ahead … scrap the plan for the day.

 

I believe either you do it or Life will do it.

 

 

And maybe that is the biggest point.

 

 

Control your destiny or have Life dictate it.

 

 

That is your choice when it comes to plans and your day<s>.

Imagination requires a great deal of fortitude, creativity and hard work

January 18th, 2015

imagination infinite

 

——

“It’s extremely exciting to know that planets with potentially Earth-like conditions are out there, but learning what they actually are like will require a great deal of fortitude, creativity and hard work.”

=

Gregory Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz

—————-

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

=

John Dewey

———————

 

 

So.

 

 

 

Yesterday USAToday wrote … “Another Earth may be 500 light years away.”

 

 

No way.

 

 

Ok.

dead end

How awesome is that? <answer: awesome>

 

 

Then.

 

And I immediately thought … “inevitably we will show a failure of imagination.”

 

What do I mean ?

 

 

Well. I should be excited but instead I am wary of how ‘we the people’ will move forward. In fact … I envision no moving forward, no ‘trying to do what it takes to get there’ and no imagination to overcome the cries of ‘why waste money on something like this!”

 

 

 

Anyway.

 

 

Let me get the ‘another earth’ detail out of the way first.

 

 

 

===

USAToday:

world-in-hands-300x300

Some 500 light-years away, a little planet basks comfortably in the heat of its sun. It’s probably rocky – as the Earth is – and it’s probably just the right temperature to boast liquid water. In other words, it’s about as close to Earth as any planet we know of.

Unveiled at a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the planet Kepler-438b may be the Earth twin that researchers have long sought. Other planets have made claims to that title, but Kepler-438b is more similar to Earth in both size and in the amount of energy it receives from its star than a celebrated runner-up, several scientists said.

That runner-up, planet Kepler-186f, might be called “a cousin of Earth,” the University of Puerto Rico’s Abel Mendez, keeper of a database of planets outside our solar system, said via email. But 438b and another recently discovered planet are “brother and sister-in-law. We are getting closer.”

Kepler-438b and compatriot planet Kepler-442 b “are the best candidates we have so far for Earth analogues,” said astronomer Willy Torres of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a co-author of a paper in The Astrophysical Journal describing the new planets. Both were found with the help of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which launched into space in 2009.

Kepler 438-b is only 12 percent bigger in diameter than Earth, unlike the large number of “super-Earths” scientists have turned up outside our solar system. It has a 70 percent chance of being rocky, which scientists regard as a requirement for supporting life. And its surface receives roughly 40 percent more energy from its small star than Earth’s surface receives from the sun.

Kepler-438b “could be a perfect twin of Earth. We just don’t know, because we can’t pin down the measurements,” Torres said.

Sadly, Kepler-438b may represent something of an astronomical dead end. It is so far away, and its star so dim, that finding out whether it bears life or even an atmosphere is a daunting challenge, if not impossible.

“Discoveries of worlds like Kepler-438b are simultaneously satisfying and tantalizing,” planet-hunter Gregory Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said via email. “It’s extremely exciting to know that planets with potentially Earth-like conditions are out there, but learning what they actually are like will require a great deal of fortitude, creativity and hard work.”

Unlike previously discovered planets outside the solar system, these candidates orbit stars much like our own sun.

“These candidates represent the closest analogues to the Earth-sun system to date,” said Mullally, “and this is what Kepler has been looking for.”

These new Earth-sized candidate planets in the water-friendly zone of their stars “are super-exciting,” said Lehigh University astronomer Joshua Pepper.

====

 

 

imagination will take you everywhere

Ok <part 1>.

 

 

This is awesome.

 

I don’t care if it is 500 miles or 500 light years … it is a journey we should seek to take. It is a ‘task’ of which we should partake.

 

It is a task with an objective but not the means < today> to attain the objective.

 

 

This is where we, the people, typically excel.

 

When we are told it is not possible.

 

 

 

Ok <part 2>.

 

 

 

Now my concerns.

 

 

All this ‘another earth’ seems slightly impossible doesn’t it?

 

 

Well.

 

 

Only with the failure of imagination.

 

 

===

I wrote about this ‘failure’ once before in 2011

<many of the words & thoughts remain relevant to the topic today>:

http://brucemctague.com/failure-of-imagination

===

failure and success

The key thought in the words I wrote then:

===

We seem to have become the generation of measurement rather than the generation of imagination.

===

 

Yup.

 

ROI, measurement … practical rewards & output … that is what we ‘do’ these days.

 

 

This is how we conduct business and … well … lives.

 

 

We seem to have forgotten the value of unsought discovery.

 

 

We seem to have culturally turned our back on imagination … and the power of imagination.

 

 

 

What if we were to send a ship with dozens of people and create a new civilization?

 

 

What if we could start a world from scratch?

 

 

 

marvin and daffy earthShit.

 

 

What if we found another civilization already residing on this ‘other Earth’?

 

 

 

Well.

 

 

I am afraid we will never even get out of our solar system let alone explore the universe other than telescopes and unmanned probes.

 

 

It is because of a lack of imagination that we don’t see that actually exploring the universe would be the greatest journey of all for us as a species.

 

The comments under the article unequivocally reflect a majority of “so what.” Or “why waste our time.”

 

 

===

… it simply makes no difference either way.

500 light years is far beyond our practical reach so long as the speed of light is an absolute limit.

While it’s interesting to fantasize about the possibilities in the future the fact is that it is very possible that we will never be able to bridge the incredible vastness of space to other potentially habitable planets.

===

 

Well.

 

 

My main answer to this negative view of imagination <it’s not failure … simply the inability to envision ‘what could be’:

 

————–

“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.”

=

Jules de Gaultier

——————–

 

 

Look.

 

innovation imagination

I want to be careful here because I do not want to diminish the individual challenges many people have with regard to paying everyday bills and the day to day pressures of enduring a recession.

 

 

 

But we, as a whole, need to think long term.

 

 

What makes civilization great is how we forge through crap like unemployment and recession and day-to-day challenges and get to ‘hope’ and imagination and innovation and find out what is beyond the next horizon.

 

I would also point out that the reaching for the horizon tends to solve unemployment and recession and the day-to-day hardships thru innovations and overall betterment of Life.
If America decided to ‘do’ this project … assume responsibility for reaching another Earth … we will succeed.

 

 

 

Not by working harder than anyone else. But because we permit hope and imagination to prosper.

 

 

 

Ok.

 

 

 

Maybe I am crazy.

imagination fail dream

 

But.

 

 

If I am … let me be content in my craziness.

 

——-

“Here’s to the crazy ones.

The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently.

While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

=

Short version of an Apple Computer Ad

————-

 

 

 

I am no genius by any stretch of the imagination.

 

 

But.

 

I can recognize the value of imagination.

 

 

The value of discovery.

 

 

The value of seeking what is beyond the horizon.

 

—————–

“Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization.

Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.

So I believe that dreams–daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing–are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

=

L. Frank Baum

—————————

imagination portugese

 

Imagination fosters civilization.

 

 

 

Imagination fosters all that ‘could be.’

 

 

The search for the way to reach ‘another Earth’ is one big prosperous innovation initiative … assuming someone has the kahones to do it.

 

 

This is the rebirth of NASA.

 

Shit.

 

This is the rebirth of imagination.

failure of imagination part 2

July 15th, 2011

 

 

So.

 

 

I made a big stink about the death of the US space shuttle initiative.

And maybe I did so because in some obtuse way I sensed it as simply being the first domino to start falling in the overall failure of imagination in the face of ROI-based government (and skewed public opinion) decision making.

 

The next domino falling?

 

 

NASA is fighting to save its next-generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. Politicians want to end the project. Blast it off the face of the earth (as it may be).

The headline: NASA fights to save the James Webb space telescope from the axe.

Astronomers shocked by House of Representatives’ move to scrap deep-space observatory after costs soar to $6.5bn.

Whew.

 

 

Now that is an incendiary headline playing to a variety of nerves nationally. But … don’t get me started on how Media reports things.

 

The bottom line is that a Congress appropriations committee has decided that it has had enough of the project’s escalating costs and moved to cancel the project.

(oh … and coincidentally in all the budget deficit/spending debates on The Hill the decision cuts $1.9bn from NASA’s 2012 budget)

 

Congress called the project an “extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary program.”

 

Look.

 

I know Congress is in the hyperbole business but even that extreme a comment comes as a shock to me.

The scariest aspect of this cut is that it is truly a cut. The money taken from this project is removed from the NASA budget entirely. It will not go into other missions or research grants.

 

 

 

Ok.

In case you missed the story.

 

 

USA Today: A terse statement, released by the Republican-dominated committee, said that the project “is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management”. The decision still has to be approved by the full appropriations committee, the House and the Senate. Nevertheless, analysts say the telescope now faces a struggle to survive.

 

 

Now.

 

 

Am I going to argue that the project could use better management?

Nope.

 

 

Am I going to argue with the thought the project should have remained within budget?

Yup.

 

 

 

Couple of reasons for this.

 

 

  1. Getting a budget through government is a sham. Initially it is all about getting the project approved … not the budget.  People who know how to play the game focus on “what budget does it take to get a really good idea approved to move forward?” (Unfortunately this also works conversely for really bad ideas … but that’s another post for another day).

 

This is where government could use a Business Management 101 lesson.

Businesses learned really early on that lowballing a budget was a really really bad idea.  Tell the truth upfront.  That’s the lesson.  Good bad ugly or beautiful it is what it is. So my first issue is that the original budget was a fake budget.  A best guess at best.

 

 

 

Next.

 

2.    Budgeting for an innovative idea is impossible.  If it is truly innovative then it is truly new (hence its innovative tag). How do you competently budget for something you haven’t even seen or done before? You cannot.  And no matter how much the ROI crazy world demands it you are simply plucking numbers out of the air to appease people who are asking, “you need to give me a number.” So when someone says “you are so far over your initial budget it is a farce” someone at NASA should be shoving it right back at them with “you are pandering to the public with that statement (and shame on you) and you are not judging the project properly (judge us not on initial budget but rather the value of the output to date).”

 

 

On a project like this focusing on the original budget is ludicrous. But it certainly makes for good press when everyone is talking about cutting government expenses.

 

 

Ok.

 

This James Webb project.

 

Scheduled for a 2016 launch the James Webb is intended to replace the Hubble Space Telescope and would orbit in deep space millions of miles from Earth and give us additional insights into the universe. Its observations would answer major questions about the structure of the universe (as well as any sci-fi imaginary aspects you would like to attach to the practical perspective – because realistically the sci-fi “who and what is out there” is almost as important as all the scientific universe learning stuff).

 

 

The cost of the Webb observatory has significantly increased from initial estimate of $1.6bn to more than $6.5bn. Unfortunately this means that budgets for other space research projects have been slashed, leading the journal Nature to describe the James Webb as “the telescope that ate astronomy”.

 

 

Not surprisingly, the move to scrap the telescope, which has been underconstruction since 2004 has horrified astronomers (I just had to use that … written by someone else). They are horrified because the James Webb was intended to be the centerpiece of space research for the next two decades (hence the reason funds were shifted from other projects to fund this one … I just thought I would point that out to everyone). Its telescope is something like 3x the size of Hubble’s and because it orbits outside Earth’s atmosphere it would be able to make unprecedented observations. This would allow it to capture images and gain learning from a time when the first stars and galaxies lit up the universe.

 

 

Ok ladies & gentlemen.

 

We have been here before.

 

 

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 as NASA’s flagship observatory and was the largest to be flown in space at that time. In the early stages of the project, Hubble had technical delays and budget issues.  Troubles didn’t end after launch and we even had to send a manned rescue mission to fix Hubble (at a huge expense I may add). However. Twenty years later it is difficult to debate the impact Hubble has had on science & innovations & learning (not to mention capturing the imagination of millions of children who will inevitably be guiding the future of the world).

 

 

Skip ahead to 2011.

 

 

We are on the brink of killing NASA’s successor to Hubble (same reasons as above).

 

 

 

Bottom line is that Hubble cost several billion dollars more than initially planned, and its launch was delayed by almost a decade yet we do not hear many people debating whether those funds and time & effort were well spent.

 

 

I believe the most important question we should be asking is can we afford not to find out what this next NASA project will discover?

The things we cannot even foresee at this stage?

 

It is very difficult to see who will be better off if this project dies. A NASA employee says it very well:

–        For scientists, its loss will slow progress in understanding the physics that governs the universe at a time when huge advances are within our reach.

–        Engineers, who have successfully completed many aspects of the observatory, will see more than a decade of work go to waste as well as we miss out on the future innovations needed to overcome the next obstacle the project will face.

–        The public will lose the opportunity to marvel once again at the amazing place that is our universe: the thousands of planets that populate our own galaxy, the places where new suns are born, the first galaxies at the dawn of time. We’ll all miss out on the opportunity to inspire a new generation of scientists by simply being capable, as a species, of launching this fantastic telescope into space and seeing the things it will see.

The only one that benefits is not really a person.  It is just the budget.  So simplistically this is about dollars and ROI.  Yup.  Imagination/discovery versus dollars/cents.

 

 

My point of view?

 

 

I think cost cutting (using ROI or budgets as an excuse) doesn’t come much more shortsighted than this. It is proof that we have lost sight of what is important to us … what makes America who America is.

 

It is about the success of imagination.

The success of discovery.

The success of ‘what if.’

 

 

Cutting this initiative would simply be a vivid demonstration of our failure of imagination.

And the failure in understanding imagination and discovery is what leads us to greater heights (albeit unforeseen heights).

 

Maybe I could have said it simpler.

 

 

Cutting this project simply equals failure.

Enlightened Conflict