Writing Holiday

Beach vacation. freeart.com

Writing holiday, not a holiday from writing, but a holiday to write.

Need to refresh and get something new on the page. By the end of August the creative juices should be pumped up and ready to serve up some interesting ideas.

Be back August 30 to finish out the summer. Maybe you’ll still be on a mental beach and can pick up “Past Becomes Present” while you relax your mind for the fall. By now there are over 60 blogs to choose from, so you could always go back and find something “new to you!” Look forward to seeing you on line soon.


Dream Big! The world’s wide open for new ideas.

Sundial created by Peter Kraayvanger in 1637. Pixabay free. 1076743

If you want to paint a colorful future, do not dream small.

This is not the first time we have faced a world that seemed stacked against us. Think about life in 3,499 BC before the wheel was invented. Everything was made by, cooked by, or carried by homo sapiens, who came along in a simplier form beginning 300,000 years ago. Oxen were not used as beasts of burden until 7000 BC, so humans toiled on their own for a while before domesticating animals.

Even with oxen-drawn carts, men and women were not traveling that far, at least not in a single day before the invention of the most basic compass in 206 BC. As transportation needs and human’s capabilities expanded, the compass improved in the 12th century using iron needles—magnetized by striking with a lodestone containing iron. It would be another eight centuries before humans would have the liquid-filled magnetic compass we use today.

Dreamers gazing at the stars

Throughout history, humans have reached out to new places to market their goods, find new seeds, or learn what skills or tools existed in the nearby world. They dreamed while looking out to the stars, wondering if they held valuable stories and made up stories of their own as they named the stars long before there were books to read.

Looking to the present, picture our minds as fresh, open for new ideas, new inventions—a tabla rasa–to write the progress of our thoughts. What time better than now? We’re busy but many are not commuting. If you grab that scrap of time, you never know what your fertile mind might conjure.

What will be the next important invention?

When it comes to inventions, now we might question if the world really needed something like cast concrete, called Pozzolan, when it was invented in 27 BC, but that would be short sighted on our part. Concrete helped humans build larger and taller structures. It is cheaper than marble or wood, which are not available everywhere, and because of their size are hard to transport. And about those parking garages . . . at one time concrete and steel rebar helped stack thousands of cars. What will come next? Would you rely on your gasoline-powered car if you didn’t require it for transport?  It has taken decades to reduce the size of the battery necessary to power an electric car (since the 1970s) and it is just now coming online in general production. Some ideas take a long time to percolate. All the more reason to get started.

Now that many carry their calendar on their wrist or in their computer, we are thankful to Julius Caesar in 45 BC for having devised a Roman Calendar resting on the shoulders of the Assyrian-Babylonian-Zoroastrian-Hebrew-Coligny calendars the relied on the movements of the sun and the moon. His calendar did not depend on observations of the new moon but followed an algorithm introducing a leap year every four years. The Gregorian calendar refined Caesar’s handiwork in 1582 and continues in worldwide use today, but there are modifications developed for use by various religions: Hebrew, Islamic, Hindu, and Zoroastrian. My Gregorian-based calendar appears on a white board to the right of my desk—a large visual reminder before I leave the room. Is there a better way?

Can the clock evolve further?

While today there are fewer clocks on the walls at home and office, for centuries starting around 3500 BC the Greeks and the people they ruled depended on solar placement in the sky and the sundial in the ruler’s domain. But parsing time is such a universal need that several mathematicians and scientists around the world toiled to perfect the clock:

  • The 60-minute and 60-second divisions of time came from Sumeria in 2,000 BC
  • Emperor Augustus in 293 BC had his scientific minions apply geometry to the equation.
  • Greek Emperor Pluto developed a water-based alarm clock in 1st millennia BC.
  • Islamic mathematicians in the 1300s devised a way to divide the day into equal hours.
  • European scholars followed in 1400 to solve the elements of a “water” clock.
  • Originally called a “daegmael” for dry measure in Old English; today’s “clock” comes from the French cloche in the 14th century.
  • German inventor Peter Henlein created the first portable clock in 1504 and the first spring-loaded clock around 1511.
  • Christian Huygens’ invention of the more accurate pendulum clock in 1656 made it a standard device in the home in 1656.

The point? No one person, nation or hemisphere has cornered the market on inventions. Though now the U.S. Patent Office investigates and approves a tremendous number of ideas turned into useful products each year. It might be a good place to determine if your idea has already been tested!

Dreams are yours alone. Ideas, inventions, new ways of addressing old ideas will be essential moving forward. You have your own unique take on life and have some ideas to try out. It is an opportunity like we’ve never had before. Sure, you can look on the other side of the ledger to see what has changed, been lost, will not work as before, but look beyond that.

Tie a Tether to Your Dream

Just take the required time to focus on a problem you want to solve. Inventions come as a result of a variety of people applying their perspective to a situation and taking time to consider a variety of ways to improve it. Once you have identified what you’d like to tackle, a bit of homework is required. Is it physically possible to create your dream? Do you know enough about to determine if there is a market for it? Are there people who will find it useful and buy it? Have your marketing idea well in hand before reaching out to find an investor to help you make it happen. In order to move your dream into reality you also need to check around the industry you plan to enter to see if it will be healthy or can be once the Pandemic settles down. It is important to invest your time, energy, and passion into something that will love you back. No matter what area you select, know that the process of discovery and invention operates globally, drawing on brainpower from across the globe.

For example, the development of instruments to mark the hours of the day and parse the hours of toil, recreation, and sleep came to perfection over centuries. No one country or religion provided all the answers. Individuals around the globe perfected the size and accuracy of the Westclox timepiece in London’s Big Bend, Egyptian installed sundials in the sand, a Frenchman developed pendulums, and a German down-sized the workings to create wrist-watches. All this grew out of centuries of modifying simple oblisques and sundials, the Greek’s water-based alarm clock, and the work of Islamic mathematicians to equalize the hours of day and night.

Think about a collaborator. Two minds are always better than one.

W.H. Creak, “The History of the Liquid Compass,” The Geological Journal, Vol. 56, No. 3, (1920), pp. 238-239.

Unexpected Friendships: Past and Present

Take it back to childhood for the best memories. Then they grew up to be competing Presidents, a novelist and an electrical genius, a comedian and poet, two entertainers from the West Indies, two women entertainers in love with the same man, two prizefighters–an African American and a German backed by the Nazis. Life does make interesting friends. Keeping the friendship is where the gold is won.

To have a person who is “your” person, for you always even when it’s hard—down right impossible—is a gift beyond measure. Matters not who the person is, the role someone performs in your life, but that you know you can count on that person, not just for support but to parse the essential issues in your lives. Never offering an Inquisition, but asking the questions you might not want to address. Yet raising those you know you must ask in order to move on, to achieve your goals, be fully present and responsible in a meaningful life.

A “best” friend can also be the person you hang out with when you’re letting off steam or relaxing, have dinner or a couple beers or glasses of wine, but if you can’t ask each other the hard questions and offer honest answers, then there’s something important missing.  Those “easy” friends who share a similar career or a child’s preschool are fine, but if you want to look a little farther afield, you might open into something richer and deeper.

Many people I have communicated with over the past four months during this Pandemic have found their usual haunts closed for safety reasons, so they must resort to other ways to connect. A phone call or letter to a new acquaintance or an old friend who you would like to re-engage could make a positive difference in your life and theirs!

No doubt you have heard that U.S. President #2 John Adams, stout, leaning neurotic northerner, and U.S. President #3 Thomas Jefferson, slim, genteel, southerner, were great friends in the 1770s when they had the American Revolution in common. But when they were involved in the nasty 1800 Presidential campaign (politics is not often a relationship builder) that friendship turned bitter and they didn’t speak until 1812. Did you know how they began speaking again? Adams wrote Jefferson a letter after a mutual friend encouraged him. Both well-read and voracious readers, their correspondence between Peace Field in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia covered philosophy, religion and, of course, politics, but lacked the fire that destroyed their friendship in the earlier years. Of course, it is well known they both died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Moving Through Time

While Adams and Jefferson were physically different as well as political opponents, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor were both beautiful women, but they were drawn together initially by the third in the triangle—Eddie Fisher. A bit after fathering Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame, carried on a very public affair with Taylor, eventually divorced Reynolds and married Taylor. After his death, the two women became friends and when Taylor died, Reynolds inherited her sapphire jewelry. Quite a gift recognizing forgiveness and the friendship they built. Maybe there are some future friendships in this Pandemic that only require soul searching, forgiveness, and a fresh start.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Nikola Tesla, the electricity wizard of the 1890s, met during the Gilded Age when the two men circulated in the New York social scene. Their friendship blossomed through letters focused around their shared intellectual curiosity. Twain would often visit Tesla’s lab, to examine scientific oddities and be present for Tesla’s demonstration of high voltage electricity and early x-ray technology. Each man claimed the other had cured him of an illness. As a child, Tesla was once bedridden and found Twain’s “captivating” novels helped him jump-start a recovery. Twain said that Tesla cured him of a severe bout of constipation by having him stand on a high frequency oscillator.

Comedian Groucho Marx and poet and Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot were quite the opposites. Marx with his bawdy humor and Eliot, the author of difficult, melancholic verse, like “The Wasteland” began their friendship when Eliot wrote to ask Marx for a signed fan photograph.  Both men respected the work of the other and shared a love of literature, although Eliot showed to be the more conservative while Mark took opportunities to embarrass the bashful poet. They met for dinner with their wives at Eliot’s home in London in 1964, after which Marx said they shared “an affection for good cigars” and cats and “a weakness for making puns.”

In the 1930s came one of the more striking friendships between “The Brown Bomber” Joe Louis and German prizefighter Max Schmeling favored by the Nazis. Louis, unbeaten until 1936 when Schmeling beat him. In the rematch in 1938, Louis won a contest overlaid with racial and political implications. Louis scored a knockout against Schmeling. After the match, the two took to phone calls to discuss their roles as nationalist icons for their respective countries—Louis against racism in America and Schmeling now against Nazism in Germany. When Louis fell on hard times financially, Schmeling helped out. When Louis ran into financial difficulty toward the end of his life, Schmeling came through and helped to pay his debts. Unexpected friendships.

And there are those entertainers who we might have expected to be friends, but to maintain that bond for 40 or 50 years is a credit to them that creative jealousies never disrupted their bond. Betty White of “Golden Girls” and long a television favorite, first met Lucille Ball when she was filming “A Date with Angels” at the Desilu Studios in 1956. The comedians remained friends until Ball’s death in 1989.

Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier met when they were 20 in 1947 at the American Negro Theater. Their common birthplace, the West Indies, and their personal commitment to civil rights helped sustain their 70-year bond and provided American music and movies with classic presentations of both.

Two popular leading men—Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart—could not be more different. Stewart, a religious Republican, and Fonda, an agnostic, liberal-leaning Democrat would be a hard match under normal circumstances. But these two spent their time together building kites and model airplanes and playing practical jokes. Their 50-year friendship didn’t conclude until Henry’s death in 1982.

If these people can keep their friendship alive for 50+ years, think of what or who is missing in your life. Maybe making and flying a kite might open up your friendship with someone you’ve had difficulty reaching. Communication is simpler now. A text or an email might rekindle your friendship, but wouldn’t a letter be a nice surprise?