Wright is Wrong: The Right to be Right


As an American I take some pride that the American Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright. These Ohio brothers invented the airplane. They were the ones with their bike shop and their stubborn trial and error. They experimented and worked hard and made the airplane happen.

We learn in America that anybody can grow up to be anything they want—even president!

The Wright brothers were actually the ones that won the race. At their moment in history, there was a crowd—dare I say a horde? —of scientists and inventors working on the problem.

When the brothers did their first flight on 1903 at Kitty Hawk, they were not the favored ones to win.

Samuel P Langley was supposed to be the one to invent flight. He was the favorite. It’s funny to talk about it this way. Inventing a flying machine was not exactly a prize fight. This was long before Vegas was giving odds. How could there have been a favorite?

Most of my life, I have known and resented of the people who had the right to be heard. They had the right to be right.

I have been sitting at the table, joining the conversation and my contribution was blanked out. Then that contribution which could not be heard was presented by another person who had the right to be right. NOW the idea was valuable. NOW it could be accepted.

Or maybe it never got repeated by the right person and a harmful course of action was taken instead of the one I proposed.

It was my idea. Therefore, it was unacceptable.

America is supposed to be the place where everyone has the right to be right. Orville and Wilbur were right.

But even in my egalitarian America, this Langley guy was overshadowing the Wright brothers. Langley was a scholar, and he’d bopped around all over doing academic things on the east coast, Chicago and then becoming the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.

He was in charge of the Smithsonian while he was doing experiments in flying machines. President McKinley gave him a grant from the war chest to make it happen.

Except he didn’t. All the best people, all the experts knew he was going to be the one to invent the airplane. They knew it so hard that they wouldn’t accept that he didn’t.

The Smithsonian tried to re-write history to say that he actually would have been the first except for a few trivial bits of circumstantial things that didn’t really count.

The British have this phrase “in the event” which means “actually” …it could also mean factually, or empirically.

What actually happened, in the event, was the Wright brother flew their plane. Langley never did. The president and all the academic hoi polloi were wrong and bet on the wrong inventor.

Instead of doing what scientists do and admitting the truth, “Smithsonian officials displayed one of Secretary Langley’s “Aerodromes,” as Langley called his airplanes, with the label stating that Langley had constructed a machine “capable” of flight before the Wright Brothers successful flight, Orville was not happy. In 1925, because of this, Orville loaned the 1903 Wright Flyer to the London Science Museum, promising that it would not return to the United States until the Smithsonian renounced its claim”

Sam, Sam the poor loser man. This is your legacy? This is what your acolytes are posthumously protecting? Science, experimentation and learning lost for appearance’s sake.

Hungry

I am a Cat was written the late 1800s by Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume. A first-person novel from the perspective of a cat—as you might expect that cat’s got a lot of opinions. I’m not that far into it but it stopped me short in the beginning

The cat/kitten’s story starts with his earliest memory. He is alone and trying to find a way to survive. He is carried into a house and given some milk. He is almost immediately kicked out again.

This cat was sure that inside that house was food and warmth. Inside that house was life. His whole kitten self was targeted on getting into that house.

A determined cat. An irresistibly demanding cat. I can see it. I can feel it.

I have been that kitten. Single focus on the one thing. All the world whittled down to one thing.

You know what happens to that kitten? He gets what he’s set out to get.

Not every goal has that kind of clarity. I’ve had other goals that were more like fantasies. Things I would want when I remembered I wanted them.

Goals like that have less of a chance of coming true. Commonly, it’s only after they get promoted to the need-like-life status that they got real.

Life or death focus is hard to maintain. That kind of intensity can only last for a little while.

However, I might need the life-of-death focus to get it started. I might need to fuel the momentum of getting the lift.

For me, that means getting the idea organized. I will need to shape my desire into something I can get a handle on.

Long term goals require a system. When I’m fired up, I can shape it and break it to little pieces that I can actually do.

I can feed the hunger with those little bites. I can make it real.

I can be that cat.

Sympathetic Magic

It was only my second job as a project manager. My last contract lasted barely a cup of coffee and I was scared.

I wanted good things to happen. I invoked some sympathetic magic.

Have you heard of this? It’s a like-begets-like situation. One of my favorite examples of sympathetic magic has to do with older medicines. If a plant looked like a foot, it was considered to be a foot medicine. The Ginger root, since it looked like a little person, was considered to be very beneficial to the whole body. It’s been highly prized for its healing properties.

In this new scary work environment, I wanted to bring a little magic with me to ensure my success.

I chose a big orchid. I put it out where everyone could enjoy it. Some of my new co-workers commented and thanked me.

But my new boss hated the sight of it. To be honest, she hated the sight of ME.

How could she hate me? She barely gave me a chance. And these flowers were so pretty, surely, they would win her over just like I would.

I wanted the flowers to bring beauty, life and growth into my job. But they only brought resentment.

That orchid bloomed like crazy in that office. And I made the biggest project plan of my life. But boss lady hated us more with every passing day. She would drum her dramatic fake nails on the conference table where they sat.

The day I was escorted out with my box the orchid was still blooming. I could say the sympathetic magic didn’t work. There was no growth for me there. No delight and no beauty.

My magic flowers did serve to show immediately how resistant this boss was to my presence. I did know that that box-walk of shame was coming. I just hoped it wasn’t.

I’ve been feeling yucky and stuck the last few weeks. Something needed to change. Where could I find some creative juices? Everything has been shut down.

That’s no way to think. I find what I’m looking for. So where can I find creativity happening?

People gathering and expressing themselves. That must be happening somewhere.
Yes. Sunday night jazz bands on the patio. I’d seen them doing it by the Sushi shop for years. Last Sunday I packed up my laptop and sat in the audience.

The speakers were overdriven but the juice was flowing. Words poured out.
This time, the magic worked. I have a totally different sense of what is possible. It was like my efforts were suddenly going downhill and could pick up speed.

It seems like magic is a little mysterious. My magic didn’t get me what I hoped for the first time. But that was no reason to give up on it. I’m glad I didn’t.

Faith and Hope

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13;13

I just tore out my tomato plant. It had flowers and even a few baby tomatoes on it. It was 94 degrees yesterday. This area is good for tomatoes as long as I water them.

I’d planted this tomato plant with so much faith and love. I had hope that it would give me delicious ripe red tomatoes.

I twined it around the cage to support it growing strong. I snipped back the growth so it would put its energy into the fruit.

I had faith. I loved my plant

And my hopes were not fulfilled. I saw the green tomatoes swell. Then they were stolen.

Every single.

There were forces that I had not controlled. My environment included tomato thieves. I found racoon prints in the dust around the corner. But then again, my backyard is a harbor for a lot of fauna. They are clever and thorough. The tomatoes would all be stolen the moment they turned the slightest blush of red.

I had hope though. I thought if I buried a green tomato in the middle of plant it would escape notice.

I was wrong.

The tomato burglars are skilled.

It was nice to have hope all summer. I had hope and no tomatoes.

I also was spending a lot of time looking for my next job. I had a lot of hope for that one too. So many small green possibilities came my way. A more bountiful harvest than ever before.

I was swimming in hope. So many possibilities, more than I’d ever dreamed possible.

But possibilities are not reality. I cannot put hope on a plate.

On the other hand, hope does help feed the faith. I have faith that I will find my spot. The right position will appear and it will extend an offer.

Like those green tomatoes, I was so ready to harvest one of these. So many of these jobs were perfect for me. And I was perfect for them!

But they vanished.

Undoubtedly, I could have done something to protect my tomatoes better. Many people had suggestions.

I also could have done things on the job search as well. There are no shortage of opinions on how I should change,

Well, I did change.

I ripped out the tomato plant. I had an idea about what I wanted, but I wasn’t successful with that idea. I am going to shift my hopes to a new direction. Faith keeps me going.

I spent this whole piece only talking about faith and hope. The greatest of the three is love. Love softens the blow of all the failed attempts of the first two. It hasn’t been easy.

21st Century Greek Chorus: The Wailing of the Karens

Do you remember reading the old Greek plays? There is always a group of people on the edge who act as the voice of what everyone is thinking. There Greek writers have been cherished for so long because they were really on to something. That voice of what “people” think–the combined opinions of the guy down the block, my cousin, my brother’s friend and that thing I heard on the news the other day.

It affects me. I pause in my choices as I remember others’ opinions.

The modern manifestation of this idea is social media. All the socials will tell me what opinions to have on topics I haven’t gotten around to thinking about.

These some social medias have come up with the modern Beelzebub: Karen

Apologies to the many nice women named Karen. But this Karen archetype is the woman who has lived her life successfully and knows how things work. Most especially she knows how the world should be run and how she is to be treated. It is widely understood that she is going to talk to the manager about what needs to be changed. The customer service she received may indeed be past repair, but she will take the time to inform the manager what needs to change so that this establishment can be brought up to the standards that allow her to bestow her patronage on it the next time.

This archetypical woman has gone through life and learned things. She is no passive participant; she has found her voice and can use it whenever necessary. Maybe a little more than necessary.

Karens do a lot to keep the world running smoothly. And the world ain’t running so smooth right now, have you noticed?

The ascendancy of the Karens, as I see it, was about 4 years ago. They knew the workings of the machine and could nudge it back into smoothness.

And at the beginning of the Covid lockdowns most of their knowledge was still valid. But 18 months ago was the end of an era.

Remember when we could laugh at those crazy baristas at Starbucks who would misspell our names in bizarre fashion? Karen would have talked to them about it.

But now? My local Starbucks doesn’t have that kind of personal detail to write my NAME on a cup. I’m asked to order with the app and not go into the store without an appointment.

Wait no, that was last month.

Now they have a trainee and they are out of Sharpies since the shipment hasn’t come in for the last two months. I don’t think the trainee is going to learn the signature name-reinterpretation tradition of baristas from decades past.

The wheels fell off. That trainee is not gonna stick around too long. The hard-won wisdom of Karen is EOL.

End of life. This era is becoming. What it is become remains to be seen. But I do foresee a great weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who had risen to prominence during the era previous.

Yes, I admit. I am one of those. I have talked to a manger once or twice. I mourn the decay of a once orderly system of existence.