WordCloud

This is an odd fad that I have seen people use on social media. Somehow the program will sum up all a person’s posts in a year or some specified time frame into a conglomeration of words. Not sure how the program knows which words to pick out, but the upshot is meant to be a summary of attitude based on words used in posts the person made. There are programs online (WordClouds.com is one) where you can copy and paste an essay or list or whatever and the program will mash it into what you said. Or something.

I remember many times when I worked for my dad’s company training new employees. In addition to my working with them I had fashioned manuals for each position of production, explaining what the job was, why it existed with keystroke-by-keystroke instructions on data entry and submission. This was a painstaking process but greatly facilitated the assimilation of any employee we hired, thus enabling their joining the company a seamless process.

IMG_0448.JPGCoast Guard Cutter Returning to Base up the Cape Fear River

It also made my father very happy because if I happened to be out of the office and any questions arose these manuals were designed so anyone who could read could walk in, read this manual and do whatever the task was. Thereby alleviating any awkward “I don’t know” situation for my dad, which was a rare occurrence anyway. This was also how my mother taught me to cook. I once asked her, as a small child, how do you cook? “If you can read you can cook,” was her answer. She was an amazing cook, and I know there was way more to her cooking than just reading.

Life is kind of that way. You have to live through a substantial amount of experiences before any sufficient measurable wisdom is attained in order to see a pattern or theme I think. Some situations I wished I had an operations manual. Like when my son was born. His birthday was yesterday. I was telling him what that day (the greatest day!) was like. I especially recalled the day after when I was being prepared to go home. They brought my brand new baby to me and showed me how to give him a bath. I watched in horror as they slung him side to side in the little tub sloshing him all over with soapy water. Later when he was bundled in his little onesie and blankets they handed him to me. I looked at him a moment, then asked the nurse could they not keep him longer, say till he was ready for school? I was terrified I’d break him.

I didn’t.

IMG_0447.JPGLate-blooming Christmas amaryllis

But life doesn’t come with manuals. Which is why some may like being perpetual students. Being in school you are learning, but what does learning something matter if you never apply it to anything? And I know plenty of people who did not go to college and are smarter than many that did. That’s likely more a matter of personality than intelligence. Both help.

IMG_0449.JPGLulu’s wordcloud is always growing

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Red giants

I was reading Steve Forbes’ article in the Sept. 2 issue of his magazine where he illustrates the history of various economies. Since I only skimmed it I won’t even attempt to summarize, but it got me thinking. There have been all these empires in the world. Roman, Greek, Spanish conquerors, Napoleonic France, the English “empire” (won’t be tempted to spin off on a Star Wars tangent there), and the U.S. So, like stars (astronomy, not celebrity), we eventually come into our own, be the pulse of the world, flaunt our power around for a while, burning brightly, generating ideas and creating products on this maddening streak of inventions and cleverness. We get all full of ourselves, begin to relax, lose the sense of fun in discovery and creativity and get lazy. We sit around, reminiscing about our glory days. We puff ourselves up based on what we or, most often, somebody else did that we think made us great. Then we decide it’s not fair, everybody should have some of it, too. So we try to spread it around. But we don’t keep making more, we just use up what there is. Then it gets thinner and thinner. Everybody may have some but it’s not enough to support anybody. 

When you think of astronomy, a star, it starts out as a bunch of bloated gas and atomic chaos slamming into itself until it becomes organized. I’m no scientist, but as I understand it the organization only lasts as long as the star has enough hydrogen. When that gets low the star gets this red tinge. Eventually, if it’s a small star, it dies, collapsing on itself.

We need to stop looking at where we’ve been. We need to stop looking at what everybody else has, or what we think we don’t have. We need to start looking at what we can do, who we can be. Stop sucking up all our hydrogen asking “Who am I?” or, worse, “Why am I?” and just go and be. But not just feeding on ourselves. What’s left after the U.S. to shine as brightly as we have?