When we were in elementary school, we learned about Thomas Edison and the light bulb. That was pretty cool.
Then as adults – probably thanks to the internet – we learned that Thomas Edison was a big jerk, thief, and con artist. We then learn to admonish the exploited genius Nikola Tesla. Oh how Edison ripped him off for the practicality of the modern light bulb!
Or did he? I got to wondering about this myself as I summoned light with the flick of my forefinger. It started as, “Even if Tesla invented it, could he have sold it? Popularized it? Delivered it to the world?” It then quickly evolved into, “What did Edison steal from Tesla? When? What happened, exactly? In exactly what way did he steal from him? Even if he did, how exactly did he prevent Tesla from succeeding?” Side note: I’m learning that the minute you ask specific questions about the details of notions – especially emotionally charged notions, they are most frequently dispelled entirely. Ask questions. Always ask for details to tales and you’ll quickly learn just how tall they are.
So you then learn to poke around for the details. You find things like this article: http://geekhistory.com/content/nikola-tesla-versus-thomas-edison-and-search-truth and others like it.
Anyway, the short answer is: he didn’t. Edison didn’t steal the light bulb (or likely anything else) from Tesla, and Tesla was still an extremely successful inventor. Not only that, but Tesla himself was a big jerk and con artist.
In the end, here in this world of jerks and con artists, I’m just glad to have easy access to electricity at all.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my childhood and reevaluating those past relationships through the lens of adulthood. The closest inspection has been on the adults of that time.
The adults that I respected and loved the most – the ones whose voices still echo in my mind – were the ones who took the time to talk with me about the deep things that mattered. They were the ones who took the time to learn what mattered most to me and explore them with me. But that means that there was an abundance of time in between in which we talked about a whole lot of nothing.
“I hate chit chat,” is something that I hear often – especially if you include the number of times I’ve said it in my own head. And it’s true that chatting can wear me down very quickly. But despite what we think, I’d wager that no healthy person actually hates it. The people who say that are most often the ones who cherish deep conversation and connection. Chatting is necessary for that – it’s the surface layer that you must dig through in order to hit that wellspring. It’s the slow, churning river by which deep ravines are cut.
“So it’s a necessary evil?” Yes, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s valuable in and of itself as well. I’ve learned to value chatting because I value the person that I’m with. It doesn’t matter much what we’re talking about; what matters is that we’re spending time together. Simply, it isn’t the what, it’s the who! Once you realize that and learn to value it, it makes the whole thing much easier – even enjoyable!
I used to think I hated chatting, but I don’t anymore. I don’t think I ever really did hate it; it was just exhausting, that’s all. You probably don’t hate chit chat; you just love deeper connections.
Hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes our harshest critics are the future versions of ourselves.
I recall a woman being heavily berated online for her folly of bringing her child to see Deadpool in theaters and then expressing her disappointment in having to leave. People came down on her pretty hard for having not already known what to expect. “It was rated R,” someone pointed out. “It was easily searchable; who goes into a movie without researching first?!” But let’s be real here: an R rating means very little. And who DOES research movies before they go?! Up until Deadpool, no one really had much reason to do heavy digging into super hero films; the precedent had already been set. Deadpool was the first of its kind, but the basic TV commercials didn’t do much to distinguish it from Spiderman or anything else. I thought it was a bit unfair of them to laugh at her for tripping while paving the way. They were casting judgement upon her based on information that was given AFTER she made the mistake.
Changing gears here…I’ve never been much of a worrier or struggled with self depreciation. However, parenting has added into my life colorful flares of both. I find that with all the criticisms that come pouring off my back from the rest of the world, the most difficult ones to slough off are my own. It’s easy to look at what I do wrong and cringe over my own mistakes and worry about the consequences that my children will face for them. But I need to recognize that – while it is important to remember and learn from our mistakes – I’m doing the best I can with what I have at any given time. It’s unfair for me to cast judgement upon my former selves for not having capacities that I do now (every time “now” comes around).
“Never change!” is terrible advice. I look at who I was in high school and think, “Wow, I was stupid.” I look at who I was five years ago and think, “Wow, I was stupid.” A few years from now, I hope I look at my current self and think, “Wow, I was stupid then too.” My point is not that I’m always stupid, or that we should constantly be knocking ourselves. Rather, that I’m always growing, always changing. A more mature version of myself can see the foolishness of the less mature versions of myself and appreciate the growth that I’ve been gone through.
I look at where I am now and I’m happy with my progress in life. I’m glad for some of the ways in which I’ve changed and grown. One of those ways is the practice of guiding others to their conclusions by asking them questions and discovering the answers with them – together. I’ve always wanted to be able to do that. I have known quite a few people who were really good at it, and I’ve always admired that.
I’m glad to look back at my life and see that I’ve changed, grown, learned, matured. May that never stop.