The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘invention’

THE STOP AND GO LIGHT

 Carole and her husband Jim were the Resident Heads for the dorm where I was assigned when I started college. It was the second or third day of orientation week that I happened to sit across from them at dinner in the dorm’s cafeteria. As we were eating our meal, Carole mentioned that she was from a place in Kansas that was so small that they had only one Stop And Go Light in town. 

At hearing this I stopped eating and asked her, “What’s a Stop And Go Light?” She looked at me with surprise and responded, “You know – red light, green light, red light.” I said, “Oh, we didn’t call them that in New York. We just called them Stop Lights.”

 During the rest of the dinner I attempted to do my best to convince her and her husband that I wasn’t a total cretin.  

That evening I thought about this conversation. Carole’s description of an automated traffic signal was far more accurate than the one with which I had been raised. After all, a traffic light probably spends as much of its time shining green as it does red. So why not call it by the more appropriate name of Stop And Go Light? Or, if that’s too long, why not call it a Go Light? Why did we decide on Stop Light?

 From the time that we are children we get hit over the head with negativity. 

Stop playing with your food.” 

Don’t fidget.” 

No playing with your friends until you finish your homework.”

 No.

No.

No.

Not.

Not.

Not.

Can’t.

Can’t.

Can’t.

Don’t.

Don’t.

Don’t. 

Then we go to school. 

Make sure that you stay within the lines while you work on your coloring books.”

 All of this is so constrictive and destructive of creativity. Perhaps for that reason there are so few of us who are either able or willing to “think outside the box”. We’re taught that doing so is WRONG! And rather than swim against the stream, we find contentment within our neatly established negative, limiting comfort zones.

 But Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Shelley, Vincent van Gogh, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison and countless others who brought beauty, creativity and invention to mankind ignored all of this.

 They colored “outside the lines” and thought “outside the box” – and we are all the better for it. 

Perhaps, if we stepped back for a moment and said, “What if” instead of, “I can’t”, we could add to their contributions.

 

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