Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writing--It's Not Rocket Science--Marcia

As I was brushing my teeth this morning, I was thinking of rocket scientist jokes. I'm sure there are some, but mostly people mention rocket scientists as an excuse, as in "Well, what did you expect, I'm not a rocket scientist!" or, "It's not like I'm a rocket scientist or something." We sometimes use the moniker when speaking of others who are waaaaay smarter than we'll ever be, "He's so smart he's like a rocket scientist," or "She's scary smart--rocket scientist smart." Most of us have no idea what this means, because we've never met any scientists, needless to say one that can engineer a projectile that shoots into space. When we use the term rocket scientist, we're mostly talking about math whizzes. We use this term as a way to forgive our own inability to calculate the sum of the square root. (See, I wrote that, but I have no idea what I'm talking about.)

My friend Greta's brother is a rocket scientist. He builds rockets for the Orbital Sciences Corporation of Virginia. He has friends who are astronauts. He spends his days dreaming up ways to better our lives by sending Taurus XL rockets and satellites into the atmosphere out into the black mystery of space, and in this case, to track carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. High minded stuff.

Years of effort and many millions of dollars went plunging into the sea off Antartica yesterday. John Brunschwyler's rocket failed--the rocket he christened with his beautiful, smart, discerning mother's name.

Greta and I talked on the phone yesterday. She is worried about her brother, the burden of responsibility he has as manager of the program. She wondered about the ramifications for all the people and the funding and for her brother's career . . . now that he has failed.

Failed? I asked. How many years did these people get to spend imagining, dreaming, designing, calculating, reaseaching, building, and striving? They were given an opportunity to reach new heights. It was always a gamble.

How many individuals are there that can even think on the level of these "geniuses"? We are lucky to have them reaching for the stars. I certainly couldn't.

I told her not to worry. Her brother's reputation was safe on the West Coast, we are more worried about what Penelope Cruz wore on the Red Carpet then what might have fallen into the Red Sea. (There is no mention of this cataclysmic failure in today's Mail Tribune.)

Then she tells me, incidentally, that seven of his other rockets succeeded. He has seven rockets?! Seven out of eight made it into "Outer Space"! That's a 90% success rate! Worse comes to worse he can go back to the rocket scientist trenches and tinker around with circuit boards or something. (?) It's not like there are a bunch or rocket scientists on Skid Row.

What if he had never tried? It takes guts to apply your skill to something and see if you can make it fly. Yes, his rocket failed. At least he had the courage to turn his ideas into reality. The busted up bits of his mistakes have to be hauled off on flatbeds. My own ideas rarely make it on to paper. They don't even have to be hauled to the curb on Tuesday.

I challenge all of us to fail on such a grand scale. To try so hard, to dream so big, that when it all comes crashing down there's damage, there's a crater, there's a new lake with our own name on it. Be brave Imagineers. What's the worst that could happen? Remember, seven made it.


Christy Raedeke said...

Love this post, Marcia! Permission to fail on a grand scale, what more can we ask for?

Kerry said...

I always love your ingenuity in finding inane topics. You're very Dave Barry with this one. Excellent.