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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Innovative Forgiveness

Mar 03 2017

The most helpful topic for an Innovation Center blog would seem to be examining whether innovativeness can be instilled in people the way installing computer programs enables us to do different things, and if so, how is it downloaded, or learned?  Is there a single Skill Set underpinning all the other attributes that are identifiable in the majority of innovators, short of the few savants floating around, and even there?  Do innovations like the light bulb and Internet arise out of nowhere, or evolve as species do: putting similar things together again and again, and how is that done?  

Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again.

                        “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” by Paul Simon


I’ve been planning a huge family vacation—from Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in southern Utah all the way up to Olympic National Park in northern Washington, by way of Death Valley, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and up the Pacific coastline to Portland, where I am attending a conference in Portland for a book I am publishing—perhaps Our Last Hurrah because one of my sons has the month off after finishing medical school, before starting his residency as a neurologist, and who knows when he’ll ever have another.  His twin brother lives in San Diego and has the usual two weeks vacation till he retires when I’m looong gone.  Lots of planning to coordinate: places to stay, flights from different cities, and if you think renting a car online, particularly through an airline with a supposed discount, is a snap, you haven’t tried.  I saw minivan at the top of the column after pressing the button to select one, and wound up with a Cadillac sedan, which I only found out by coincidence, calling the company to check other details, like what happens if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.  Bearing in mind that the flight gets into Las Vegas at 11PM (because the neurologist dilly-dallied about when he could leave for two weeks, by which time the early flights had gone up $100 each, I’d’ve been writing the rest of these from a federal penitentiary if I saw the Cadillac at 2:30 AM Eastern Time. 
Originally, the neurologist told me he was off in April, so I planned the trip the other way around, north to south, after the conference the first week of April, BUT … I did a quick 180 in my head, understanding that he was under a lot of pressure, arranging and completing rotations and interviews for future residencies in hospitals all across the country.  That was the second 180 I had to do.  As luck would have it, I began investigating Olympic National Park on February 19th, and saw that one of the three spectacular lodges in the giant park had a $99/night special if you reserved by February 20th, BUT … when I called, the special rate rooms were booked the week after the conference, so I booked rooms at the regular,rate, more than twice the price, then called back, found out that the bargain was available the following week, and changed the dates there.  Then the son in San Diego threw me a third curve, backing out of the Zion Park leg of the trip, which he’d known about for two months and talked about for a year, at which point I felt that a certain amount of, shall we say, instruction—though some might call it angst—was in order. 
He was a sweeper on the Smithtown soccer team that went to the state championship his junior year, and All Conference in college.  Time and space figure as prominently on a soccer field as the fluid mechanics he designed for micro-airplane engines.  I’ve told him many a time to apply what he learned, learning to play soccer well, to everything else.  Sound familiar?  It should. 

Old TV commercial slogan: You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Rye Bread.  Nor need you be a business student to know of Buyers’ Remorse.  New mothers sometimes experience Post-Partem Depression.  Who hasn’t looked to the future with trepidation, hasn’t ventured much.  But it’s one thing wondering if you bit off more than you can chew; a whole other ballgame when no one else wants to sit down for the meal you prepared.  When the neurologist begged out of spending a few days in Portland with my companion, whom he’s known for ten years as a surrogate mother, while I’m busy at the conference, only joining us for the Olympic Park leg of the adventure, I was reminded of people who show up for a dinner engagement just when the food is being served, BUT … considering everything else he had to do, I let it slide.
When the San Diego Kid said he was looking forward to the drive up the coast from San Francisco, AFTER I’d switched everything around, and he said he knew of one-way rentals when I reminded him that I’d have to drive the rental car BACK then, I got … a little edgy, shall we say.  It wasn’t so much the inconsiderateness of waiting till I rearranged the trip to spring the thought on me, as the detachment from reality of the one-way suggestion.  The Nut coming from nowhere and knocking someone over is SO much a stock comedy routine that Buffalo Wings uses it in a commercial where a fan blocks a player on an athletic field.  Not SEEING that San Francisco and Seattle are half a CONTINENT apart, without my having to point that out to him, is FRUSTRATING, almost … passive aggression, egging me to flare up and give him an EXCUSE to wash his hands of me.
The Whole Idea of the adventure was to solidify our relationships, now that we were living far apart, and it was turning into something more like the plays, in which a family comes apart over some situation or other.

All the while this was going on, I was struggling to finish proofreading a massive book, with a deadline surrounding the annual BookExpo, where I wanted it to be displayed.  When I realized the task was impossible, I hired an editor to finish half of what was left.  The Question loomed: was I foolish—some might say, CRAZY—to have bothered about the family outing, to begin with, only because the conference is in Portland, a short drive from Olympic National Park, which is generally billed as the most varied of all the parks, when I had the pressure of finishing the book on my hands, to begin with?  Was devoting whole days at times to planning how far we would get and investigating arrangements there, when The Whole Point of the trip was the still unfinished book, the STUPIDEST thing I ever did?
Another old saying: You have to love yourself before you can love someone else. Follow the train of thought, and harken back to every post focusing on the skill of using what you know to understand what you don’t.  One would surmise from that witticism that you have to FORGIVE others before you can forgive YOURSELF!

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