Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What a Wonderful World (cont'd.)

Okay, so we have Paul Woods, the guy who's riding across the country on his Torro mower. Now we have Kent Couch, a 47-year old gas station owner who recently settled back and traveled nearly two hundred miles . . . carried by the 105 large helium balloons he'd attached to his lawn chair! [Read the AP story here.]

Mr. Couch is not the first person to go flying in a lawn chair. That honor goes to Larry Walters who, in 1982 flew for a distance of only about ten miles but acheived an altitude of three miles on a lawnchair to which he'd attached forty five weather balloons. This put him up where the airplanes fly, and two pilots radioed air traffic control to report seeing a man flying on a chair. The FAA took this seriously and immdediately reported that they would charge him "as soon as we figure out which part [of the FAA code] he violated." [Check his story out here.]

I've written this before and will no doubt come back to this theme again: we live in a wonderful world.

In Gassho,


Doing the Numbers

In every broadcast of American Public Media's Marketplace a point comes when the host says, "Let's do the numbers." And every morning, on my way to work, I hear the media doing numbers of a different kind: the number of casualties from the latest suicide bombing in Iraq, the number of American military killed in the most recent skirmish.

I suppose it's important for us to know about these numbers. They help us to understand what's called "the human cost" of our species' penchant for violence. And if we can think of them as people and not just numbers, perhaps our hearts will be moved to really work for peace. (Remember Stalin's famous remark, "The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic.")

Yet it seems to me that if we need to know these numbers, there are some other numbers we should know as well:
  • The number of children who died since yesterday because of a lack of access to healthcare;
  • The number of people of color who were harrassed and arrested simply because of the color of their skin and a police officer's assumptions about that;
  • The number of gay, lesbian, and transgender kids who were taunted, shunned, and even beaten just for being who they are;
And better yet, what about these numbers:
  • The number of alcoholics who lived one more day of sobriety;
  • The number of stressed out, overworked parents who didn't hit their kids;
  • The number of people facing seemingly impossible odds who made a decision to change their lives . . . and began to act on it;
  • The number of acts of kindness performed without thought to recompense;
  • The number of strangers who became friends;
  • The number of people who's lives were saved by acts of love

Surely there are many numbers we need to know about in order to make sense out of the world we live in. And, as it's often been noted, what we choose to make the focus of our attention helps determine our experience of that world. So next time you "do the numbers," think carefully about what numbers you do.

In Gassho,