Perhaps the most evil thing about humanity isn’t our propensity for malevolence but our ability to get distracted.

The other day I toured Henry Ford’s replica of Edison’s laboratory inside Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. I was mentally transported to Menlo Park, New Jersey, where Thomas Edison and his team created history in the form of invention after invention and gave me the artificial light by which I write this.

At the Village, I discovered that Edison and I could be friends. Near the historic buildings they have character actors playing the parts of these fantastic people, and Edison seemed like the kind of guy I could get along with (assuming he was even close to still being alive, of course). He was apparently intense and passionate and never, ever gave up. And… he was just a little crazy.

Yeah, we could definitely be friends.

So, during all this, I wondered where the light bulb of today is; I mean, the light bulb was completely revolutionary, has impacted the entire planet, and honestly hasn’t changed all that much in the past 125 years. Where are these new ideas? Of course, we can put computers and the internet in this category, but cars and airplanes — they were invented back in Edison’s day, too.

In any case, my point with the whole “distraction” comment above is just that I wonder: if people wouldn’t get so easily distracted by the pursuit of dollar signs, if the greatest minds on the planet could be harnessed to better humanity instead of dis-integrate it, if we could somehow look past ourselves and think about somebody else once in awhile…

What in the WORLD might we accomplish!?

I think we, as humans, find a lot of ways to distract ourselves. This idea probably doesn’t sound too ridiculous if you stop and think for a moment. I think about what things really make me smile and then realize I spend most of my day NOT doing those things, and I realize that humanity — particularly western “developed” humanity — has created an entire ecosystem of material distraction.

It makes me sad, because what comprises the entirety of one’s life can be almost nothing but a series of distractions from what’s truly important to that person. Now, I hope and pray that at the end of our lives, this situation will describe neither you nor me, but I know a lot of people that already live in this place.

The thing about distraction, though, is that we always have a choice in the matter. By definition, a distraction is something that takes our focus away from something else. So I suppose the trick is to learn to recognize those things that uneccesarily grab our attention, and to not let them control us.

Easier said than done, I know. But it’s a start.


UPDATE: Apparently Edison might have also been kind of a bastard…!? Love the quirky eccentricity, but… yeah, not gonna be friends with that.


One Reply to “My Friend, Thomas Edison”

  1. Marc Perel says:

    It’s amazing what we can learn from looking into the past

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