I started out as a chemistry major in college. And stayed with it for a few years. Here’s a little secret about me. I think science is cool.
It began a long time ago, this fascination with all things science. I blame it on three people. My Dad, Captain Kangaroo, and my fourth-grade science teacher. Her name was Mrs. H. and I had a gigantic crush on her. But that is a story for another day.
I can remember my Dad, telling me in great detail, about molecular weights. He explained how everything was made up of atoms, and on we went from there. I was pretty young. But I was completely mesmerized by this idea. Especially the fact that everything was moving. We just couldn’t see it.
Something was happening right before our very eyes, but we were unable to see it. We had no idea what was going on. Unless someone had told us so. Isn’t that something to think about?
The entire fascination with science was relentless. I wanted to know more. One day, Captain Kangaroo, had a guest science-guy on his show. Right after the Dancing Bear. And they did something in a labby-test-tubey environment.
I was in.
Sometime shortly thereafter, I had a friend over. With no Mom in sight, I gathered all the glass jars, bowls, and anything mad-scientist I could put my hands on.
We clamored down to the basement…. and set up the grandest lab on our ping pong table. We mixed everything we could find in that basement. Most of it was garnered from Mom’s laundry table. Soap powders, softeners, bleach, and more. We added things from Dad’s workbench area. Turpentine, and other found liquids. We concocted. We mixed. We saw Mom at the bottom of the basement steps. We panicked.
Whoever that friend was… had to leave immediately. And I had never seen my Mom so mad at me EVER. She was livid. I pleaded. “Mom, I will clean it all up right now.” She ordered me to my room. I was to leave every drop untouched until Dad came home.
I think it took about 12 weeks for him to get home from work that day. The three of us made the death march back to the basement. Mom was still seething about this, and, to this day, I am not completely sure why. I mean… she wasn’t even this mad when my sister and I shaved the cat.
At any rate, Dad looked at me, with his very serious, studious look. His eyes fixed right on mine. I could almost see him through my tears. His eyes squinted slightly as he transfixed his gaze. Calmly, he asked, “What were you doing Kiddo?”
I swear I saw a little grin start to break through on his face. Mom was still shouting expletives. Dad just shook his head. He told me… in a most serious tone… to clean all of the mess, and go straight to my room.
All in the name of science.
Needless to say, I did not do this again.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned in that story. I think. But probably the biggest: We learn from our mistakes. Sometimes, we do things in life, which seem like a great idea at the time. But when the dust has cleared… or the when the beaker bursts…. we see that we blundered, miscalculated, or erred.
If we are paying attention, we learn from those lapses in judgment, and we don’t do that again. We tried something, and it didn’t work. So try something new.
Which brings us right back to that lesson of atoms in constant motion, in all things. Moving. Right before our eyes.
And if we are really paying attention, we can see the possibilities are right before us.
“Small minds have always lashed out at what they don’t understand.”
― Dan Brown
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation.
The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
― Will Rogers