Flip a Switch - December 15, 2022 | Kids Out and About Midcities

Flip a Switch

December 15, 2022

Debra Ross

Next Wednesday is December 21, the Winter Solstice, also known in Robert-Frost-speak as the "darkest evening of the year." I see it as the day we humans symbolically most need the technology we have developed, inventions that allow us to flourish despite the cold and dark outside. We flip a switch, and a light comes on. It's like magic, but it's not.

Given that I'm a big fan both of human inventiveness and of finding reasons to celebrate, it will not surprise regular readers that about 20 years ago, I created my own quirky extra excuse to make merry during the holiday season (there's always room for one more!): Every year on the Solstice, my family toasts those who have made possible the comfort, safety, prosperity, and happiness that we enjoy in this corner of the world. We call the celebration Lightbulb Day, and it can be as simple or elaborate as current circumstances allow. We give high-tech gifts (or high-tech gift cards), we look up trivia about the inventive origins of everyday things, and we talk about our favorite inventions. Pre-pandemic, mine was multi-focal contact lenses, but it switched to Zoom in 2020, and to the Covid vaccine last year. I carry my gratitude for modern medicine with me most hours of most days, and most especially in 2022.

Innovative people in the spotlight like to say they stand on the shoulders of the giants who have advanced knowledge through the ages. This is undoubtedly true, but it obscures an important fact: Progress isn't the exclusive provenance of a few intellectually-superior superhumans; it comes from millions of regular people tinkering with our world to improve it tiny step by tiny step.

Deciding to be an innovator is actually pretty easy: It just means tuning your personal radar to be on the lookout for gaps you can fill, things you can make, processes you can improve, new information you can bring to bear, in order to make work easier, progress quicker, and life more satisfying. While you're at it, be on special alert to catch your kids innovating, and make sure to point out the good things that happen when they do. Because once they think of themselves as innovators, they can't help but be innovators.

It's like magic, but it's not.