15 June, 2012

Raytheon is just a memory and a pile of dirt

Today, I drove down Route 20 in Eastern Massachusetts through a town called Wayland. About 18 years ago, I worked on this road at a company called Raytheon. I was an RF Engineer, and worked on various projects, mostly funded by the Department of Defense. That was my commute every day. First along some stretch of Route 128 (Interstate 95) filled with horrific traffic, and then along Route 20 the final several miles to work. Raytheon's Wayland facility, like many of their buildings, was very run-down and old. It was a brick building, with lots of concrete inside, a generally foul odor, poor fluorescent lighting, and an atmosphere that seemed to imply that there was a time where things were better to be there than they were during my time. I am not really sure when that time was though. Maybe during the 1980s?

So, when I drove down Route 20 today, I noticed that the buildings that were once Raytheon were gone, and what remained was the start of a massive construction site. But it was also evident that the lot had laid dormant for a very long time before this construction had begun, because several of the gigantic mounds were completely grown over with grasses. Raytheon had probably been demolished over a decade ago, I would guess. A quick perusal of the Google suggests that they were already working on cleaning up the former site as long ago as 2004, so I guess it was demolished even longer ago. It appears they're building a new Town Center, and I heard there's going to be a supermarket (Stop & Shop) there. It seems an interesting sign of the times that a former major defense contractor location becomes a town center. I am not sure what that sign is, but it's definitely a sign of something.

When I think about it, though, the remains I saw today were almost metaphorical to me of that entire chapter of my life. I had a career here in the Boston Area, an education in Engineering, and all these connections and experiences in this world. There was a fairly massive representation in my brain devoted to all that stuff. The mathematics and lore of RF Engineering, and a whole series of friendships and views of how things work. And then, I abandoned that site. Over time, the representation of it in my mind has become sort of like giant mounds of dirt, grown over with grass. A lot of it is gone. I have images in my mind from that building. Projects that I did, circuits that I built, people I talked with. As I type, some of the names fly back into my head just by association. There were a lot of good memories in that world. I remembered, driving down the streets today, of how we used to go running together at lunchtime and wander through the back roads of a very beautiful wooded community. We had time to slack. I don't think I ever had to work hard back then. We played softball after work. There are other, more mixed feelings, such as a very seriously complicated relationship I had with a coworker over the course of a couple of years. I look back on that time, though, and I feel like it was a different me.

In yoga, we often talk about how you need to let some things go, so that new things can take their place. I let a lot go from that time. I let pretty much everything go, actually. In fact, I sort of jettisoned it all. It's not the first time I have done something like that. I did it again, to an extent with my subsequent education in Neuroscience.

I look at people who have stayed in the same place their whole lives, same town, same job, same partner, children, friends, and sometimes am envious of the roots they have. They know who they are and where they are. Or so I would like to assume. I've also noticed that those who stay in one place don't (need to) devote a whole lot of energy to asking the question "Who am I? Why am I here?" Is it because I've moved through so many chapters that I am constantly asking that question? Or is the constant evolution the result of asking the question?

That's a good question, isn't it?

09 June, 2012

Being right

"Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?"

That question has been kicking around in my mind for about two decades. I cannot recall if it was a therapist, a self-help book, or my mother who first said it to me. I have placed a large value on being right in my life. But I am not sure it has really brought me where I wanted to be.

Everybody wants to be right. In some situations, there is one right answer and, like it or not, someone is right and someone is wrong. In other cases, it is purely a matter of opinion. There are cases where the cost of "being wrong" is high (e.g. "What time does the flight depart?"). There are far more cases where the consequence is negligible (e.g. "What year did that movie come out?")

It seems that how tightly we cling to right and wrong has more to do with who we are than with the importance of the matter.

Lately, I have been practicing "letting others be right" more often than not. Actually, I am not sure that's true. Let's say I have been doing it more often than I previously did. The most important thing I noticed is that it does not feel bad to "be wrong," even if I think I am right. And, allowing the argument to not happen results in opportunity for relationship building instead of wall building.

Being right sometimes feels worse than being wrong. I think it's because we are spending karma, so to speak. If we let it go, especially without the conflict, we spare all sorts of negative energy. And what's the consequence? Rarely any.

The trickier thing is to be okay with being wrong when someone says to me "I think you are being __________." Whatever it is, if it didn't sound good to me, I want to refute. But this is their perspective. It's their truth. I cannot be right about what they think. Rather than argue or refute, what if I just listen and consider the validity of their words? It's scary sometimes. It requires trusting others and relinquishing control. Not easy stuff.

No wonder we are so inclined to try to be right. It feels safer.

05 June, 2012

Why guns?

There really is no longer any justification for handguns being legal. There is marginal justification for a rifle, I suppose, in the historical context of forming a militia. And if we are ethically willing to assert that hunting is okay, then a rifle still has its place.

In contrast, handguns are designed for shooting people. In that sense, you could fairly assert that handguns are appropriate for enforcing the law because they are practical for an officer to use in any situation where they may need to have a weapon. And, of course, handguns are really effective for committing crimes.

I would go so far as to say that the top two uses of handguns are 1) committing crimes and 2) law enforcement. The use of a handgun, effectively, for personal, lawful self-defense is so far down that list, it is essentially negligible.

So why are guns legal?

No argument has any validity in the face of the number of gun-related deaths and crimes we see each year. I will not even refute them one by one here because it's been done before.

I would be perfectly okay with guns being owned only illegally or by the police. There would be far fewer on the street than there are now, and crimes of passion by otherwise lawful individuals (especially involving alcohol or drugs) would drop dramatically.

We have tried this system for hundreds of years. Why not try something different? Why not experiment?

Why not no guns?