Who doesn’t like a good idea? Good ideas break the logjam, move us forward, put us in a better place. So I thought it would be a good idea (see what I did there?) to share some good ideas with you today.
Last week, my wife and I, along with two good friends, hosted a Burns Supper in celebration of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard. It was a smashing success, so smashing, in fact, that many people have already marked their calendars for a second annual Burns Supper on January 25 next year. Then out of the blue came the suggestion that we make next year’s Burns Supper the signature fundraising event for some worthy cause. Whisky and haggis in support of a good cause: what a great idea!
Or how about this idea: fancy ice cubes. Round ones, square ones, ones sized to fit perfectly in a whisky glass. Good idea? Not so much. Sorry; I like my whisky neat.
History is full of good ideas. I think the wheel was a great idea but I don’t believe as some people do—well one, anyway—that it was invented in America. The light bulb was another good idea because apparently you can’t have a good idea without a light bulb. But there are some clunkers in history, too. War, for example: bad idea. The Edsel: bad idea. Coke Zero: bad idea. There are lots of ideas that are still under deliberation by a jury of our peers. Self-parking cars; delivery drones; bacon-flavored vodka. Time and focus groups will let us know which new ideas are good and which are not-so-good. This much I know: as much as I like bacon, I’m betting
against bacon-flavored vodka.
There’s also the flagpole test: you have an idea, you think it might be a good one, so you run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. The problem with that, of course, is that some people in the crowd beneath the flagpole are saluting, but others are using a different hand gesture. No idea has universal appeal, unless maybe it’s universal healthcare, but even that doesn’t qualify because there are at least a million ideas—some good, some bad—about how to implement it. Except in Canada, of course. There are very few bad ideas in Canada.
I think term limits are a good idea. I doubt Congress would be as gridlocked as it is today if people were busy getting to know each other. Entrenchment brings contempt, let alone the never-ending pursuit of the almighty campaign contribution. Term limits would take money out of politics and that’s a really good idea.
My friend Eggman thinks the “impossible burger” is a good idea. I’m sure cows would agree if they could. Personally, I think impossible burgers are ok, but as far as ideas go, they’re hardly on a par with the wheel or the light bulb. That doesn’t necessarily make impossible burgers a bad idea, however; the jury is still out on that one, or at least the jury with carnivores on it. Recycling is a good idea; so are right turns on red. Taking one’s own bag to the grocery store is another good idea, but I always forget to do it. The United Nations is a good idea—in theory, anyway. Good ideas have to be practical, too.
I asked the wee wife if she could think of any good ideas. (Mind you, I did not say, “Do you have any good ideas?”) She thought for a moment, then said, “ATMs and vacations.” That struck me as an odd combination until I saw the connection: one giveth and one taketh away. Her mind doth work in mysterious ways.
A few days ago, I went to dinner with three good friends, each of whose intellects I admire greatly. I posed this question: what’s the best idea to have come down the proverbial pike in your lifetime? (We’re all more or less boomers.) To my surprise, the question seemed to stump them for a moment; they had a difficult time separating ideas from inventions. I tried to explain it this way: an idea is pregnancy; an invention is the baby born.
That seemed to help. Still, my friends had a hard time coming up with examples of good ideas. I promised them it wasn’t a trick question; there were no right answers. Then one of my mates raised his hand and drew a circle around the table. “This,” he said. He was absolutely right. Getting together with friends is a good idea. A very good idea. We should all do it more often. I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.
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