Inventions and design

You may debate the notion that human beings are a creative bunch but if you examine closely our mannerisms and the things we do, you may find yourself proven wrong – human beings are creative. It is perhaps an ancestral trait we have genetically adopted from our early ancestors, who had to learn to make weapons, use fire, make inventions to catch animals for food, or to improve farming, and to make these inventions better so as to improve yield. Or if you know someone at work who is physically lazy – to use the non-politically correct term – you might even say their creativity extends to words and thinking up reasons not to do things! There are two sides to creativity!

One of the most creative inventions ever to be invented was barbed wire. Quite simply it consisted of two lines of wire coiled together so the barbs were held in place and could not be easily separated. The inventor of barbed wire in 1876 was John Gates, and he used his invention to propel himself to great riches. But it wasn’t just the physical sale of barbed wire, which ballooned from 36 miles of production to 268,000 miles in just six years. Gates also displayed a keen business sense and gambler’s nose, and would wager against others that his product could keep wild Texan longhorns enclosed. So not only did he come up with an invention, he also came up with betting to earn more from his invention, and in the process get some free advertising from that as well!

If you look at the things that are around us – be they the light switch, electric bulb, computer mouse or piano – these things have become commonplace, but the design and the breakthrough to have come up with them would have required ingenuity and skill. (Incidentally, here is a list of interesting facts about the piano you may want to consider.) So the next time you are out and about, look at the things around you – it may be people cycling, or motorbikes – and try to appreciate the thought and design that have gone into it. Who knows, it may give you inspiration for your own!

Single parenting; a musical perspective

How are single parent families looked upon in your country? I suppose it depends on how liberal your society is. In western societies, single parent families are an increasing phenomenon and no one bats so much as an eyelid when someone claims to be a single parent. In more traditional societies such as those in Asian societies, families with parents who have separated are still looked upon as a social stigma, as if the parents are deficient in some way, and failed in their own relationship. And it can’t be easy growing up in these kind of families. There is of course the logistical problem of making sure children spend alternate amounts of time with both parents. But it is difficult not just for the parents. Children end up often spending different weekends with different parents. It may be awkward if both parents have partners, and the child ends up having to refer to mum’s boyfriend and dad’s girlfriend to other friend’s parents.

In Japan, a single mother spoke of how her daughter suffered anxiety as the result of being a child with no father around. The child was ostracised by her classmates and as a result, did not want to go to school and suffered from social anxiety. Gradually as the girl showed signs of going on a downward spiral as an emotional response to her parents breakup, her mother took drastic action. She had never heard from her husband, the child’s father, and had no intention of reconciling with him. Instead she made contact with an escort agency and enquired if there would be actors willing to play the role of a father who had left the family but sought some form of reconciliation. Now, this is a strange sort of request – most escort agencies only hire actors to play boyfriends or partners for an event or a day, but this was a long term job, so to speak. And it was a long-term attempt at a white lie in order to boost the child’s confidence.

The pianist and composer Camille Saint-Saens never knew his father; Victor died two months after his son was baptised, on the anniversary of his first marriage. Camille did not display much anxiety with the lack of a father figure, and went to achieve great heights in his music career. The lesson here to learn is perhaps not to let circumstances in life defeat you!