The lunar eclipse was scheduled to occur at 8:16 pm mountain time, May 15th. I really didn’t have any plans that evening, so I thought I would hike up the mountain near the Snow Basin Ski Resort to watch it. I thought there would be a crowd of others, but I was alone. My wife was out of town, so it was just me and my 13-year-old Black Lab, “Lechien”. We made it about 2/3rds of the way up the mountain before we got tired and stopped. I set up my camera and tripod, cracked a beer and waited for the show.
As I sat there scanning the cosmos, a peculiar thought burst into my head. I suddenly remembered back in 9th grade when our school teacher asked a pretty creative question:
I have no idea what in the world had caused me to suddenly remember this incident. What association the lunar eclipse and this day in high school had in common was beyond me. The memory of this day hadn’t entered my mind in 25 years — probably the mysterious hand of the “Chaos Theory” at play.
The school kids started to answer the question one by one, and the answers were as you would expect:
“… 21 years old, because I can drink”, “…18 years old, because I’ll be done with school”, “… 25 years old because I’ll be out of college, have a job and make my own money.”
Then one kid said, “I think I‘d like to stop at 40”. “Forty!” shrieked the entire class, including the teacher. “Forty!” We laughed at him so hard it hurt. What a stupid answer. Why would anyone want to stop at 40?
I’ll be a ripe old 42 this year. This started me to reflect back a little more on this 9th grade experience. I remember how ridiculous 40 sounded at the time.
But wait a minute.
When I was in my early 20s, I don’t remember it being perfect. It had its shiny moments, but it had its own set of headaches, too. I had college loans, rent, car payments and a plethora of other debts. Not to mention, it seemed like I could never get a date, and I worried about a lot of things that didn’t really matter.
Today I have no debt to speak of, no car loans, no mortgage and no major worries. And I make decent money to boot. The best part is, I’m happily married now, and I only eat macaroni and cheese or Romain Noodles if I want.
Does that mean all of the school kids were wrong? No. It’s just that they were looking at it from a different perspective.
Although the association of the lunar eclipse and my current thoughts was accidental, this is a technique you can use to generate new ideas in a more deliberate way. You can use this method when trying to solve just about any problem. Just try to think of some totally unassociated things, like an incident in high school and the lunar eclipse. It can be anything really. It doesn’t matter.
Next time you’re wrestling with a problem, try this: choose any subject or idea that comes to mind. If nothing automatically pops into your head, just look out the window and pick out something you see. What similarities can you identify between the problem you are facing and the unrelated item you just selected? At first you may struggle to list very many, but try to come up with as many as you can. This technique will inevitably create fresh ideas since you are evaluating it from a totally different perspective.
This is certainly something you can do to generate new solutions to any problem or issue you might have. There’s always room for more than one right answer to any question.
Why did that kid think 40 was the right eternal age? We’ll never know. Everyone laughed so long and hard he never got to tell us. Maybe we should shut up and listen to other people sometimes; their answer may be just as right as yours.
The Lunar Eclipse was really cool. I’ll be sure to remember that night next time I have a problem to solve. In fact my wife’s birthday is just around the corner and I have no idea what to get her. I could certainly use some fresh ideas. I wonder what a birthday present and the moon have in common?