Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dad, Discovery, And The Aha! Moments In Life

I waited as patiently as an 11-year-old can wait. Back in those days (no, not quite when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), there was no Internet. I had no way of knowing whether or not the check my dad sent off to Edmund Scientific even arrived, much less whether or not they had shipped the item to us.

The catalog promised 6 – 8 week delivery. It took 9 ½ weeks, but it was worth the wait.

We carefully opened the box and there it was. A gleaming white tube mounted on a gun-metal gray tripod: my telescope.

Despite the late hour, Dad, being the great dad that he is, set it up for me in the back yard. I watched him align everything just so and then he turned me loose. I wasn’t sure yet exactly what I was seeing, but I remember shivers playing on my spine as peered through the eyepiece.

The next night I couldn’t wait to try again. My dad wasn’t available to help me so I figured I’d just set it up myself. How hard could it be? The answer to that question turned out to be very!

Just carrying the telescope on its heavy, well-constructed tripod was too much for me. I had to take it apart and then reassemble it out in the yard.

Then came the alignment of the scope so it was level and faced north. I had watched my dad perform the task the night before, but I had watched through the eyes of an excited kid. In other words, I really hadn’t paid very close attention.

So now it was up to me. I dug into the instructions but nothing made sense. I tried several things but the telescope didn’t look at all like it had the night before. Frustration set in and I wanted to give up, but I wanted the result more. I kept at it and then, finally, the “Aha!” moment arrived. Everything clicked into place in my mind and it all made sense. I breezed through the rest of the setup and was using my new telescope in just a few minutes.

Although that night is now many years in the past, I still remember it clearly. It was nothing short of magic, the exhilaration of having figured it out for myself and the certainty that I’d be able to use my telescope whenever I wanted, not only when someone was around to help.

The “Aha!” moments, that instant of discovery when everything makes sense and all the pieces fit, can be sweet indeed. Not coincidentally, they frequently are preceded by frustration and the desire to just chuck it. The trick is to remember that the “Aha!” moment is just around the corner when you’re in the middle of the “awww-crap!” moment. Luckily, that little trick does seem to come easier with age and experience.

To this day, I go out of my way to try and learn, discover, and keep the “Aha!” moments coming. I’ll grant you, as I’ve gotten older and day to day living has taken a toll, they don’t come as often as I’d like, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still out there, just waiting for me to put forth the effort to find them.

This search for the thrill of discovery is one reason I write. I want to share the feeling, the “Aha!” moments, with you through my characters. In the process, I’ve happened upon many, many of my own.

My favorite is when I finally figure out where a story is going. The characters are always trying to tell me, but sometimes I just can’t hear them. Once I understand what they’ve been trying to tell me all along, my instant of discovery, my “Aha!” moment, arrives and the whole story makes sense. Then it’s just a matter of getting it down on paper!

Before I wrap this up, one more thing about that first night with my telescope. I recently found out that my dad was around the house that evening. He was, in fact, secretly watching my progress from the garage. He wanted me to figure it out for myself and didn’t want to deny me the satisfaction of doing so. For that and many other things, Dad, I am eternally grateful.

Thanks for reading!



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6 Comments:

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Maria said...

Hi Kerry,

An interesting blog, brings back memories. We can all learn something new from our parents.

And yes, its important in life to make new discoveries on a regular basis, or as you say, the 'Aha' moment.

Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

@mariaAsmith

 
At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Brad Goodspeed said...

I love how you're taking back the phrase 'aha moment', which I've had thrown at me by pseudo-psychiatry self-help business bozos, used to describe some abstract notion of self exploration.

Learning about ourselves is obviously important, but I wish more people shared your passion for discovering the world external, even as a child.

A very nice post. Thanks for sharing.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Belly said...

Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is awesome. But watching that same child see the WHOLE UNIVERSE for the first time? Man, your dad was lucky, indeed.

As are/were you to have such a caring, wise father.

Great post!

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Plasma Engineer said...

A nice story, and one that I empathise with. Seeing your post about Arthur C Clarke brought other childhood memories back too. I think I read 2001 at least 6 times and felt I understood a bit more each time. Thanks for the tweet mentioning your post.

 
At 1:56 AM, Blogger YourPaleBlueDot said...

That was great story and thanks for sharing. I love those moments too and even though they get fewer and further between, I'm always waiting for them. Thank you.

 
At 7:24 PM, Blogger Allan Douglas said...

I remember my first telescope; I mowed lawns for an entire summer to earn the money. Your experience sounds quite familiar except that My Dad thought a telescope was a silly thing to spend so much money on and I was on my own in learning to use it. Fortunately Dad did teach me how to pursue the "aha moment". He tought me how to think through a problem, and that has served me well ever since.

 

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