01 January 2021

Into The Great Wide Open

 How great was the year we've just closed out? With achievements in science, in technology, in music, in coming together as one world, it's possible that 2020 may go down as one of the most historically great years in mankind.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of problems. A lot of them are of our own making. But you can find those stories all around. There's a good chance you've dealt with, or continue to deal with, some of those problems yourself.

But what about the other side? 

2020 saw the eradication of a devastating virus when, in August, the World Health Organization declared that the African continent was free from the grip of the wild poliovirus. It wasn't an easy battle, with regional conflicts among other obstacles that had to be overcome, but it's a fight that was finally won.

With businesses forced to adapt to the changing landscape of employee safety, people around the world have discovered that there are ways to stay both safe and productive. With the support of technology through software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, work carried on, if not "business as usual," then as least with less disruption. It will take some time to see the end result, but the changes that were forced on the business world may just prove that there is a better way forward in the elusive work-life balance.

The entertainment industry has struggled as a whole this year, with the venues to showcase everything from movies to live concerts to sporting events being closed to public access. But when was the last time, for example, a super-star like Taylor Swift released two albums in the same year? And she wasn't alone. Artists from every genre of music spent their down-time creating new sounds for our consumption. Part of this is because of the negative - no touring means more time for writing and recording. But what a treasure trove we've had, from all corners of the music world. 

In filmed entertainment, the landscape has been moving steadily away from motion pictures and more into the "choose your own adventure" realm of home streaming. That move was accelerated this year, without any doubt. While I hope and believe we'll never fully lose the theatrical experience, giving creators another form of outlet just means more options for the consuming public. Want to watch a two hour film? We have those! Would you rather see a story told over in a longer, serialized format? You can have all you want!

While I don't think it's any stretch to say we would all be happier if we hadn't needed it, medicine saw a radical advancement in the development of vaccinations. The rest of the world has discovered what scientist have known for decades, or longer: Apply the resources, reduce the bureaucracy while still demanding adherence to safety, and the needed work can get done in 10 months instead of 10 years. 

On another science front, even in the middle of a pandemic that's testing every facet of society, a public/private collaboration returned humans to space from the Florida coast. The combined efforts for NASA and SpaceX launched two astronauts to the International Space Station in May and saw them return safely in August to prove the system worked. Four more astronauts took that ride in November, and that first Crew Dragon - named Endeavour - is scheduled to fly four more in March.

These are a handful of the highlights that have come out of this challenging year. It's not always easy to see the bigger picture when you're on the ground, in the trenches in a fight that's being waged everywhere. Maybe I'm naïve or just idealistic, but with all the dreary headlines, I think we can all use a new look with fresh eyes and see that humanity is still pushing forward. We can still bring light into the darkest times, if we simply try.