There’s an old story - more fiction than fact - that came out of the 1960s space race. According to legend, NASA realised that astronauts weren’t going to be able to write with pens in space because the lack of gravity means ink doesn’t flow downward as it does on good ol’ terra firma. To circumvent this problem a vast amount of time and tax-payer money was spent developing a special pen, pressurised with nitrogen, that would work in space conditions.
The Russians handed their cosmonauts some pencils.
The story is told as a way of illustrating a good point: sometimes the simple solutions are best.
In fact, pencils are just as troublesome in space as an ordinary pen. Sharpenings pose a safety risk. Pencil wood in a fire hazard. In the end a pen was developed, but by an independent businessman who sold the pen to both NASA and the Soviets. But the illustration still has merit despite being less than accurate. Sometimes a simple solution is much better than a complex one.
One of the main characters in my novel, The Bell Curve, is called Margaret. She’s at the stage of life where she is not free. She has her elderly mother living in a granny flat on the property and still has a teenage son lurking about and being, well, a typical teenage son complete with slovenly ways and equally slovenly attitudes.
Margaret has lost herself and, in a way, has lost her reason. She is no longer able to make logical decisions for logical reasons. She’s stuck by routine and tradition to the point where she’s not managing even the simplest of things – and is making everything so much more complex than it needs to be.
My husband hates her as a character. Her middle-aged, menopausal logic is more than he can comprehend. Many women, on the other hand, tell me that they identify with Margaret in a strong way. They know what it is like to no longer be able to make simple decisions without reference to the way things have always been or to find new ways of getting things done.
Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that there are simple solutions, that life doesn’t have to become unbearable because of our own ways of doing things. After all, life doesn’t have to be rocket surgery!
Coming soon. . .