This might be the most important blog post I’ve ever done. Why? I have always been a big believer in big ideas. In their power and potential to change and transform the world in very big ways. But big ideas can only be meaningful if they are acted upon — or lead to the formation of better ideas. However, the Grim Reaper can throw a monkey wrench — if not a scythe — into all of that.
I think we’ve all probably had an experience like this: Once, after work, I drove home, changed my clothes, grabbed my wallet, and got back in my car to drive to a nearby Costco. As I backed out of the driveway and began making my way towards a T-intersection, the traffic light there turned green, and did so with the most perfect timing. No need to check for cars trying to beat the light, and no need to worry that I might not make the light — I can just relax and take my time.
I don’t know why, but instead, as I was driving under the light, I did take a quick glimpse into the distance to my left, and in that brief moment, spotted a car coming straight at me. It was flying! All I could do was press the pedal to the metal, as I made the turn, and luckily, that car missed me. It blew right past the red light … but it did miss me. Whew! I dodged a bullet that day, for sure.
But truthfully, I’ve always been cognizant of the fact that any one of us, can be breathing in our last breaths, at any given moment, without really knowing it. It’s called mortality. And that’s just a fact of life.
That is why, one of my ideas involves advocating for preserving the writings, journals and ideas, of people who may have ideas and works worth, or potentially worth, preserving. There are lots of directions something like this can go in, but as you might suspect, personally speaking, I am specifically far more interested in preserving for potential future use anything that might be helpful in terms of advancing our prospects for saving the planet.
Suppose, for instance, Aldo Leopold had no children, no spouse, died unknown, with his works unpublished. Just suppose. Or imagine if Rachel Carson died a couple years earlier than when she did. Would Silent Spring have gotten published? Or, imagine if someone like a Leopold or a Carson, were to die today, not only with their works as yet unpublished, but let’s suppose their closest living relatives — beneficiaries — all happen to be die-hard Trump-and-Scott-Pruitt supporters? What are the odds their manuscripts and such wouldn’t just end up in the trash?
Think of this “Archive Alive” idea — as I like to call it — as a kind of Noah’s Ark … but for ideas. Just as you could say that Noah’s thinking was “A flood will come and kill all the animals. We must build an ark to save them,” my thinking is “The Grim Reaper’s handiwork will rob posterity of great ideas. We must build a structure to safeguard them.” Or another analogy, would be this: Just as people say, regarding the lottery, “you have to be in it, to win it,” in order for there to exist any chance that those ideas might prove useful, at some point in the future, they first need to be kept preserved — or “alive” — in order for that to potentially occur.
One drawback to this idea is that it would require an enormous amount of funding. Right?
Wrong. It could be something as small and as simple as just one individual, reaching out to one other individual, offering to give their notes, ideas and materials, a future home, after they’ve passed on.
But if some wealthy philanthropist did wish to pursue this idea, that would be all the better. They would be able to accommodate more requests, be better equipped to safeguard what’s left in their care, and also be more capable of having in place the organizational capacity and funding requirements to keep this going long after even they’ve passed away.
I haven’t put much time or thought into how exactly I would go about putting together something like this — there are so many other things that take precedence for me and so many other things I would rather pursue if I had funding — but some of the possibilities concerning this that immediately come to mind, include: having an attached museum be a part of this; besides being a great way to publicize and share some of the ideas and works being preserved, a documentary-style film might also serve as a revenue source to help keep this going; this Archive Alive concept might even lend itself well to being combined with an Environmentalists in Residence habitation or intentional community model, which I addressed in my last blog post.
Indeed, regarding that “documentary-style film” possibility, one of the very first things I’ve planned to do — once I acquire funding — is find someone very talented to put together a short film. One designed to be released only in the event of my death. This would be something like a miniaturized, filmed version of this so-called “Archive Alive” preservation-of-records idea. Except, while the latter would merely preserve, in hopes of potential future usefulness, the former would actually be something that can immediately be shared with potentially millions of people. As with the Archive Alive idea, one benefit of this short film would simply be its easing of my worries that if I died, my ideas would die with me — and thus, a lifetime of work would have been for naught. The “only to be released upon my death” angle, could also pique interest in seeing the film. And the film needn’t be long, to be impactful. In 1997, a 26-minute film — Breathing Lessons — won the Academy Award for best documentary.
Most of the big ideas I have that I would most like to acquire funding for and pursue, don’t involve ideas for books. Nevertheless, many ideas that I have do fall into that category. And that is one way in which this Archive Alive idea can prove beneficial. Numerous books that proved to be quite successful, had experienced surprisingly bumpy rides while on their journey towards being published. In fact, ironically, sometimes the only thing standing in the way of a book enjoying immense success, is the very people whose job it is to not let such future bestsellers slip through their fingers.
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind won a Pulitzer Prize, sold 30 million copies (to date), and gave rise to one of the most memorable lines in film history. Nevertheless, the novel was rejected by 38 publishers. Stephen King’s first novel, which sold over a million copies, was rejected 30 times. Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book, received 27 rejections. George Orwell’s Animal Farm “only” received four rejections … but one of those rejections came from T. S. Eliot. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected by 20 publishing houses. Chicken Soup for the Soul was turned down 144 times. C. S. Lewis was turned down 800 times before selling a single book, and yet his Chronicles of Narnia, which has been translated into 47 languages, sold over 100 million copies.
Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None took four years to be published. But then became one of the biggest selling books of all time. Beatrix Potter received 7 rejection letters from publishing houses before she just went ahead and published The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself. The book went on to sell over 40 million copies worldwide, and the Peter Rabbit series has sold over 151 million copies, in 35 languages. Anne Frank’s diary? Fifteen publishing houses weren’t interested. And yet it has sold over 35 million copies to date. Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected 121 times before it was finally published. It has sold over 5 million copies.
I saved the best for last. Remarkably, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by 12 publishing houses … and yet, it became one of the biggest selling novels of all time — selling 120 million copies. It’s author had become so depressed, at times, that she had contemplated suicide. But while she might have been at rock bottom, financially, back then, her success with her Potter books has enabled her net worth to climb to approximately $1 billion. The other six books, in her Harry Potter series, have each sold between 50 to 100 million copies.
I don’t want to say it would actually help me “sleep better at night” — that would be a little too corny — but it would mean a lot to me, knowing that if I died tomorrow, there’d be some glimmer of hope that my ideas might live on long enough to perhaps still make a difference. And that is the hope that Archive Alive coming to fruition could offer, not just to me, but to others as well.
Oh, and by the way, why do I call this concept Archive Alive? There’s a very simple reason why, in my “talking points” folders, and with my lists of possible future blog post topics, I’ve always used that phrasing. I borrowed it from The Hollies. Archive Alive! is the title of one of their albums. But still, doesn’t that terminology also happen to fit? Think about it. If all that material wasn’t saved — “archived” — it would most likely eventually wind up being thrown out with the trash and have zero chance of ever amounting to anything other than becoming worm sustenance. But by not being tossed away, it is still “alive” in a sense, and may therefore, someday, provide inspiration or ideas for books, articles, films, songs, albums, lesson plans, new reasons and arguments for paradigm shift, and so forth …
And maybe, just maybe … just as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring helped to usher in the environmental movement, [insert book title here] might someday help to usher in a much-needed shift from anthropocentrism-to-ecocentrism movement. With Archive Alive in place and actualized, this could conceivably happen.
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