Do we really invent ourselves? Can’t we just blame others? Or luck? Or fate? Does it really matter how we got here? Probably not. Nevertheless, the question intrigues. Others produce biographies of most famous people, often centuries after they have passed on. What a shame, for the subject misses the opportunity to examine the many “whys.” This personal assessment is the challenge I have accepted.
Stop for a minute and consider the speed at which we travel and the extent to which we are able to communicate. In the last 20 years we have been afforded the opportunity to communicate directly with people on the other side of the world and visit them on a whim. Now recall the stories told by your parents and grandparents that relate to travel and communication. Biographies of the rich and famous give us some input on these ongoing changes in the way we live, but what about the rest of us? Should not we consider the impact these changes have had on our generation and will, in all likelihood, have on our progeny?
Consider the passions, attitudes and dreams of your children and grandchildren. They have changed so dramatically that we have given each succeeding generation its customized sobriquet, yet hardly consider the factors responsible for the distinction perceived.
My passions were, if anything, too many. Creating a better existence for those that follow is an easily understood objective. Reducing the “majestic” to the reasonably attainable requires focus, or specialization should you prefer. This of course is the first and usually most frustrating task. You will or have struggled with it much as I did. My story describes a natural process that was long and did not reach its goal; a reconciliation process that is also natural, for life is not a zero sums game.
I was a product of a rebellious generation, one that did not accept the past as an imposed condition. This attitude took some time for me to recognize, but tolerance has always been accepted as a demand: that we conform. I could not. My battle with conformity would never end. Curiosity and the denial of that which lacked a rational base caused me to be a sought after mentor or perceived to be the devil, for it seemed that I always took a contrary position.
I prefer to characterize my attitude as those of a transformationalist whose dominant focus became a rejection of our then-accepted approach to the design of structures and most specifically, the ratified approach to earthquake engineering and a return to reason, as opposed to that which the computer advises. My standard for making a self-evaluation is internal, a yardstick I religiously use and endorse.