Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Happy International Forgiveness Day! Not to be confused with Global Forgiveness Day on the 27th August.
International Forgiveness Day was set up in Vancouver in 1994 by the Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors whereas Global Forgiveness Day was created by World Forgiveness Alliance from California. It has been suggested that two forgiveness days are better than none. I will let you mull over that one and come back to it later.
Recently I have been thinking about multiple discovery theory or simultaneous invention as it is sometimes known. It’s a well known concept (at least in scientific circles) about discoveries being made at the same time in two different places.
The whole history of invention is a dossier of parallel instances. For example did you know that the inventor of the telephone: Alexander Graham Bell filed his patent just hours before Elisha Gray? Gray was the pro and Bell just had an interest in speech. I bet Gray was pretty gutted and I would wager that if he was a drinking man he got pretty trashed that night! I imagine him crying into his mead.
So, was it genius or luck? Experts say that it’s a combination of the two and zeitgeist. The idea that a lone genius invents something has been largely disproved in scientific communities and it has been muted by experts that at any one time at least two sets of teams in the world are working, quite unrelated on projects which reach fruition almost simultaneously. That’s a bit of a bugger when the patent is given out. Rather like the ‘I was here first’ statement that you get in Aldi when you rush to the till only to be met by a rather aggressive fellow shopper who has clearly been waiting unseen!
‘Statistician Stephen Stigler once wrote an elegant essay about the futility of the practice of eponymy in science - that is, the practice of naming a scientific discovery after its inventor’, notes Malcolm Gladwell in his article for The New Yorker.
In aviation the Wright Brothers were the first to fly at Kitty Hawk but their plane didn’t work so well and Glenn Curtis quickly surpassed them.
But what if there is a clear case of knowing who comes first? Is it always as cut and dried? Take the story of Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin. Unless you’ve been living in a bubble you’ll know Rosa Parks was the woman who kicked off the civil rights movement. She failed to give her seat up on the bus. But did you know, (President Obama did, as he invited her to his inauguration) that it was in fact Claudette Colvin a 15 year old who nine months earlier had been chucked off the bus, arrested and handcuffed for doing the same thing? Why has history not recognised her in the same way as Parks then? Quite simply two reasons: firstly, Claudette moved to NYC and never talked of her role in the movement until recently and secondly reports suggest that she was not deemed to be the correct fit for the campaign. Claudette had gotten pregnant shortly after the bus incident and as a teenage mum was not considered appropriate for the task in hand. Rosa Parks was different as she was seen as a respectable adult.
It’s reassuring to know that downtown Montgomery now sports a gorgeous statue of Claudette. She has finally been acknowledged for the part she played.
There can be no doubt that we live in a society of variety and that competition is important. In fact competition is our right. For to not have competition in life is to have monopoly and monopolies have a tendency to sit on their laurels and dominate a space with a single voice.
So back to our first question then, does it matter that there are two Forgiveness days in August? Not a jot I would say, as in essence forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It helps to create peace for the giver as much as the recipient.
Happy Forgiveness Day from all of us here at Crew Radio.