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Dog and Butterfly

I was driving between meetings yesterday and the song “Dog and Butterfly” by Heart came on my XM radio station.

That I was listening to a music station this week, rather than Satellite CNN and CNBC, is unusual.

I am very much affected by the tragic events in Japan. When I am affected, I tend to seek out the drone of long repeating broadcasts of information. This week, I watched about an hour of news television a day and used all my drive time in the car, trying to better understand what the problems are over there and how people will solve them. (Not that I really need to know for the benefit of my daily life how a nuclear core melts when not in water or how the radiation gets released or why there are hydrogen blasts but that’s not the point).

I was in University when the Chernobyl accident occurred. I am realizing now how much of the world is different from those tragic days in April 1986. Back then, Chernobyl wasn’t in Ukraine, it was in the USSR. There was still an Iron Curtain. The only way we knew there was a serious issue was because Geiger counters started going off in Sweden. There were almost no pictures, and almost no news, yet the ominousness of a nuclear power plant explosion filled our daily thoughts.

I love movies that do a good job of creating a visual of the times. Goodfellas and Almost Famous are great movies for this. Knowing that some of you may not have been born then, it is hard to accurately create a visual of April 1986 without providing more context. North Americans were hypersensitive to the word “nuclear”. 3 Mile Island and Love Canal were still fresh memories. We had all seen the movie The Day After. People drove around in cars with bumper stickers that said No Nukes. Reagan called the USSR the Evil Empire, and Perestroika was very fresh. Yet there was strange optimism about our future. We wore raspberry berets and clothing from Benneton, listened to Depeche Mode and Yaz and followed the Brat Pack. We drove ugly first-generation aerodynamic vehicles with fuel injected engines and disc brakes. The stock market was soaring.

The first real news about Chernobyl came in on Monday, April 28, 1986. That semester my first class on Mondays was Organic Chemistry, which ran from 9:30 to 11:00. After class, I would have exited the Chemistry/Botany building at the top of the hill, and walked along the backside of Daum to enter my dormitory from the far staircase. At that time of day, I would’ve seen the rowing team in the river and the geese on the hill. I do know that I stopped by John’s room to see if he was there. He was the one who told me. I have a crystal clear memory of this as well as the amount of sunshine in his room that day. Later that day, a bunch of us spent hours in his room watching the news reports come in and talking about it. I remember thinking that I really did not understand how nuclear energy worked, but being in the throes of studying organic chemistry, I had visions of various chemical structures with odd elements coming off the sides of them, and studied the bottom row of the Periodic Chart of Elements (a row never discussed in organic chemistry).

Seeing the ruin in Japan this week immediately took me back to that day and time in Iowa City. The interesting difference is that thanks to the Internet and 24 hour news channels and pundits, we know a lot more about nuclear energy, about the power of tsunamis, and about the engineering behind quake-tolerant buildings than the general public knew back then. It doesn’t mean given the information that I am any less sad or bewildered about what has happened over there. All things considered, sometimes I wish that none of us had to know about destructive forces and how to deal with them.

Getting back to yesterday, I was really glad to be listening to music instead of the news. Hearing “Dog and Butterfly” was great because it is such a pretty song without deep meaning.

Dog and butterfly
below she had to try
She roll back down to the warm soft ground
Laughing to the sky, up to the sky
Dog and butterfly

We’re getting older the world’s getting colder
For the life of me I don’t know the reason why
Maybe it’s livin’ making us give in”

One of the best parts of having a dog in your life is watching them never grow up. It is beautiful childlike simplicity. My dog Daphne’s simplicity is a stabilizing force in my sometimes complicated life.

As HR Professionals, we are often left with a responsibility to ensure there is communication, and context in times of uncertainty. With regards to our world, yes, business will chime on, and yes, we can’t be too distracted by what is going on 7000 miles away, but I do believe this is one of those really important times to take stock of the beautiful things we have in our lives. Our teams, our connections, and our interactions—don’t let them go on unnoticed. Today, be a dog and butterfly.


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