[By Shideh] I am sitting inside a round building with a big centrifuge and my model that has become like a friend (sort of like Tom Hanks and the Volleyball named Wilson in the movie Cast Away!) I am here to run an experiment as a part of a research project. I have stayed over night monitoring this model (for the past week) and get to rest for a few hours during the days while someone else covers for me. In the process, this little model has taught me a lot! It’s interesting how a lifeless thing can teach us important lessons some times. Or perhaps it’s me being alone at nights having the opportunity to think and reflect… Who knows?
My model and I are sitting in this big round building right now in the middle of no where and are thinking about the significance of the word “patience”. This experiment cannot happen without lots and lots of patience. It seems it’s an important lesson as we all mature. When it’s dark and scary outside, my model and I think about what songs can make us feel better and how funny it is that life has brought us here! We get depressed some times, frustrated at the world for long hours of work and no sleep. Then we start to smile at each other again and think about how I am being trained to be patient.
My model is sitting here quietly as it is slowly filled with water and as I prepare some of the instrumentation and learn about the electrical system here. I sing to it sometimes and I wonder if anyone can hear me. The person who cleans this building arrives at 7am and every time he is startled to see me here!
While I work at nights over my beloved model that I have created from scratch, I think a lot about everything that I don’t normally have time to think about. Most recently, I have been thinking about the concept of creativity. I read a book called “Jame’e Shenasi Nokhbeh Koshi” in Persian many years ago which is about the historical failure of Iranians to encourage reforming minds (like Hasanak Vazir, Amir Kabir, or Mossadeq). According to this book, not only don’t we encourage creativity and reform, we also kill motivation in anyone who has the slightest desire to improve the system. Among many other things, this book argues that Iran became a “user” society at some point in history and has been copying the west ever since. I wondered then if there was much hope for a society with such a fate. I wonder today…
As pessimistic as this book sounded when I read it a while back, it opened my eyes to the realities of our society, realities that we do not want to know about, realities that we will not acknowledge to foreigners or even to our children. These realities may have been exaggerated to some extent in this book, but it takes a bold mind to even think about the failure of a society to create, not to mention writing about it. I must mention though, that creativity in all branches of arts and some scientific fields have always been strong in Iran; the question is if the culture or the society as a whole restricts and puts a burden on this creativity. As engineers, is it possible to find a solution for this social problem? Perhaps if you mix our talents with those of a social psychologist, historian, economist, and political scientist, you can come up with an effective and long-lasting solution to this apparently cultural failure. Any solution though will take many generations to have a significant effect – which again reminds me of the word “patience” taught to me by my model.