‘The Coming Thing…’ Thoughts on Turning 60

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OK, OK, so I admit it. This is a vanity post. I’ll be writing to you this week (and, it turns out, next week, too) in an unusually personal fashion.

Next week’s column (which was bumped a week for this week’s column) will make more sense. It’s written in a true “drama in real life” fashion. Oh, you needn’t worry. There’s very little real drama in it. But it will hold together in a way the following potpourri of random thoughts won’t.

Don’t mistake me, though. There will be portions of this mishmash very alluring. Some of it may even elicit the thought, “I’m glad someone finally said that.”

And with that, here we go…

Yes, it’s true. I turned 60. It was uneventful. I mean, I had a special dinner (thanks Mom and Cesidia). And I had my special cake (thanks, Betsy). And a special surprise call in the middle of a Zoom meeting (thanks Catarina).

I also got a real cool Star Trek Christmas ornament (perhaps more on that another time). And I got an old-fashioned popcorn maker (well, maybe that was more for Cesidia than me, but I like it too).

As you can imagine, I received tons of messages from friends and family. Many of them either have already turned 60 in the past year or will be turning 60 in the next few months.

Here’s what I told one of them:

“So, how did you feel when you turned 60. I don’t know if I’m feeling anything. Am I supposed to? Actually, except for an arthritic knee that bothers me going up the stairs, it feels no different than 50, 40, 30. Maybe 20 felt different. I didn’t have as many worries at 20. Well, maybe different kind of worries. Who knows? The point is I’m still as excited as ever to take on the next day, write the next story, the next chapter, the next book (yes, that’s both literal and figurative).”

How do I explain this?

There was this show I really liked that was aired on Fox in 1993/94. Called The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and set in 1893, it was one part western, one part science fiction, one part comedy.

Coincidentally, Cesidia was born shortly after the first episode aired. She was too young to watch the initial run, but we watched it religiously on Saturday mornings at 10am when TNT ran it in syndication.

This, in itself, was strange. You generally need 100 episodes before a series qualifies for syndication. Star Trek (with only 79 episodes) stands out as the most popular exception to this rule. But 79 is close to 100. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.’s 27 episodes fell far short of the mark.

Yet, TNT aired it nonetheless. It was a perfect Saturday morning show – wholesome, entertaining, and positive.

But that’s not the point. Well, at least not the whole point.

The point is that Brisco County, Jr. kept referring to “the coming thing.”

Brisco, (portrayed by Bruce Campbell following his signature role as Ash Williams in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy), was the Harvard-educated son of slain lawman Brisco County, Sr. In his never-ending search to bring his father’s killers to justice, he’s driven by a passion to discover “the coming thing.” He can’t quite place his finger on it, but he realizes the world is on the cusp of “something big,” a.k.a., “the coming thing.”

Something Big, by eerie coincidence was another western comedy. Released in 1971, this movie featured Dean Martin as aging bandit Joe Baker in the lead role, with Honor Blackman (yes, Pussy Galore from James Bond’s Goldfinger), and Brian Keith playing supporting parts.

Joe Baker seeks to go out with a bang. He calls it “Something Big.” It was more of an ideal than an actual plan, although it eventually did become a real mission.

Like “the coming thing,” “something big” represents a Holy Grail that illuminates one’s purpose. It’s an unreachable star, an ephemeral goal you continually strive for.

The point, then, is more about the journey and less about the destination.

In the end, we all reach the same destination (“dust to dust,” and that whole thing). But the journey that gets us there? That’s what makes us all unique. We choose our own journey. What we make of it is up to us. No one can prevent us from choosing our own path, our own destiny.

And so it is with “the coming thing.”

We are all Brisco County, Jr. right now. We sit on the cusp of a new age. We cannot fully predict what this means or how it will manifest itself, but it is coming. And it will be here sooner than you think.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize coronavirus has reset everything. And I don’t mean in a bad way.

Everything you do today is different than what you did six months ago. Many of the changes will remain. In fact, they represent new foundations from which we, as a society, will build our tomorrow, a better tomorrow than today.

It may seem futuristic, like the unbound freedom of “horseless carriages” and a network of accessible roads to use them on may have seemed to Brisco County Jr.

Then again, 60 years ago, how many could really imagine the impact the information superhighway would have on us today. Without it, Covid-19 would have truly isolated us, instead of connecting us in ways we could not believe.

The changes we’re seeing now merely leverage off the existing technology. We see it in Zoom meetings. We see it in remote learning. We see it in parking lot drive-in movie theaters, church gatherings, and music concerts.

And this theme has more potential. For example, and I credit Cesidia with telling me about this one, with film and television production on hold, what if we bring back old TV series that today’s content consumers might not have seen? How about NetFlix featuring a 28-hour binge festival to watch The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.?

But that’s only the beginning.

I believe we, at this very moment, sit on the crest of the coming thing. And this excites me. I wake up each morning in anticipation “today will be the day.”

Right now, everywhere in every industry in every organization, someone is thinking about how to answer the questions of efficiency, effectiveness, and collaborative engagement that the pandemic has opened a window to.

The first one to discover this next chapter – the first to capture “the coming thing” – well, society will herald that person as among the greatest of inventors.

And that will certainly be something big.

Comments

  1. Mike Burke says

    Well played Chris. I’ll bet every person of impact has thought as they grew old that they had lived in the greatest of all possible times, which is as it should be. We should always feel excited by the promise of a new day, the chance to get up & out & to do something, a la Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena”. Here’s to that next cup of coffee when all this craziness has yielded to – or perhaps deployed – the next big thing. Cheers!

  2. Chris Carosa says

    Mike: Thanks! Ah, yes, “The Man in the Arena.” Classic.

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