I have a strong faith. And very few things shake it. One thing I do remember shaking it and shaking it hard was waking up the morning of April 16, 2007, and turning on the television only to see a "special news report". There was some kind of shooting (in progress) happening at W. Va. Tech but details were "still sketchy". As always, I tried to think the best, and perhaps this was some kind of hostage situation, and everyone would be fine. It was not to be. It turned out, of course, to be the deadliest shooting rampage by a single gunman in U.S. history, on or off a school campus. In a flash, the foundation of my faith had been shaken. I try not to question God. For so long I held onto that tired-old philosophy (that now I often feel is cliché' outdated at best) that is, "Everything happens for a reason". I found no reason for this. I found it senseless, and, if I held on to that notion "everything happens for a reason", to me, it is the lazy person's excuse.
I sat at my home office desk for the next few days unable to focus or concentrate. I felt similarly to how I felt after 9/11, and, which oddly enough, my first memory of such "questioning the universe" was in my teens, watching the body bags coming home from Viet Nam, and, upon entering college, actually losing friends in that war. It was, like, even today, watching the news and hearing of body bags of young people in Iraq, I have decided to stop the silly notion of using the term, or at least using it as rarely as possible "everything happens for a reason". It too easily makes me a nonparticipant in the world in which I live. It give me an excuse not to write about, talk about it, try an open-ended democratic discussion about it, and praying the right words fall into the hands of the right person, who can put a stop to this "reasoning". I still feel, at age fifty four, that as long as I am alive and kicking, in a free country such as this, it is unreasonable not to speak out, work, think, and try to find ways to make the world a better place for everyone. All life is valuable to me, and I value the ingenious democracy of America more than anyone will ever know, in which someone is able to question, to challenge, that notion of "everything happening for a reason".
A few nights after the tragic West Virginia event, I had a dream. I tend to keep a pen and pad by my bed, as, being in cartooning and e-commerce, I feel that a lot of my best ideas come to me in my sleep, when my consciousness is as open and free as it will ever be.
Suddenly in the dream, I was instructed to invent a product that had never been invented (or much less even dreamed about). It would be a life saving product. It would require high tech, knowledge of biotechnology, physics, etc., all of which I had no training (my training was in Internet Technology) which would be rather useless in this product, except for the marketing of it.
It was an odd dream. I was in a science lab, with some other scientists, and we were watching a large screen tv. The funny tv commercial of "Life Alert", the woman "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up". One of the scientists instructed me that this usually does not happen. When serious emergencies happen, more often than not, the victim is either unconscious or too disoriented to push a button and cry for help. What was needed was a fully-automated computerized bracelet, that would constantly monitor vital signs (even oxygen proximity), store medical records, and actually "dial and text message" the nearest 911 or emergency center with a full explanation of person's name, medical history, location, etc.
In the dream, I was given a "crash course" in biotechnology and designed the device. I even named it "Insert Alert" in my dream, even though it is not actually inserted into the body, it is noninvasive and has sensors which can "read" one's insides.
It even monitors blood pressure, which brings me back to the dream. Had only one child (as if that were not enough) been shot in West Virginia, 911 would have been immediately alerted, hence the possibility of others being shot could have been diverted. Even if the one shot had not been wearing the device, it would have raised the one wearing its blood pressure and heart rate fast enough to wear the device would auto-dial 911 with the location of the emergency. If you remember, there was a lot of confusion and it took police too long to get there, hence giving the killer time to do his deed.
I woke up and took notes. Oddly enough, I found myself illustrating the device. I downloaded the patent paperwork from the US Patent office and received my provisionary patent. I put up a website and began raising funds to have it built. That is not an easy thing, only about .001% at most seed inventions get any money at all from investors. An investor contacted me, not vice versa. He put up enough for me to contract with an engineering firm to start development on the device. Two powerpoint presentations were made.
At the time, "Bluetooth" was the best satellite communications protocol for such devices, but today, there are more advanced ways to communicate with satellites. So I did some major amending on the design, but left the old way up, just in case someone decided to copy it. Good for them. They would have sunk tens of thousands in a device that would have barely worked. I never said all dreams were fully instructional. I was lucky to have a good friend who has several PhD s, one if physics and one in electrical engineering, a senior engineer at IBM. We have been close long enough to know, I could confide in him. I was still careful. I told him that I would tell him of my new invention, if he would give me a quote for my website. That would be enough protection for me, I felt, if he accidentally told a fellow associate at IBM. I knew he would never steal the idea. He gave me a glowing report, and it remains on the front page of my website.
For several months, I had to pull back on the project, since technology changed so much, and I knew I was going to have to hark on 2-3 years of development even after raising the monies to build the prototype, then license it out to a larger corporation for mass production and distribution.
Still struggling with some minor health problems (which are fixable), I will be starting back that process of finding investors, licensees, etc. to make the project work.
It will work in downtown New York or atop the Himalayas, I know this from my experience from working in the largest independent satellite news feed production house in Washington in the late 1980's and from talking to my friend at IBM.
Hopefully, the right investor(s) will come. I do know where to look and make presentations if they do not.
If you read Dr. Beiller's comment, he generously called my work "ingenious". It may or may not be, but I don't consider myself a genius as much as I do "a relentless street hustler with a late-in-life education". To me, everyone has some form of genius in them, and it is up to them to figure out what it is and then use it, so, that the next thing "something happens for a reason", they too can say (if it is a tragedy), "but it is not going to happen again if I can help it!" You may not be a writer, a cartoonist, an inventor, or the things that I prefer to do to expose my "genius", but trust me you have it. (I was considered a "slow learner", and proven to be right. But that was academia, this is life.)
The article may sound a bit like "bragging rights", it is not. It is to drive home my point, and perhaps change the cliché' "Yes, everything happens for a reason, but if happens, and we don't want it to happen again, let's fix it and say that happened for a reason too".
Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and e-entrepreneur. His Insert Alert site features several short power point presentations of the world's first fully-automated medical alert system he invented.