“The concept that a person’s legacy is to be judged within the context of the era during which they lived is nonsense.” That’s the opening salvo in my recent story Alt HerStory | Madame Curie for Elusive Story.
It’s About Storytelling
Regardless of the channel used to tell a story (writing, photography, video, music, live performances) there needs to be a premise that can be succinctly expressed in one sentence–the slugline.
For the Madame Curie story, the primary communication channel is visual, via photography. But before our team got anywhere close to the actual photoshoot, I sat down and wrote a story in support of the premise. Twenty pages later with an additional twenty pages of support documentation, we were ready for our photoshoot. And all that writing and planning took six weeks, a length of time that I’ve written about HERE.
What Makes a Good Story
I’m passionate about both Madame Marie Curie’s work as a scientist and the fact that she repeatedly got shafted by both her colleagues and the French government.
Seems odd to write that I’m passionate about something negative, but after you read what I’ve written you might be inspired by her too.
Curie’s experience 120 years ago is my experience and the experience of people who I love.
And chances are, you’ve had the same experience too |
being cheated, exploited or defrauded–shafted.
Positive vs. Negative
How you choose to write your story matters.
It’s very easy to write a negative story–just scan the Google News headlines on any given day. While there may be no happy ending to the story that you’re writing, there’s always a lesson to be learned.
That’s what I love about Curie’s story–it’s what she did after she was shafted.
In the late 1800s and well into the 1900s she was a giant in the science world. While doing all of her groundbreaking scientific work she and Pierre Curie, her husband, also set the bar-of-morality by standing up and literally declining to participate with the folks who gave out the Nobel Prize. Their actions had huge professional and financial ramifications, which they lived with for the rest of their lives.
Regardless of their personal hardship, they kept on resetting the bar-of-morality.
As it turns out, this bar has to be continually reset. Today we have courageous people involved in the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements. In their time, the Curie’s were their own two-person movement.
After Pierre’s untimely death, the next chapter of Marie Curie’s life was in the service of French soldiers fighting in World War I. She taught herself to be a practical engineer, invented the mobile X-Ray machine, and deployed a fleet of X-Ray military trucks which ended up assisting doctors located in the field during surgery. The end result was that she saved the lives of countless soldiers.
While she may have harbored resentment, who wouldn’t, she didn’t let that get in the way of making the world a better place.
That’s one of the lessons learned from Curie.
Another one |
her legacy is timeless. It doesn’t need to be judged within the context of her era.
We all love the what if scenario. In fact, there’s a whole genre called Alternative History based on the scenario.
What if |
the ancient Greeks had continued their innovation of reaction motors 2,500 years ago? Would we have landed on the moon during the Roman era?
the Byzantine Empire’s scientists had continued their research in medicine 1,000 years ago? Would the cure for cancer have been completed before the foundation of the USA?
the bar-of-morality had not fallen after Madam Curie? Would women, the other 50 percent of potential scientists, have found their voice 50 to 100 years earlier? Imagine where we’d be today with the diversity of thought that would have happened generations ago.
Fortunately, we’re just about at the revolution.
The seemingly small societal steps taken by people like Curie, President Lincoln, and Martin Luther King are now evolving into larger movements. We’re almost at Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
The question we need to ask ourselves |
do we want our legacies to be judged positive, irrespective of the era in which we live?
If your answer is “yes,” then it’s time to act with the fortitude that Madame Marie Curie demonstrated 120 years ago.