Prickles

Sunday afternoon the giant dog wandered around the yard, trying to make friends.

She’s usually pretty charming, if you can overlook the drool, but she recently rolled in something very dead and was trailing a cortege of flies and an aroma which could only be described as penetrating.

It made me think about medical research and...raspberries.

The raspberry season is in full swing. About five years ago, we stuck half a dozen raspberry plants along the orchard fence. Now we have a dense hedge of raspberries five feet wide and forty feet long that’s yielding about a quart a day, if we can stay ahead of the birds.

Something I often think about, particularly when I’m picking raspberries, is an article by a horticulturist who said, “The interesting thing about raspberries is that they are an incredibly invasive weed that just so happens to yield delicious fruit.”

Much like the dog – a much loved pet of great value when keeping coyotes at bay, but occasionally trailing an aroma that would gag a goat. This vastly diminishes her social value.

Where’s medical research fit in? I’ve written about this before, because I think it’s a fascinating story.  When I was a child, if someone was diagnosed with leukemia, it was considered a death sentence.   Now, 90% of children recover from it.

That’s faint consolation for those people whose loved ones still suffer and die, but it’s still a stunning accomplishment by a number of brilliant people.

One of those people, a doctor who produced some of the real foundational research, was fired seven times. 

Yeah. Seven times.

It appears that he was an incredible jerk.

There are so many lessons to be learned. First, if you do particularly good work, you can get away with a lot. On the other hand, regarding the brilliant doctor who’s been fired seven times and the carcass-rolling dog, value doesn’t mean you can get a free pass for everything. Sooner or later, the folks you work with are going to get fed up and either fire you or lock you in a kennel. Even the raspberry hedge is going to be mowed back into submission as soon as the crop is harvested.

But I think the most important lesson, the one that is often overlooked, is that we need to look for value everywhere, even in the most unlikely of places, even with the most unlikely of people. If you stood downwind of my dog this week, you could be excused for wondering just why I keep her around. Spend an hour with some people I’ve worked with over the years and you could wonder what I possibly saw in them. After a few days of working together, you still might not like them, but it’d be easy to know how well they do their jobs.

I’m not saying that this search for the good in everyone won’t come with an element of risk. The first person to eat a wild raspberry or strawberry hit the jackpot. The guy who chowed down on fresh cranberries dealt with serious mouth pucker. And the folks who tried pokeweed or holly berries were never heard from again. All red berries are not created equal, and neither are all annoying or self-centered people. 

Life needs balance. A workplace or a world without prickles means you’re missing some great tastes.

The dog though…the dog really needs a bath.

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson