Life in the Box: Both Sides Now


Journalists are taught to look at more than one side of issues, but storytellers usually have a framework that leads to just one point. They want to convince you of something.

As a new blogger, I’m finding myself torn between portraying complexities or simplifying columns to herald one outcome.

Case in point: I’m going to my high school’s 40th class reunion, and I want to write about whether our class (of 1975) has made the world a better place or not. I can argue both yes and no, and am not satisfied with either answer, so I will instead, comment based on certain world ills we have addressed since graduation.

Have we cured Cancer? No. However, we have made progress. We now know that cancer isn’t just one big disease, it’s all kinds of diseases with different causes and treatments. We’ve basically divided cancers into so many different types that we must say that some are cured; others aren’t. Progress is good. Yay class of 1975!

Have we eliminated poverty?  No, and I don’t think we’ve made progress. It seems like the causes of poverty are almost all political, and the class of 1975 has not cured political ills, here or elsewhere on the planet.

Have we eliminated racism? Obviously not. We have improved laws to support non-racist policies, but we still need to improve how well people follow those laws.

Have we saved the environment?  Hmm. We have been aware of how pollution has been changing the air, the water, and the earth; we have studied it a lot; but have we stopped large-scale polluting? No. Have we started some great recycling programs and improved some few automobile engines? Yes. Too little, too late? Yep. Bad, bad, class of 1975!

Have we made the world more peaceful? Okay, this is a big question and deserves all kinds of research, but I’m gonna say that while we’ve defended some people with military and non-military outreach, that unrest keeps leaking out. Angry people with guns are still aggressively fighting peace, so we sigh and watch the news yet another night. I will add this: we’ve had nuclear weapons our entire lives, and so far we haven’t blown up the world. That’s one good thing!

In conclusion, my judgment is that the world is much like it was when we graduated: better in some ways; worse in other ways. But I wouldn’t conclude that nothing has changed. Change has been swift and breath-taking. That’s for another column.


Nancy Heather Brown is an Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she uses gems from this treasure trove of life stories to add sparkle to her reflections on the creative process both inside and outside the box. 

  • Coming of Age?

    I’m 54 and next year will be 55
    (on June 22 if you want to send flowers
    or candy), and what I’ve learned about
    coming of age is that we come of age

    the way the great glaciers come of age.
    Slowly. One year we melt a little.
    The next we freeze a little. A wind
    comes from no place and shines up

    our northern walls. The next year
    the wind is a little stronger or weaker.
    We don’t change the way people in books
    change. Today’s hero, tomorrow’s fool.

    Our future—a patient grandmother
    with a toddler in hand—comes slowly.