Opinion: Challenges of sticking together


There are more than a handful of handy, intuitive inventions that, once discovered, seem to have been with us from the beginning. We wonder how humans might have survived before the simple, elegant and eminently useful ideas, gadgets and solutions came along, but each one had an origin point in some dreamer imagining a resolution to a vexing problem, with prototypes, refinements and collaborations until a stable and replicable process took hold. Someone rubbed sticks or sparked a particular kind of stone to carry fire in their pockets. Someone imagined and built a box to hold and store – then someone else fabricated a pair of wheels to make the whole thing mobile.

In 1941 a Swiss engineer named George de Mestral was walking his dog and, annoyed by the burrs sticking to his woolen socks and the animal’s thick fur coat, was inspired to eventually create hook and loop fabric strips that became Velcro. The relatively modest leap in engineering became a global blockbuster. Now, the product is everywhere, connecting everything.  For Mestral, inspiration came from burdock seeds. Others have been initiated by Mestral’s Velcro to push the limits of its uses. Still more have applied the ubiquitous awareness of the straightforward function and utility of Velcro as a metaphor for countless other interactions.

Why is it that some people are like Velcro? We seem to stick to them quickly and effortlessly. Even if life pulls us apart over time and geography, when together again we reconnect as if we’d never been separated. And in parting once more, we don’t harm one another. Yet for others, no matter how great the effort, we cannot attach. Is it because there needs to be a hook-and-loop to have the effect? Is it our differences that make this work? Or consistency? Or providence?


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