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    What a Wonderful World

    We have our challenges, but it really is a wonderful world. We just have to keep fighting to make it even better.

    What a wonderful world
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    Over the past few months, I’ve started my day with a short yoga class in my living room, courtesy of Peloton yoga. Some days I spend 30 minutes, some days ten minutes. I started daily yoga to see if it would help with back pain. I wish I could tell you it is a miracle cure. In my case, it is not, but cortisone seems to be.

    One of the class types is “restorative yoga”. I’ve mostly ignored it, but after spending several hours in the ER overnight with my son for a badly sprained wrist, the name was enticing. You essentially get a ton of blankets and bolsters, assume a side pose that looks a lot like napping, and lay there for 3 minutes. Then you flip over to the other side. Then you do the same thing on your stomach and back. Our lab Felix always watches me do yoga. During this class, he decided it looked safe to join in and snuggled right next to me, burrowing his nose in my armpit.

    Yoga is set to background music that adds to the ambiance of it, but when I am trying to hold plank or settle into pigeon, I can’t tell you I have any idea what the song is. During restorative yoga, I realized I recognized a song. It was “What a Wonderful World”, a song originally sung by Louis Armstrong. I also paid attention to the words in a way I never had before and realized that this certainly seems like a song about sustainability and inclusion. The “trees of green, red roses too, blue skies” is obvious, but the third stanza, “The colors of the rainbow, So pretty in the sky. Are also on the faces. Of people going by. I see friends shaking hands. Saying how do you do. They're really saying. I love you.”

    So I looked up the history of the song and sure enough, it was written in 1967 for Louis Armstrong because the songwriters “were inspired by Armstrong's ability to bring together people of different races.” But the rest of the story about this song is fascinating as well. The President of ABC Records went to the recording and hated the song. So much so that he tried to stop the session. The group refused to stop recording and instead, physically removed him from the session and locked him out of the studio.

    As a penalty for throwing out the President of the label from the session, ABC refused to promote the song in the US. It went to #1 on the UK charts, but initially sold fewer than 1,000 copies domestically. It took another twenty years to make the Billboard 100 in the US, which happened when it was included in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam”. In 1999, it made it into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2021, Rolling Stone listed it as #171 of the 500 best songs of all time.

    The mother in me loves the last stanza the most. “I hear babies cry. I watch them grow. They'll learn much more. Than I'll ever know...” Isn’t that the truth, particularly as I’m watching the truly stunning pace of generative AI, biotech, cleantech and other transformative innovations.

    In the midst of the climate crisis, gun violence, racial and gender inequities, political battles or economic shocks, it’s hard to remember that we are also living in a world that overall has less extreme poverty, where life expectancy has increased and public health is improving, and where more than half of new electricity produced is now renewable. We have our challenges, but it really is a wonderful world. We just have to keep fighting to make it even better.

    We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
    Jawaharlal Nehur

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