Don’t Be Afraid To Turn Your Rudder

Do you ever find words of wisdom in a billboard sign, a television show, or a fortune cookie? The other day I was watching a show from the 1990s, “Northern Exposure”. One character, Maurice Minnifield, is a retired astronaut. His observations about space are sprinkled throughout the episodes. One of his blurbs of intelligence went something like this: “Gravity keeps you rooted to the ground. In space there is no gravity—your feet just keep floating around. When you’re alone it’s like being in space.”


Those were his exact words, actually. I know because I rewound his speech and wrote them down carefully. At the time the words touched my heart with their profound wisdom. “Yes!” I tell myself. “I’ve got to take down these sentences and put them into an article. Who knows? They might change someone’s life.”

So here I am writing this profound article, for others to read and have their lives changed. And I’ve taken a second read, and a third and fourth, of this mind-altering analogy. And all I can say is, “Huh?”


What was I thinking? “Gravity keeps you rooted to the ground”? Well, yes, middle school science teaches us that, and also teaches us why. “In space our feet just keep floating around?” Wow, what were the writers thinking? Were they thinking? Let’s not forget the last sentence, in its attempts to salvage the train wreck, just adds fuel to the fire. “When you’re alone, it’s like being in space.”


Some of you think an article like this is destined for the trash can. Oh you, of little creativity. No, By the third paragraph I realized I would be going in a different direction. Most creative thinkers will tell you that’s pretty common. My brain, like a ship navigating the ocean of six hundred words or less, turned its rudder toward friendlier seas.


So here we are, halfway through the article, and I’m going to discuss stupid sayings that make no sense. Here’s one of my favorites, “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” Ah, one of society’s smartest men, Albert Einstein. Sure, ol’ Al is smart, but not so great at memorable sayings.


For all you logical people out there, what about “It’s darkest just before the dawn.” Uh, no it isn’t. The darkest part of the night is midnight, literally the middle of the night when the sun is exactly opposite the face of the Earth. The closer you get to dawn, the brighter the sky gets. A more accurate (and still appropriate) saying would be “It’s coldest just before the dawn.”


Let’s not forget all those sayings about space and the moon. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Yes, and you’d die in the cold nothing of space. This attempt to encourage and inspire sounds like a recipe for disaster.


Maybe I should create my own? You know, based on my decision to turn around my article after realizing it had no solid standing? Hmmm, what about, “When your map points you to a dangerous destination, throw away the map and steer your rudder to friendlier seas.”


I’ll admit it might need some work. But it’s a lot better than “It’s a dog eat dog world.” Mine is much kinder toward dogs, and doesn’t leave an unappetizing image in your brain.


Jann Goar Franklin graduated Russellville High School in 1989. You can reach her at