A Violent Birth—The Cycle of Falls and Rises

Giraffes are vulnerable at birth. The event is a rude awakening, a survival test, and a rough-and-tumble introduction onto the plains of Africa. The calf drops from its mother’s pouch, building speed that severs the umbilical cord. As the calf flails on the ground, a powerful image hovers above, providing a moment of calm when the newborn has a decision to make: Do I lie still or rise to join my mother standing before me?

Technology, however, not only sparks falls but also triggers rises.

In 1912 Lillian Gish showcased her first-rate acting talent in silent films. But soon a shift in technology radically changed her profession. Gish responded (nearly one hundred years ago) in a way must embrace today. She accepted change even though it would cause stress and eliminate the silent acting field in which she was recognized as a major star through films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Orphans of the Storm (1921).

Most of Gish’s fellow actors bluntly rejected the transition from silent film to sound, but she had a conviction to learn new skills in a field that was experiencing a West Coast earthquake. She transferred her talents to the stage in the play Hamlet (1936) and talkies such as Duel in the Sun (1946), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

The result of rising after a career fall was that Gish not only kept her job but also contributed to her field for more than half of century. In 1971 she earned a special Academy Award for “superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures.” Gish was that rare person who not only accepted but also embraced change, living to the age of ninety-nine and dying in her sleep of natural causes.

Change ain’t easy—most of us spend much of our lives fighting these shifts that arrive like tides on the beach. Perhaps a giraffe-inspired approach is best, one in which we accept falls as Lillian Gish did by knowing they often stimulate growth if we elect to stand and join a new herd while continuing to learn from an industry collapse, a wise response in our new century of shifts that occur through technology.


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