By Russell K. King, MBA, HHRA Executive Director
This time of year is especially rich with holidays that inspire deeper thoughts about our lives. While peering through the steam rising from my coffee and contemplating my own mix of Thanksgiving gratitude, Christmas joy, and New Year’s hope and resolution, I heard the words of G. B. Shaw coming back to me:
“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Shaw’s words drew the HHRA into my musing. Yes, the mission of the HHRA is a purpose I find “mighty” for which I hope to be “used up,” but I realized it’s much more than just one mighty purpose or worthy cause. Within the HHRA mission, there are a number of splendid torches we may proudly carry.
In the HHRA’s flagship program, the Heartland Study, we can find the worthy causes of maternal health, children’s health and development, environmental health, and public health, among others. The HHRA’s Dietary Risk Index encompasses at least the worthy causes of consumer choice, food safety, and public health. Our Pesticide Use Data System and policy recommendations activities are also fertile with worthy efforts and promise.
In our era, science is too often twisted to suit political, religious, and pecuniary ends, but the HHRA holds high the splendid torch of science as a search for truth. The chair of our board oft reminds us “not to get ahead of the data,” and the chair of our science advisory committee reminds us of our obligation to be “agnostic about the outcomes” of our study. I’m proud to say my own life has been spent promoting science and combating both pseudoscience and anti-science. While much of the world tries to create data to fit their agenda, we are trying to learn what the data tell us. Of all the splendid torches the HHRA offers us, my own favorite me be this: Science unfettered by ulterior motives.
In this season of reflection and contemplation of the deeper things of life, I urge you to recognize and cherish the worthy causes you are serving with your life. If you’re still searching for a worthy cause that will bring you a taste of Shaw’s “true joy in life,” I invite you to join and support our work at the HHRA. Find your splendid torch and carry it high!