Famous firsts: a helmet floats in space

First tries are notoriously middling in terms of quality, and I don’t expect this, the inaugural post for SpaceInMyHelmet, to be an exception to the rule. The “first try” is the product from the position representing the least experience and the most irrational confidence. It’s also the product of a desire to do something different, to taste something new. Many things have grown to captivate our attention that began with awkward and uncomfortable actions. Such moments, as uncomfortable as they can be for all involved, become transformed into famous firsts that empower us to confront the uncomfortable.

As our tastes are eclectic here at SpaceInMyHelmet, I’ve gathered an eclectic assortment of other “firsts” to welcome us to the scene. Here’s to the famous firsts, the first tries, the first moves, the first risky decisions or uncomfortable steps that set things small and large into motion.

Famous Firsts

Famous firsts - Einstein stands with chalkboard

Albert Einstein, the man who made chalkboards look awesome. 1920.

The Patent Office

Albert Einstein showed signs of mathematical talent at a very young age, grew up, obtained a teaching degree in mathematics and physics, and… couldn’t find a job in the teaching sector after spending two years trying. A friend’s father mercifully hooked him up with a job as a clerk at the Swiss patent office. His first job wasn’t glamorous, but it left him with some spare time and energy to conduct scientific research. Consequently, he would go on to win the Nobel Prize and a handful of other awards by writing about such things as time and energy.

Famous firsts - A portrait of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare in a frighteningly brown world.

Henry VI Part II

Though it can’t be etched into the great book of facts, experts generally agree that William Shakespeare’s first play was Henry VI Part II, followed by the first and third parts of the Henry VI trilogy. It’s known as one of his bloodier plays… alas, the excesses of youth. The play isn’t made better for its plethora of heads on poles, rather it finds its life in themes of ambition, treachery, jealousy, sin and divinity. Henry VI is the frail, disappointing son of the charismatic warrior, King Henry V. I’ll be honest, Henry VI Part II is far from my favorite Shakespearean play. Considering that it was a first try? He knocked it out of the ballpark. A first try that can fill stages 400 years later is good enough for our list of famous firsts.

Famous firsts - A forest with beams of light

Joseph’s vision took place in a grove. Not this grove, but a grove.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision

Ah, the First Vision. This one is a personal nod to my former religion. As the story goes, 14-year-old Joseph lived in western New York and grew genuinely confused by contradictory Christian doctrines in the region. Wanting to know which church was the “one true church,” he went into a grove of trees and prayed to God for the answer.

While the LDS church has a version it uses (it’s printed into their scriptures) to detail the answer to his prayer, Joseph gave four different accounts of his vision between 1832 and 1842. A handful of other versions also surfaced from contemporaries who claimed to have heard their version from the mouth of Joseph. Regardless of the versions and their differences, the common thread is that Joseph is divinely told that the other churches possess mere pieces of the truth, and that his life’s work is to restore the “one true church” to the Earth. The LDS church remembers his vision as the spark that lit the flame. I do disagree with the church about a lot of things—but hey, a story about a boy who sees craziness in the world and seeks out honest answers? I can still relate to that.

Royce Gracie’s Grappling

The sport of mixed martial arts has grown tremendously in recent years, and suffice it to say it has caught my attention. The lead promotion, called the Ultimate Fighting Championship (or UFC), still occasionally refines aspects of the sport, but it has come a long way from the anarchy that was UFC 1. Held in Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena back in ’93, UFC 1 had three rules: don’t bite, don’t stick your finger in an opponent’s eye, and don’t strike anyone in the groin. There were no weight classes and no judges, and fights ended by submission, knockout or surrender. As if that wasn’t enough, it was an eight-man tournament format, meaning the finalists fought three fights in the same evening. If you think MMA is crazy now…

Amid a lineup of thick and powerful fighters, it was the skin-and-bones jiu-jitsu specialist Royce Gracie, draped in a full karate gi, who prevailed to win the $50,000 prize. He was the first to introduce the effectiveness of Brazilian jiu-jitsu’s grappling to the MMA scene. 23 years later, BJJ is one of the foundational arts which every fighter must acquire to remain competitive.

That’s it for my list of famous firsts! Thanks for joining us here at SpaceInMyHelmet. We don’t expect to rival Einstein or Shakespeare, and we aren’t planning to start a religious movement (yet), but we hope to make this first year memorable. Cheers!

Written by Space Cadet Dan
Space Cadet Dan has a BA in English and an MA in International Relations. Born in New Jersey, raised in Southern California and now a Colorado resident in the Denver suburbs, he enjoys traveling and getting in over his head debating controversial subjects.