Saturday, January 25, 2014

Far and Away

This morning, in the cranky haze of a sinus infection, I checked recent postings on Facebook. The Polar Bear Plunge has been cancelled, thank goodness. Ian Kennedy is drumming up support as a celebrity bartender for Evening in the Stacks. Two wonderful young people have just had their first child. A friend from college has adopted (yet another) Maine Coon cat.

Tom Coale has written a letter to the paper encouraging participation in upcoming Columbia elections, and immediately someone has jumped in to rain on his parade. Of course.


When you take a head cold, multiple medications, not enough sleep or coffee, and combine it with this kind of information, something strange is bound to happen. Here it is.

Yes, it's the Oklahoma Land Rush, as depicted in the 1992 movie, "Far and Away". Just imagine it's Columbia, with all the Pioneers rushing in to take their places. (Bear with me.) The land is theirs. The concept is theirs. All the spots on Village boards and local committees are theirs.

Now replay it in your mind in 2014. You're a young person, or a newer resident, attempting to participate in community affairs. Our Oklahoma Land Rush now looks more like an adversarial video game, with opponents popping up behind every bush and boulder.

"You can't do that." Zing!

"We were here first." Zing!

"Everyone's out to get us." Zing!

This is not the recipe for community building. Filmed this way, our land rush would be more like the Great Massacre of 1893. It is no wonder more people don't get involved in the workings of Columbia. When people came here at the beginning, it was a great adventure. Now it seems more like an exercise in futility.

What if the most valuable gift we could give to Columbia was allowing younger and future generations to have the great adventure that the Pioneers had? I wasn't here. I didn't have that experience. But I have had that joy and exhilaration of a meaningful challenge in my life. Truly, it is what makes life worth living.

If we care about Columbia, then we have to understand that it is not a "given". It would be extremely foolish to assume that it will always be here. Deeply entwined in the vision for this place is the requirement that we must get our hands dirty to make it work, and we must allow others to do the same.

For those who came at the beginning, it may be far and away the most difficult thing they have ever had to do. It is also the most important.


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