Upstate New York seems to have enjoyed a relatively higher level of living some 20 years ago. Since that time, during my life, the community has been in a steady economic and social decline.
My generation and many of those raised locally in the last two decades were greatly influence by that collapse.
I remember the tumbling of Oxford store fronts and the not-so-spectacular rise of Wal-Mart. I barely remember the small businesses like Oxford Video. I remember them struggling. I didn’t really assimilate the true impact of things at the time, but I remember the disappearance of childhood friends, forced to relocate.
Before we had a county with two maximum security prisons and a Wal-Mart, there was Procter & Gamble and Victory Markets. In Oxford, just about everyone I know is employed by the state, either through the school district or Veterans’ Home.
They say that an early indicator of global warming can be detected by the melting of the ice caps. I have often wonder if perhaps upstate New York and other rural areas are preliminary indicators of increasing economic depravity on a larger scale.
This is all I have ever really known and so it can be difficult for me to even imagine my hometown any other way. The effects have unfortunately been a more pessimistic and far less enthusiastic view of the local affairs.
Through all this however I learned many important things. One of the most important I’ll probably ever know is the true value of community.
One of the most important things can be a one’s stance and contributions to their community.
The idea of local politics gives me the same pleasure I get watching a clever game of chance unfold. Strategy, reputation, and appearances are key to seizing that unknown opportunity by accepting certain degrees of risk, based on reward and loss outcomes.
This process may have the appearance of a popularity contest and there are those who begin with great advantages. Wealth, power, and heritage give lean to the side that processes them from the start. Their hereditary qualities explain why they’ve become so fiercely coveted. Most of us have to rely on the alternative tactics to make our marks. We must endure the curse of the common man by always trying to find a way to be more.
The decisions that we make within those parameters, combined with luck, determine who we are to not just everyone else, but to ourselves. I enjoy watching people develop and use their intuition. Interesting word, intuition. No one can tell you what it is. One can define it from a dictionary, but each person contributes an independent recipe of factors in producing its eventual effect. The hair that splits fight or flight, good or evil, gain and loss.
Information seems to be key. No matter what the instrument of our success, we all can be subject to ruin at fate’s whim. The motivation discovered by some is that lady fate plays favorites with her flock. Those who prepare, improvise and, most importantly never give up, are bound to a greater chance of prosperity than those who do not.
Life has no guarantees, but life is change. Growing and learning are the only options before us unless one prefers the more futile roads of indifference and ignorance. Those that do not care or those who do not know. Those appeals are obvious, for one will have the luxury of never failing or ever trying. If you are not defined by the effort you commit towards life, then what should be a person’s judge? In that universal measure, we all qualify despite our origin or disposition.
“If a man does his best then what else is there?” - George S. Patton
A life without options seems like a prelude to an inevitable end. The final and last resort of choice is death. If properly chosen it could be the most potent decision one could ever make. It seems to take both the best and worst of humanity to look the devil in the eye. Heroes and martyrs, fanatics and psychopaths.
We will die and we will eventually forgotten, but believe me when I say that when it comes to what we are, beliefs, dreams and ideas, there is indeed something greater, something invincible. The sheer conviction of embracing an ideal more avidly than one’s own life forever defines our identity to those ends. To be human is to step outside those mortal boundaries of instinctual survival and declare that there is indeed something more to what we are. It is at the very heart of inner truth. In these moments humanity demonstrates its sole immortal element, our infinite potential.
This spark begins with the individual.
“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.” -William Blake