Wall Street frets, but in Grand County the stars haven’t moved
I noticed the stars last night.
The recent turmoil on Wall Street and the general unrest related to the economy have opened up new avenues of thought. Talk of another stock market crash like the one that led to the Great Depression in 1929 may sound alarmist to some. However, as the stock market rises and falls by several hundred points a day, that talk starts to feel more credible.
The proposal to try and bolster the economy sounds like relief in the short run, but the long-term impact of a bailout is anybody’s guess. There are certainly those who believe that an “adjustment” now would be better than a larger “adjustment” somewhere down the road.
Another thought from that corner would be that there are some who need to feel the consequences of unwise, unsound or unethical decisions. If it was that simple I could agree, but this issue, like many in life, is likely not as black and white as we might wish.
I didn’t live during the Great Depression, so most of what I know about that era comes from what I have read in books. My siblings and I certainly thought we were poor while growing up, but I would have to admit we never lacked for anything we needed. In my entire life, I have yet to experience the feeling of not knowing if there would be food at the next mealtime.
Our society is extremely materialistic. It isn’t just the acquisition of wealth that bothers me. It isn’t just the fact that we have become accustomed to being able to dispose of practically everything we use just to buy the latest, greatest version of whatever we need.
It isn’t just the way that we quickly jump from one thing to the next, leaving behind what satisfied only yesterday. The most significant flaw, to me, of a materialistic society is that people eventually come to define themselves by what they are able to attain and what they are able to do because of wealth.
The other day, the back tire on my bicycle went flat. Given the rising cost of fuel and the fact that my commute to work is roughly 120 yards, I decided that walking or riding a bicycle is a legitimate option for transportation. For the first time since 1978, I actually thought of a bicycle as something other than a form of recreation. As I gazed at that suddenly unusable tire, I immediately knew that my recent train of thought had triggered something in my subconscious.
My first thought was to take off the tire, remove the inner tube and seal the leak with a patch. Six months ago I would have, without hesitation, gone to buy a new inner tube. I may have even bought two inner tubes so I would have a spare. However, I had returned to the frame of mind that I had lost more than 30 years ago.
Our farm in Kansas had a vicious weed that produced a thorn we called bullheads. Each bullhead had several spines, at least one of which was pointed skyward, poised to pierce the bare foot of a child or the fat tire of a one-speed bicycle. We constantly were fixing flats. It was really the only option we had, if we wanted to ride again. A new inner tube was no more in the thoughts of my brothers or me than being able to fly around the world.
My recent inner tube experience got me to thinking about other changes that might be in store. Will we mow our lawns with rotary mowers? Will we travel less and spend more time at home and visiting with neighbors? Will we start to share more things, like rides, vegetables from the garden and ideas about how to repair a leaky water faucet? Will we eat at home more often and save table scraps for a stew made of leftovers?
I am not an economist so I won’t pretend to be able to predict what is going to happen. Nonetheless, I do know that my train of thought has brought me to places that I don’t find to be objectionable.
Within the last few months, I have learned how to tinker in the shop and yard and not feel like I should be doing something more important. More and more things that I thought I had to have less than a year ago suddenly don’t seem that important. I lovingly care for my Buick and my ’67 Chevrolet pickup and tend very few thoughts about purchasing another vehicle.
I find myself looking forward to other changes that may be in store. We often hear that adversity tests the mettle of a person and can actually work as a refinery that eliminates the dross in our lives and reveals the gemstones we all possess. I happen to believe that is true.
Back to the stars. When our family moved to Colorado in 1989, I was amazed at the clarity of the nighttime sky. Lying on my back and gazing at the stars was a favorite pastime. To our second-floor deck I would often retire just before bedtime to see the North Star and the Big and Little Dippers.
I realized last night that I had stopped noticing the stars. It wasn’t because the sky had stopped being clear or the stars had moved. I hadn’t been stopping to admire their beauty.
I’m going to notice the stars again tonight.
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