Friday, May 25, 2001
"...take any action relative thereto"
I remember attending Town Meetings years ago, when we were new in town and the children were still very young. Arriving home from work at 6 p.m., I had 60 minutes to cook dinner, feed the family, greet the babysitter, grab a travel-mug of coffee, the Warrant, the Mosquito with the Warrant summary, and any flyers that had arrived in the mail, and head for the school. Settling into a seat in the auditorium, I would begin to scan the information for the first time. I was present, but unprepared. Fortunately, as each article was moved, the presenter gave a clear and simple explanation of the article, the background, the alternatives, and the consequences of an "aye" or "no." After a discussion on the floor that explored the different opinions, I was reasonably ready to make a decision.
Some things haven't changed, some have. The Warrant articles, especially the budget issues, haven't gotten any simpler. And many voters still arrive at Town Meeting unprepared. That hasn't changed. But at our Town Meeting last week some of the presenters assumed that everyone had read the Warrant very carefully or at least had read every recent issue of the Mosquito. The presenters for the two school budgets that reach unusually deep into our pockets simply sang a few verses of praise for their schools, stated their budget requests for the next fiscal year, and asked if there were any questions.
Questions? There was a brief silence in the auditorium. If you didn't read the Warrant, or the Mosquito articles, or the hand-outs, how could you have questions? Of course, the questions did come and there were many. But piecing together the fragments of the discussion was difficult, at best. Neither the moderator nor any town officials on the stage were able to cut through the fog and even clouded the issues further.
Fortunately, the tradition of a clear presentation was revived by several subsequent speakers. Jo Rita Jordan, for example, spoke factually and eloquently to the conservation commission's request for funds for an engineering study on the repair of the Greenough Dam.
Let's hope that Carlisle has not been infected with the current political trend to put on a good face and give as little information as possible. An informed public makes better decisions.
One of Charles Darwin's most insightful, if least repeated, observations was that it is not the strongest or the fittest species that survive, but the most adaptable to change. Beyond bare survival, our ability to adapt to changed circumstances dramatically affects our ongoing sense of well-being.
Change has always been the one constant in the progression of time. These days, though, it seems as if even that simple truth has kicked into overdrive. On average, we enjoy less stability in our living conditions than in the past. We change jobs more often, and relocate from one communityor regionto another in the process. Our families and friends spread to faraway places. At the same time, our communities see a steady influx of new members. Carlisle has seen rapid growth in the past decade, and will continue to grow. Both the degree and the pace of change have accelerated dramatically since the end of World War II.
Since change itself is inevitable, it is fruitless to attempt to prevent it. But successful adaptation to change must mean more than passive acceptance of whatever comes along. How, then, are we to approach the challenge of shaping change into positive development?
Between college and law school, I spent a year traveling with my college roommate in North Africa and the Middle East. As is typical of such trips, we spent a few weeks in a few places, but were for the most part constantly on the move. As the trip progressed, we met new people along the way and shared stories from past experiences. After six months of traveling together, my roommate and I spent our last six weeks headed for separate destinations. During those six weeks, I continued to make new acquaintances along my way. But my conversations took on an entirely different character. After sharing basic introductions, and the outward expressions of interesting past experiences, the dialogue had no base depth from which to draw. The stories were entertaining as far as they went, but neither I nor my new acquaintance could place any one of them within a context of shared history.
I remember that experience each year at this time, as I mark the occasion of my wedding anniversary. For the past nineteen years, my wife has been my traveling companion along the journey of my life. We have experienced our share of changes some welcome, others less so. While we adapt to each changed circumstance as it arrives, what lends meaning to our lives is the fact that, together, we can place each new experience within a richly textured past context. At the core, we can sift through the various changed circumstances to discover what really matters to us.
As in relationships, so too in communities. What makes a community is the fabric of interrelationships among its members, and its sense of identity informed by its history. Though change is inevitable, our challenge in preserving our community is to identify what we believe to be its core. Change overlaid on our core identity does not threaten it but enriches our understanding of it. Conversely, change without a reference point in our core values can obscure our sense of identity and community.
To paraphrase a familiar saying: most things change, but the most important things stay the same.
© +YEAR+ The Carlisle Mosquito