The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

December 8, 2012

We’re more alike than we know

FRANKFORT — Time moves and the world changes, but in Kentucky time moves and we don’t seem to change much.

I love this place. I love its people, so colorful and interesting and many of them full of wisdom. I love the variety and beauty of its geography. Kentucky’s people are usually warmhearted and they mostly love their land, recognizing how much it shaped who they are – even while they often cruelly mistreat it.

We stubbornly resist change. I understand the impulse; I feel it especially as I grow older. I see the things which made and shaped me changing or disappearing. The little farm where I grew up is covered by houses and driveways which have replaced the fields. The hedgerows and pathways I once walked, just my dog and I, and that enormous presence all around me I believed was God.

I see people who enriched my life and nurtured me leaving forever. The wise men and women, the storytellers, the human markers of my heritage and the past which as Faulkner observed is never dead, it’s not even past. They live now in my soul and my memory, though that’s a poor refuge compared to their real presence.

I read the poems, novels and short stories of Wendell Berry and feel the pain of his wisdom as he laments the passing of elders, of their old and simpler ways that made us more human, and the ravaging and paving of the good earth that sustained them and which must sustain us in spite of what we continue to do to it.

But I also see the world changing sometimes in good ways and Kentucky slipping farther behind. We are insulated, suspicious of change and those not like us or who think a bit differently.

Mark Twain famously said: “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky, because everything there happens 20 years after it happens anywhere else.”

We can’t prevent the future. Instead of fearing the future is out to get us – the wonderfully apt description by Lexington Herald-Leader editorial writer Jamie Lucke – we might recognize it’s already here.

There must be a way to accept the future and allow our intellectual and spiritual horizons to expand while we honor the past and preserve what was good about it. Kentucky welcomes new machines of destruction but rarely new people and ideas which might enrich us in non-material ways.

Can’t we live our values as well as proclaim them? If we are in fact a Christian culture, shouldn’t we act toward others with a Christian attitude, to approach those who seem different from us with the wisdom and knowledge that they too are children of God? Perhaps their differences and different ideas are just as much God’s creations as we and ours are. Shouldn’t we try to emulate the tolerance and humility of the New Testament?

Maybe we ought to listen to Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War, Lincoln was asked if God was on his side.

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side,” said the President, “my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”

We should question new ideas, but we ought to question our own as well, and we ought to question others’ with an open mind. They needn’t always be feared or reviled. God’s universe has plenty of room for all of us.

For if we are indeed the children of God, we must acknowledge so are they and we are more alike than we are different.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

 

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