Philosophy, Complexity, Simplicity, Balance: Roots of Rural Past

Roots of my American Experience

Top Left, one of the old area packing labels. Upper Right, my Dad picking peppers on his family farm. Bottom Left, part of one of our strawberry fields during my childhood. Bottom right, my maternal grandfather’s family farm when he was a child. Many of my beliefs are rooted in not just his words, but his actions. It’s hard to think of a greater gift than when someone older, be they Parent, Grandparent, Uncle, Aunt, Neighbor, or Friend takes the time to tell stories about their past to those younger. Sadly, we often forget to appreciate the sacrifices of others for the opportunities we have today.

One of the unknown benefits to growing up in a rural area and having responsibilities with crops is that each day was a new beginning.  In my rearing I heard and saw many examples of this philosophy:  “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Create a foundation upon which you or others can build upon in the tomorrows.”  It’s the opposite to that classic adage of live each day as if it were the last day of your life.  The last day philosophy may work for some, but for me the thought of a tomorrow and trying to make it just a little better is more energizing.

At times it is hard for me to believe after the years passed, but I still remember many of the words my grandfather left me.  On my first day of kindergarten he said, “We don’t have the right to make anyone feel bad, just like others do not have the right to make you feel bad. It not about treating others how you want people to treat you; it’s about treating others in the same way as you would hope they treat you given the circumstances.”  Even though my current occupation is Professor of Southern and Political History and I seem to consume every aspect of any current or past election cycle, the vitriol and spinning can reach a point of exceeding anyone’s limits.  When aggravated I often conclude that the advice and lessons learned through listening, observation, and imitation in and around a strawberry packing shed in Livingston Parish years ago still apply whether yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

Government as both people and an entity, politicians, and we constituents all need to see a reflection of ourselves by looking through the eyes, wearing the shoes, and observing from the perspectives of others.  The reflections, sights, sounds, touch, and smells may and can be terrifying outside the space we control, but I think we of this generation need to accept something perhaps better understood by the generation who survived the Great Depression, the Second World War, and battled during the Cold War.  Even though we might not like it, at times a kick in the pants can be kinder than a pat on the back.  Too much of anything is usually bad, while a mixture or balance can often keep us on our feet.   I guess the key is really just discovering when and how to manage the extremes to achieve the best balance to build not just yourself but others as well.

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