Monday, August 29, 2016

Luck and Perspective

It is so difficult not to become vain about one's own good luck.
                                                                                        -Simone de Beauvoir, 1963

A quote from Luck.  You may want to Google Ms de Beauvoir, and even if you only read the Wikipedia entry on her, you will gain some interesting information.

My addendum quote to the above might be - It is so difficult not to become bitter about one's own bad luck, and envious in an unhealthy way about those you deem lucky.

Strangely, I would imagine that many people deemed lucky by others, may not consider themselves lucky.  I would guess that there are many billions of people currently residing outside of the United States who consider every American citizen to be lucky just to have been born here.  I would guess that when reading about famous people, many Americans think those stars are lucky, even though we also love to read about their problems.  Their failed marriages, drug and alcohol abuse,and often short life spans are great fodder for the tabloids, demonstrating us to be as curious as the rubberneckers who just have to look at the car accident as they pass.  Yet, I would bet if  answered honestly, a significant percentage of the rich and famous actually feel unlucky and are envious of the rest of us, anonymous in our ordinary lives.

Ah, perspective.

There is an interesting and alarming article in the September edition of National Geographic about potential and ongoing commercial developments in the Grand Canyon.  I am fortunate in that, as a young adult I made three visits to the Grand Canyon.  While I did not devote the time to really experience such an incredible natural wonder, I can still recall the awe I experienced when standing at the edge and gazing for miles in all directions at the sheer beauty of the canyon, knowing that its creation took millions of years of natural processes.  One could arguably see such an example of the raw power required to carve the canyon, and the patience necessary for its surrounding walls to endure the relentless erosion of the rushing Colorado river, and conclude that God does exist, to provide us with such a powerful vista.  And that each of us is special as well in Her eyes.

Unfortunately, there are those who see the Grand Canyon as just another way to make a large pile of money.  Most people don't know, or prefer to remain ignorant of the fact, that there are still American Indians living on reservations today, and that there is much land in the American west under their jurisdiction, including a lot of the area surrounding the Grand Canyon.  One such tribe has been granted unlimited license to fly as many tourist helicopter rides as they can sell, resulting in an area on the western end of the canyon being known as helicopter alley due to the sheer volume of noise the hundreds of copter rides occurring each day can make.

Of course, I tend to give this tribe a mulligan when it comes to their endeavor to be capitalists.  Our treatment of the American Indian is a national shame that will only be erased if hollow phrases like make America Great Again, are allowed to pretend that America's history is rife with examples of its greatness, if you were a white male.  Besides, there is plenty of blame to go around, from multi-national corporations looking to improve the profit margin of their holdings in the tourist and entertainment industries, to politicians who are all too eager to sell off our nation's recreational areas to developers. loggers, miners and fossil fuel companies so as to swell their campaign money chests, to private land owners all to willing to trade clean water and air for a temporary windfall, knowing full well they will move as soon as they can leaving their neighbors to deal with the environmental costs of their greed, to even some in the government agencies themselves who were hired to ostensibly protect the integrity of our national parks, but instead cozy up to those very same entities listed above knowing that their favorable rulings on opening new drilling sites will garner them a cushy job in said industry when their "public" service is over.

As I was walking the dog this morning, thinking about today's post, I tried to play devil's advocate against myself in reference to this issue.  Certainly, it is important for America to seek energy solutions at every turn, as the bigger picture or global uncertainty is not to be ignored.  And, of course, it is important for people of vision, people who can transform possibility into reality and concepts into jobs to be nurtured as their contributions are necessary for our continued economic well being.  It is a difficult balancing act, regulating and restricting businesses while encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.  But when we entrust our public servants to do what is best for all people, not just those who have the resources to gain their ear and improve their bank accounts, then the rest of us must stay vigilant to the point of protesting all development that threatens our public recreational lands and remaining pristine environments.  If we abdicate our responsibility and leave these decisions in the hands of those whose only yardstick is profit, our legacy to the generations of Americans to come will reek with the stench of profit before people, and the philosophy that the only valuable land is that with malls and entertainment centers with corporation names.

Natural wonders, parks with walking trails and babbling brooks, camping areas in the woods, undeveloped fields of wild flowers have a value that cannot be determined.  Allowing those whose perspective is gauged only by the thickness of their wallets and breadth of their portfolios, is not only short term thinking at its worst, but a slap in the face to a creator whose work can last millenniums yet be despoiled in a few short months.      


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