COMMUNITY & CULTURE

Change is Now

Words By Jonathan Hooper | Photos by Shad Ramsey

Every culture observes and celebrates certain days and events, from the ancient Mesopotamians to Millennials, and each culture observes change in cycles.

When I see the word “change,” the first dozen or so images that smack me in the brain are song lyrics, ranging from Bob Dylan to Leon Russell to David Bowie to Tupac. Rest assured that I know that images do not actually smack me in the brain, even if change does. Okay, I know I have never been brain-smacked by anything, because that isn’t even a word. But keep following me here for the next few minutes while you sit in the waiting room reading this.

As I write this, we are in the heated and personally challenging denouement of the 2016 Presidential Election, as well as trying to figure out all of those additional “down ballot” men and women who aspire to lead our nation, state, county, school board, and for all I know, affect the selection of ice cream at the neighborhood grocery store. Most of us have little idea what the majority of these elected officials actually do day in and day out, but we are pretty confident when we vote for them that they will do a better job than their opponent whether they are the incumbent or outsider. By the time you read this, the election will be over, and we will still have little idea what they do. Fortunately, we have had roughly 227 years of relatively smooth and peaceful transition between opposing factions (those first few years before 1789 were pretty tumultuous).

Our elected officials either remain in office, or are replaced with a new and improved (or old and worse) version. Either way, we vote hoping that the change will be to our liking. Unless it is someone we do not want. The cycle begins all over again, every two or four or six years. In short, we are constantly in flux with our national politics, under a constant barrage of propaganda, and we hope for change. Unless we hope that things stay exactly the same. Except for the people who want it to “go back to the way it used to be,” which is, of course, change. How can we ever be right if everyone is wrong?

We don’t like change. Unless we like it. It is a lot like insurance, which is definitely something no one wants to pay for, but are so thankful when they need it.

I recently moved to another state to be closer to family; particularly, closer to two perfect granddaughters. But that isn’t quite true. All of my stuff is in another state, along with my family, but I remain here for another couple of weeks. Things have to be turned off, shutdown, cancelled, forwarded, and the obligations and commitments made in August must be fulfilled into December. If you want to experience change, pack up all your belongings (and cares and woes) and cram them into a large orange truck (or ocean liner, as they handle the same) and drive across the country (or the highway construction known as Arkansas), all the while hoping that closing on the new house occurs in a timely fashion (it won’t).

But, I digress. Or maybe I don’t.

Change is an upheaval from the existing norm, and this upheaval occurs in cycles.

Couple kayaking Lake Granbury.

Photograph by Shad Ramsey

Change is an upheaval from the existing norm, and this upheaval occurs in cycles (this isn’t the first time I have moved from one state to another, although I hope this is the last time). We all strain against the upheavals in life. Perhaps a loved one returns home from active duty—or departs for their first foreign tour. Maybe you end up in the hospital from an accident that occurred from something you safely navigate ten times every day, until today—or return home from successful surgery. You leave a job you dislike for new employment you believe to be better—or, alas, you discover the grass really isn’t any greener on the other side.

For some, the approaching days on the calendar that are full of holiday celebrations, both sacred and secular, generate so much tension and stress, or loneliness and sadness, or joy and expectation that you are rendered helpless and non-functioning. Or maybe those holidays are the season where you find your ultimate groove.

We use holidays as barometers, milestones, and even crossing guard monitors of our successes and failures from New Year’s Day through New Year’s Eve, when we finally give up on the year and pretend the next twelve months will provide the change we want. “This is the year!” we proclaim, bravely believing that this year will not be like all those others. This year, the fitness memberships and exercise equipment will be used every day, and not just in January, only to become forgotten bank drafts and clothes hangers by February or March, leading to about six weeks of Lent resulting in spiritual development or personal deprivation. Side note: in Ireland, if you give up beer for Lent, you are allowed to drink a Guinness or five on St. Patrick’s Day. Then you can cycle back to spiritual observance.

Labor Day arrives, then 4th of July, then Memorial Day, The Friday Night Lights of High School Football Season (no, they are not official holidays, but…), Halloween (my least favorite), Thanksgiving, then on into Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah, to mention just a few of the mainstream holidays in America. As other cultures continue to share their holidays with us, we find literally hundreds of specials observances, from Epiphany Day to Ramadan to Cinco de Mayo to Yom Kippur—and the list goes on. Every culture observes and celebrates certain days and events, from the ancient Mesopotamians to Millennials, and each culture observes change in cycles.

Memorial Day 2016 Field of Flags Hwy 377

Photograph by Shad Ramsey

I have noticed lately at funerals—and I have attended far too many in recent months—that within each grieving family is a newborn. There might be a two-year old toddler rather than a two-month old baby, but that is close enough. This isn’t about “out with the old, in with the new,” which is so unfeeling and inconsequential, and we can agree that birth and death are neither of those. Rather, it is the cycle found in loss of a loved one and the birth of a new addition to the family are wonderful reminders that we are constantly changing. Soon enough, that baby will be the family elder—the “pater familias” if you will—and the cycle continue anew.

We recently celebrated the Hood County Sesquicentennial. That is 150 years of surviving, fire, drought, flood, dams, wars, fire ants, Pappy O’Daniel, LBJ, Astroturf, disco, line dancing, The Giants in the 2010 World Series, Jade Helm 15, listeria, and even Jerry Jones. When Texas observed its Sesquicentennial in 1986, few people had even heard of the term “sesquicentennial.” A Speech Communications professor at a nearby university referred to it as “So-Squeeze-Your-Tentacles” which is quite frankly how I learned to say it. It now falls on us to begin our next 150 years in Hood County, and to continue the cycle.

Personally, I think our life cycles occur in binary form, constructed from a long series of opposing zeroes and ones, ups and downs, ins and outs, lefts and rights, and rights and wrongs. Don’t put the magazine away just yet—hear me out. We live, we die; we breathe in, we breathe out; our eyes open, our eyes close; the sun comes up, the sun goes down (I took Astronomy in college, so I know this isn’t exactly what happens, but work with me here); we get sick, we get well; conversely, we are healthy, we get sick; the lake is full, the lake is low; we have drought, we have floods; we sleep, we wake up. This could go on forever, right? Now consider that all of these zeroes and ones are moving along an arc (because there are no straight lines in life) down the Brazos River through varying currents and deep pools and shallow rapids and dams and lakes and rocks and islands, floating all the way from Curry County, New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico for 1,280 miles (or 840 miles, depending on the source). Up and down, left and right, stop and go: these are the changes found along the river, and along our lives.

 

Hood County Carnival September, 2015.

Photograph by Shad Ramsey

If there is a point to all of this—and there is—it would be that change is all around us; that we all experience those changes in similar ways, albeit at different times in our lives; that “new” actually does replace “old” sometimes, for better or worse; and that we are all in this together, regardless of which holidays we observe.

Because we can’t always move to another state.