Time tames mountains. With a little help from wind and rain, even the highest mountains become hills. Take our local Appalachians. Geologists estimate they were once as high as the modern Himalayans, today’s tallest mountain range.
I’ll admit I prefer our Appalachians’ current human dimensions to the soaring rocks above timber lines. Perhaps they’re not as jaw-dropping inspirational, but they rest easy on my eyes. I am always involuntarily smiling when I ride into the Smokies or drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I thought about change and mountains recently, because I was in Canada’s Rockies. Mountains operate on geologic time. Change happens slowly, over eons, rather than years.
People live with a far different clock. Few of us see a century. Perhaps, we simply don’t have the time it takes for profound change to go smoothly. Maybe that’s why we resort to definitive change weapons rather than technologies that take longer.
We appeal to guns, not words; to violence, not civil debate. Too many of us have become master resisters of change. Standing still is a virtue; looking backward, a blessing. A closed mind seems our default position these days.
For most of human history might made right. You clonked someone over the head, because you feared they would treat you the same way.
And your family and friends, your tribe, attacked the tribe a valley over to preempt their seizure of your property or your kinfolks. Eventually we seemed to learn a universal lesson, one that appears in modified forms in all major religions. In elementary school we called it the golden rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Our teachers admonished us to follow it.
That’s a reversal of the old might/right formula. A whole kindergarten curriculum eventually evolved from that premise. Be kind. Share. Clean up after yourself. Tell the truth. Play well with others. Take turns. Don’t call people names. If you want to talk, be sure to listen. Don’t take what’s not yours. Apologize when you make a mistake. After all, the whole point of civilization is becoming civilized.
Today we’ve apparently adopted the notion that fighting will solve our problems.
Doom and gloom is our atmosphere of choice. I’m not a big TV viewer, but I am a baseball fan. Playoff season means I see political advertisements and they certainly don’t appeal to our better angels nor have they for most of the election cycles in my lifetime.
Do you, like me, wonder these days what makes Proud Boys proud? Their guns? Their body armor? Their threats? Their most recent fight? Their outfits? It can’t be the country, since they seem inclined to tear it down.
Nor can it be the notion that we are a nation of laws, since they have no difficulty breaking them; nor our ability to move from a country of limited liberty to one that today includes women, people of color, and indigenous nations. Perhaps it’s their love of their personal, privileged freedoms, but not universal ones. “I get these rights, but you don’t. And I get to decide for you what rights pertain.”
A valuable mountain lesson is that change wins. It’s inevitable. The Rockies will one day be the western Appalachians and our mountains will be foothills.
How we manage that change, however, is up to us. If we want words and not guns, we need to reassert that kindergarten curriculum. Or maybe in our present rush to redo school curricula, in deference to bullies, we’ll simply abandon it. Don’t want to offend those guys with guns, now do we?
Penny Smith lives in Dillsboro.