The following quote by E.B. White carried me down an interesting thought path this morning: “I awake each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savour the world. This makes it hard to plan my day.” I experience the same struggle many days as I go about my economic development job in Ashtabula County. Perhaps you do as well.
Does Ashtabula County need saving? And what does it even mean to save Ashtabula County? My economic development gut instinct says helping businesses, jobs and prosperity grow in beneficial ways in the county is a way of saving the county. How do we do that? One way is to be a “gardener”; that is an economic gardener. I can do my part, and encourage and help others to do their part in economic gardening. But what are we trying to “save” through our gardening efforts? All businesses, jobs, and other economic assets eventually die. At best, the economic developer can tend the garden, ensuring its soil remains rich for new things to grow, replacing what dies and returns to the earth.
As I search for wisdom on economic development in Ashtabula County, I am reminded of a conversation with my Dad six years ago. Dad was full of practical wisdom that was often rooted in deeper truth. I always felt Dad had an “Indian spirit” in the sense that he saw how ordinary things have their place in the larger scheme of life. He even saw death in those terms, including his own eventual death in 2008. During the final weeks of his life, Dad had several powerful dreams, including dreams about people from his past, including his Dad and Mom and even a German Shepherd dog he had as a young boy, which he named Rin, after the original Rin Tin Tin. He said to me one morning as he shared a dream about his mother that it wasn’t a good idea to waste money and time trying to prevent the inevitable. He threw out an interesting hypothesis about life and death. He said maybe life visits us much like his mother visited him in his dream the night before, and then we awaken (or rewaken) and the dream is gone. He ended with a question and follow-on observation: “Which is more real: the dream or waking reality? Maybe they are both parts of the same thing. And maybe death and life are both parts of the same thing. I think it’s easier to accept death when we see it in these terms as opposed to imagining we go off to some heaven or hell fairy tale land.” I think Dad spent more of his 86-year life savouring the world instead of trying to save it.
As I reflect upon Dad’s wisdom in the context of saving or savouring Ashtabula County, I think the best any of us can do is to savour Ashtabula County, and do what we can to keep its soil rich for future growth by constantly replenishing its resource base. Also, I think it’s important for us to dream, learn from our dreams, and allow our dreams to grow in the county.