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  • OKIE IN EXILE: Changing the World

  • Beware of the people who say they want to change the world, especially if they promise more freedom at the same time.  Changes in the world, by their very nature, tend to get into everything.

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  • Beware of the people who say they want to change the world, especially if they promise more freedom at the same time. Changes in the world, by their very nature, tend to get into everything.
    It’s not that we should simply lie still and endure whatever befalls us--though that is always an option. We can do things that will make living in the world as it is more palatable, being the salt of the earth, as it were.
    There is an old story about a fellow who had a drainage problem in his yard. Every time it rained there was a big puddle. He attempted to fix this by digging a ditch to drain it, but his neighbor, into whose lawn in would have drained, objected and called the city out. As a result, our fellow took another tack. He began mowing his lawn in a consistent way which created a pattern that caused his lawn to drain onto his neighbor’s. His neighbor could do nothing.
    Let me say, I don’t really believe this story ever happened, but I do believe in the principle: small actions that accumulate over time add up to big results.
    Somebody said, faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.
    Faith is one of those words that means different things to different people. To some people it means believing in things that couldn’t possibly be true, things that contradict logic itself. I don’t hold with this one. Let me come up with another definition that I can defend.
    There are things that can be true if we believe in them, but that might not be true otherwise. Let’s look at the mountain moving example. There aren’t very many mountains around here in Kansas, but let’s pretend we have one anyway. Take a bushel basket and a spade. Fill up the basket with dirt from the mountain, walk a mile, and then dump it. Repeat this ten gazillion times. Voila! You’ve moved a mountain.
    Well, you haven’t, because you died after about a zillion loads, but you married someone who believed in the project and had kids and taught them to believe in the project. Along the way, you talked to the neighbors about it; they liked the idea and started working with you.
    You died at some point. Your neighbors died. Your children died. But they had passed the faith along as well, and the mountain, by-and-by, got moved.
    The alert reader might spot that not everybody along the way necessarily need to believe that the mountain would be moved; they simply had to act as if they did. Results feed belief; belief induces action; action repeated over time produces results.
    This sort of faith exists in communities of people who are like-minded or at least willing to act as if they are like-minded. They are united around a central purpose, a central dream. They’ve worked over time towards goals which are only moving figurative mountains: feeding the hungry; healing the sick.
    Page 2 of 2 - Having mentioned those two examples, let me take time to split an important hair. There is a difference between feeding the hungry and eliminating hunger; there is a difference between healing the sick and eliminating sickness. It’s the difference between feeding people and making sure those people are never born; it’s the difference between giving someone comfort and euthanizing them. It’s the difference between being the salt of the earth and changing the world.
    Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. He blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. You may contact him at okieinexile@gmail.com. We invite you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.

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