Notes From My Knapsack 6-4-15
Having My Say, So To Speak
Thank you to all the people who've told me they enjoyed the 1815 tale of Granville, "A Body in the Well." Great literature (or reliable history) it wasn't, but it was a fun story to develop and tell.
This column, from when it was in the Booster to the years it's been here in the Sentinel, I consider both an opportunity and a responsibility. It's an opportunity to share stories and start conversations; and I see it as a responsibility to tell stories that build up our community, with a similar obligation to provoke conversations that bring people together, more than reinforcing divisions.
Of course, interesting narratives often start big disputes: intriguing conversations flame up and keep burning because of differences brought out into the light of the campfire. You can have a storyteller keeping the village up late into the night with an epic tale, or you can end up with someone getting burned.
Adam Weinberg up on top of College Hill likes to talk about "working across difference." That doesn't mean avoiding differences, whether of race, culture, or ideology, but it certainly isn't yelling across a chasm either. You could call it a dance or a process or an ethos, but it's always going to entail a certain amount of work (even though it's often quite fun). If the point of a community is to simply reassert and reaffirm and expand what we've already got in common, pumping it full of lukewarm balloon juice and calling that growth, you'll at best end up with a tepid gas bag with no ability to fly. Mix things up a little, using your head and your heart to add just the right amount of combustion and inspiration, and you might just soar.
Has this column helped our community soar? I'm not fishing, I'm just thinking out loud, and reading back reflectively over my own back numbers. I've made up stories about our past from the point of view of twelve year olds, looked at inscriptions and natural phenomena, raised a few points of controversy and hoisted more than a few commonplace sentiments up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.
Why do I write this? I guess if you really wanted to know (and you've read this far), I'd have to tell you that my goals are actually fairly small and my expectations low. I'd like to encourage more of my fellow residents to spend a bit more time out of doors, appreciating what they see and smell and hear as they stroll and saunter. I hope to spark a love of literature to the point where anyone realizes that everyone can produce some, even if it's just a handwritten thank you note to a friend. I want to promote meals and meetings where we see each other face to face, frankly disagreeing and fully enjoying the experience of having done so, right down to the fight over paying the check.
I'd hope that I've given residents old and new a more vivid and deeply resonant sense that they live in a place that's interesting; for what it has been, and what it is becoming. As long as Grand Marshal Charles is willing, I think I'm not done yet submitting columns to try to fulfill those modest aims.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you think a column is for at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.