This is the twelfth anniversary of my first post on View from the Mountain. I no longer live on a mountain. I spend my free time walking the edges of Raymond's Gut marsh pictured in the post. It is just off a large coastal river that is part of North Carolina's Crystal Coast.
Our mountaintop provided plenty of inspiration but it was not the reason that I spent time sharing my thoughts. Today as in the past I write because putting words together helps me understand my interaction with the world around me. I never hide from my own words and sometimes I am lucky enough to learn that perhaps I said something that helped someone over a hurdle. Most of all, my words help me remember my place in the universe. I never forget that the marsh like the world or the universe can quickly consume you if you are not careful. I am grateful to live in a beautiful area that inspires me as much as the mountains once did.
The following words are adapted from a post that I did over ten years ago. Somehow they are very appropriate in the closing days of the 2016 presidential election. I was surprised how relevant the decade-old words are today....
I think we often get too caught up in the concept of independence. "Freedom from control or influence of another or others" does not mean that we should not take seriously our responsibility to others. In fact the only way we can truly remain independent is through the help of others.
What has made this country strong is that fabric of friendship, mutual respect, and cooperation between neighbors. That fabric of society was easier to find and nurture in rural societies, but I know from living in small towns like Mount Airy, NC that a city street does not preclude you from having great neighbors with shared interests and values. Here in suburbs and subdivisions of the South, you will still find that great feeling of being able to count on your neighbors as friends. As I read the stories bemoaning the loss of friends in modern society, I feel really sad for people who have no one to confide in but a radio talk show host. I am glad that I am not in their shoes.
We may not have any family where we live but we have lots of friends that are almost as close as family. Our real family is not so far away that we cannot get in a car and go for an overnight visit. While some are complaining about electronic communications destroying friendships, I would argue otherwise. I talk to friends by email or instant messaging every day. I would likely never find the time to send them a written letter. Are we closer because of it? I would answer yes. Then there is the self selecting group of friends that I have found on the Internet. We share some common values, and actually I have found some enduring friendships that started on the Internet.
Yet I do think we have become a society where many are absorbed by their own self importance. I see it in little things which individually mean almost nothing, but when taken together they show that we need to refocus on the people around us and not just what is good for us individually.
I see people cruising in the left lane of the highway completely oblivious to the line of traffic building up behind them or those who run a red light because their time is more important than the lives of others. Then there are people who can only see how something will impact them not how it will help someone else. They refuse to see another point of view, the big picture, or how the other guy will be hurt because of their selfishness. That's not the way our country was built, but it is something that threatens to tear up our great country.
A few years ago, a friend died. I did not have the opportunity to say good bye to that friend. It caused me to recommit to finding people who had been important in my life. I have made a few car trips to Ronceverte, WV, because that is the only way to visit with my high school Latin teacher who has yet to go beyond the telephone in the world of electronics. We continue to make trips to Mount Airy, NC and Yadkin County, NC just to visit friends and family. We cannot spend lots of time with them, but we do keep that web of friendship and family alive. Sharing our lives with others has given us strength to do things we never would have done by ourselves.
It is the same way with our country. We gain strength from each other, especially when we help each other. When someone tries to tear down another person because they do not agree with them, they are hurting more than just one person. Their attacks weaken that web of interdependence which independence has given us the freedom to create.
I am glad we have the independence and freedom to be interdependent.
My first lessons came from family, church, and Boy Scouts. Failure was not an option because I would have been letting down those who gave so much for me just to have the opportunities that so many others never had. That drive to succeed got me through military school at McCallie, some turbulent years at Harvard and over a decade of farming in the spruce covered hills of Canada.
Somehow the people I met along the way and the lessons I learned prepared me well for an even tougher journey in Apple's corporate swamp. Even there I found great friends. As my wife is fond of saying, there are good people everywhere, you just have to find them. I have never stopped looking for the good people because without the help of all those wonderful, caring people throughout my life, my independence would not have gotten me very far.
We all have different skills as I used to tell my team at Apple, the challenge is finding how we can use those different strengths to be successful together.