03 September 2010

Good Ol' Honest Abe

One of favorite quotes of his:

"People are usually as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Classes at the university I teach at began about a week ago, and this last Wednesday I was asked by a student where I was from. I responded with "Iowa" and then he asked, "what do y'all do here?" I guess I didn't respond quick enough, because he and a few other classmates launched off into a tirade about how "there is nothing to do around here."

I suppose for young adults coming from big urban cities, a small Iowa town (pop. approx. 11,000) is pretty boring. But then. I've always believed everyone has the power to create their own entertainment. That probably explains why many college students get into trouble with alcohol, drugs, or video games the first year in college...too busy creating their own entertainment.

The student in question goes on then to tell me that where's he from, there is so much to do. My guess is that he's used to big shopping malls, stores, nightclubs, hangouts, and other entertainment facilities.

Ruminating about this over a cup of coffee with my husband this morning evoked further thoughts on this.

I think this student's situation (and many other similar ones) are scarily indicative of how independent we humans are NOT. Or, at least, this younger generation.

Exhibit A: With the exception of a small garden that is yielding a decent crop of tomatoes, my family is inadequately prepared to produce our own food. Sure, I can go to the grocery store, make healthy dinners from scratch, bake my own bread, etc...however, I am hard-pressed to know what to do should my town's grocery stores collapse. And not to mention, how would I get them through the winter?

We absolutely depend on these stores, which depends on fossil-fuel-burning transportation, which depend on farmers. Without them, we starve. And my case is probably the rule, rather than the exception.

Exhibit B: Now that we have televisions, computers, cell phones, video games, etc...we don't rely as much on our brains for fun. Why expend the energy to entertain ourselves with a book, crossword puzzle, board game or conversation when we can easily flip on the Wii, xBox, or MacBook?

Back to the student in my class. He has moved here from an area where he had access to all the above things...in addition to cool places to go. Naturally, how can the laid-back, slower paced lifestyle of southeast Iowa compete?

What are the consequences if somewhere along the way, shopping malls, video game stores, arcades, dance clubs, bars, etc. all collapse? How will humans deal with boredom? Will crime increase because there's nothing else to do? Or, will we dig deep down and find that inner resourcefulness that impels us to sit down to a quiet game of Magic with friends?

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