Choosing our future
According to legend, while escaping execution in Rome, the apostle Peter met the risen Christ at a crossroads. Startled, Peter asked him, “Quo vadis?” Where are you going? And he replied “I am going to be crucified again, in Rome.” And so, recognizing his meaning, Peter turned back toward Rome to embrace his destiny. Christ might just as well have answered Peter by asking him “Quid agis?” - What are you doing? That small voice is always there if we listen for it - though it can be hard to hear when we ignore the true destination of the arc of our lives.
Legends are metaphors; they do not survive without fulfilling that purpose. They deliver subtle messages in tangible terms, significant messages that could not otherwise be delivered. The figure representing the core of his belief reminded Peter to choose his appropriate destination, rather than avoid it. At this crossroads he was not fated to return to Rome, he chose to. As a fellow I was working with once said about a decision he had settled upon, “I don't got to, I get to.”
I'm aware that I use these terms idiosyncratically. Destiny and fate have become almost perfect synonyms in our English language, and teasing them apart can be an interestingly instructive exercise. The destination that we choose according to our deepest values - perhaps beyond personal preferences - reflects a responsibility to our true destiny; but like Peter we find ourselves at a moral crossroads. Will we choose to choose, or will we more passively submit to chance, leaving it up to fate rather than to ourselves to decide what will take place?
This has now become an important question for us here, in the Valley of the Moon. Since the wildfires of last year, and before the final closure of SDC at the end of this year, we are at a crossroads. The intensity of these times is reflected in the vivid colors of the wildflowers and grasses that were fed by ash, and the landscape of information has shifted about, as rumors and proposals emerge to churn the ongoing conversation. The community has gathered many times to listen to experts, and to talk with one another. The questions have been frequently asked: “What will happen?” and “Where are we going?” A more important question, I think, is, “What are we doing?”
In a Facebook thread another question was recently asked: “Why didn't more people vote?” I also wonder why more people watch football than play it. Many people seem to believe politics, too, is a vicarious pursuit, to watch and talk about, but not to take part in. I remember the Sixties well, and the teach-ins and demonstrations that proved that we can redirect the forces of history - if enough of us choose to. It is not wise to delegate the future to a few professionals to act for us - we must all take an active part.
Bob Glotzbach, a significant community organizer in Glen Ellen at one time, wrote a time travel fantasy titled A Glen Ellen Adventure: 1999 is the Good Old Days in 2049. Set decades into the future, he begins with a description of a terribly different place: “The kitchen window faced east towards the Mayacamas, and the Smith family had a spectacular view of the mountains from their 30th floor tower apartment in downtown Glen Ellen.”
Much of his troubling story centers upon the opening of a time capsule set aside back in 1999, when the story was written. That time capsule now rests among the Glen Ellen Historical Society archives; but 2049 is still some three decades away - and there's a lot to do here meanwhile, before it can be opened.
I find myself deeply concerned about the future of Glen Ellen - and the legacy of Eldridge at the heart of Glen Ellen, which will outlive the closure of SDC. I am as deeply concerned about preservation of the quality of life lived throughout the Valley of the Moon over the years to come - not only at Eldridge. My hope is that Eldridge does not become a gated community of any sort, set off for any special interest group. It should remain a refuge for all residents of the entire valley - the young and the old, the newcomer and the longtime resident and, yes, the wealthy as well as the homeless.
Bob was as concerned about the future here as many of us are today - but we must be careful that our concern does not confuse or discourage us, nor throw our conversations into unnecessary dissension. The weaving of the fabric of our community depends upon a mutually respectful collaboration of the warp and weft of public discussion - pro and con, not one or the other. Every one of us must listen carefully to one another as well as to the experts, and every voice in the valley must speak, be heard, and then help choose what will best take place.
Jim Shere is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Glen Ellen. He is also a writer and poet, and the executive director of the Glen Ellen Historical Society. You are invited to explore his website at jimshere.com.