The Mother of Invention

Leigh - North Pole, Alaska
Entered on October 14, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: hope, place
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I took a group of students to a College Fair in Fairbanks today. We have had lots of snow in the past two weeks, and the roads have been icy and slick. For the most part however, buses have been on schedule because they are all equipped with chains. The chains drop from the bottom of the bus in front of each tire, land under the tires for traction, and spin as the wheels move. They don’t actually wrap around the tires, but catch under them where it’s needed most.

When I got home from work, I turned on the news shows to see what the guys in New York are saying about the economic meltdown. Because I live in Alaska or perhaps because I’m not a big investor, I haven’t yet felt the hits the economy has taken. But in our age of immediate information, I guess we’ll know first and feel it later. Is that what they mean by trickle down effect? Whatever. Like the chains on the tires, people will discover a way to get some traction in their lives. They won’t have a choice – it will be NECESSARY.

Alaska is an appealing place to live because it is difficult to live here. That has always been the draw of the frontier – the unknown, the adventure, the struggle. And the reward? Discovery. Alaska is a state yet to be understood, where land and people and culture have yet to be discovered. That is its appeal. So call me a Pollyanna, but when I watch a more-dour-than-usual anchor on the news shows, I can’t agree with their gloomy portrayal of our country’s future. Isn’t necessity the mother of invention? Isn’t that why EVERYONE loves Alaska? We, the American people, want challenge; we crave it! Why else would we spend thousands to climb a mountain? Why else would we have so many silly game shows that have us jumping through styrofoam shapes or getting spun out of control on a giant wheel? Our lives of false credit and easy money took the adventure out of life.

The downturn bodes of hard times ahead, but perhaps in some small way, it will give our “American psyche” a boost that it desperately needs. Deep down, we yearn to conquer the spinning wheel; we yearn to discover what we are capable of. We want to discover a new way to control the skid. Creativity, invention, discovery – this, I believe, is what we have to look forward to.