TASC List: Why the edges matter

A recent column described the fissure that has existed for so many years in Wilton based primarily on school budgets and the divide it represents dependent upon which side of the issue one supports, its implications, and the possible remedies. If it has, in fact, grown wider and deeper, concerted effort needs to be applied, with creativity, intellect, and energy.  

A number of associations and more loosely affiliated organizations are working to bridge this education-related division, and reduce the many misunderstandings and flawed factual assumptions that lie underneath, on both sides. The initiation of the Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) holds the promise of producing important steps in the correction process, as well as obtaining generally better educational outcomes for all.  

In other activities, there are strong programs to improve coordination and mutually reinforcing activities among religious organizations; develop town operations and citizen awareness at a more transparent and more easily available information dissemination level; open up the vistas and considerations for future land use; explain the financial and modeling apparatus behind mill rate calculations and budget guidance construction; gather town-wide inputs on future directions, needs, and requirements; and much more.

Altogether, one might conclude that we dwell in a community that cares, reaches out, explains, collects concerns, and considers. There is clear evidence that in many cases and contexts, this is certainly true. But from this viewing angle, as it is from outside the complexities and confines of any imperfect enterprise, there is much more that can be done.

Thus, it is interesting to contemplate a message, as in a bottle washed up on the shores of some distant ocean, from a recent lecture at MIT by world-wide acclaimed cellist, Yo-Yo Ma. His belief, as reported in Technology Review (May/June 2018) is that “…the ties that bind us to each other are fraying, the future of the planet is in question, and intellectual certainty too often replaces curiosity as people converse only with those who agree with them.”

Ma suggested that culture — “shared stories, music, and art that help us understand our environment and each other — can help.” He creates the image where society’s edges communicate with the center to produce advances in both music and in laboratories. He suggested that “intentional oscillation between the two sources of ideas” was fruitful, “urging those in the mainstream to remain open to unconventional thought from the margins of their fields. He also stressed how important it is to access both analytic and empathic thinking.”    

He noted that Bach mastered both, as well as “exploring the edges and reporting back to the center (and) demonstrated the claim on his cello.” Ma will perform six works for solo cello on six continents “in both cultural capitals and places torn by conflict” to illuminate how those working on culture can resolve problems and find solutions.

Wilton is increasingly employing dialogue and discourse to connect with the edges of opinion, innovation, and improvement potential from across the town. From education to financial planning, the invitations to participate and collaborate are underway. From surveys, to committees, to more diverse representations from people with views that differ from the mainstream or center, the blending of empathy and analysis is taking place.  

We may not reach the level of Bach’s mastery, or Ma’s insightful gifts and artistry, but we can surely continue on today’s promising and productive paths for minimizing misunderstandings on the way toward improved results.

TASC stands for Toward A Stronger Community. Contact: brennerjoe@aol.com.