After watching Bruce Schneier’s talk a particular comment of his has stayed with me. Schneier emphasizes that we’re “bad at predicting our social future.”
Amidst the constants of life, death, taxes, etc. our social and cultural environment is always changing in unexpected ways. This is true of the Nittany Valley, though I think it tends to be difficult for Penn Staters and residents to acknowledge this. The pace of life in the Nittany Valley is so cyclical (so familiar from year to year) that it can seem like nothing changes. Yet the character of community certainly does change.
What does this unpredictable change mean? It means we’ve got to keep telling our story—we’ve got to keep articulating who we are and what we believe and convey how we understand our lives in the context of the history of our community.
Our story will change in the telling just as stories did in the old oral traditions. It’ll change based upon our biases and our prejudices and our hopes for the future that impact how we speak about ourselves and the things we love. Yet with every telling of our story what we’ll really be trying to do is convey the best aspects of our legacy to those who’ll carry forward our names in the future.
This is one of the reasons why I wrote Conserving Mount Nittany and helped create Nittany Valley Press. We can’t let our history seem so obvious and permanent that its specifics and nuances dissipate over time. If we don’t treat our history and place a living thing, the words and ideas that we ascribe to the place just like dry sentiments.
A continual recovery and conveyance of our history is an essential aspect of a real community, which is what we’ve got in the Nittany Valley if we can keep it.