I’ve always been haunted by Paul Gauguin’s painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? It’s not the imagery: a Tahitian beach, the life of a girl who asks where her roots are and what she will become. It’s the question. Many of us can’t take the time to ask it. A busy life, career, family, just surviving.
As a community we need to keep taking a hard look at who we are, be true to our roots, and most importantly ask, where are we going?
As we each spend our lives moving, driving from home to the office, and just being out and about, we see the changes occurring. Land is being developed at what seems to be a break-neck pace. Quiet corners we never noticed, now sport office centers, condos and professional centers. The speed at which we are growing is certainly cause for concern, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one to notice.
We moved to Orlando, in 1976. As I grew up, I witnessed a sleepy town grow. All the things that made that suburb unique, charming and beautiful, were traded, whittled away for each and every project. Small town municipalities saw tax base increasing astronomically. A juggernaut was building that soon became an unstoppable force. Almost 30 years later, what is left in the wake of that decade-long storm? A place I don’t even like to drive through, never mind settling back into.
This is serious stuff, and I hope I’m making an impression on you. The dream of a new life in the Sunshine state for my parents was achieved. My family and countless others of my generation enjoyed shiny new schools and infrastructure built with soaring tax rolls. And yet, something was lost.
I’m starting to discern a pattern. So every ten years or so, we find that new shiny place. We build, we grow, we live our lives. And if we’re smart… if we’re lucky, we pick up stakes and like nomads, find a new place to call home; Strangers in a strange land. Where are we going?
The problem is, for me, that I’ve found a home in Brevard. We moved here in 1998. What we found was a life for ourselves… we settled in Brevard. When the tech crash happened, and our employer went under, I decided to hang my shingle and go out on my own. Though I’ve maintained clients for a decade prior, we took a look around and said, this is worth fighting for. This life that we’ve made, the friends, the people we love… they mean more to us than a corporate career in a bigger city.
So you see my dilemma.
Look around. What does Brevard not have? Beaches, rivers, forest and parkland. Kennedy Space Center, technology, business, colleges, the Arts. And people, people who care, who like us, have found a place they call home. We truly are, like nowhere else in the world.
So who are we?
Are we nomads or settlers? Will we use up this land, or will we be able to keep it a place we still want to call home?
Where have we been?
Our history is rich, our story is known all over the world. From Brevard, we stepped on the moon. What endeavor in the history of mankind is greater? We had a dream. Our best and brightest came. Men stood on another celestial body. Did our Creator see this potential when life was breathed into the first man? Isn’t this what we were made for?
I believe Brevard once embodied this energy. A potential to transcend every obstacle, to go where no man has gone before. I believe we can continue, we can build on this legacy, and ever mindful of it, we can forge a future for the Space Coast that reaches beyond what we think we can achieve.
The ability to dream, to come together and fight to make it happen is more powerful that any worldly tyranny. It is what humankind was built for. Can Brevard reach forward together, or will it be developed into the kind of mediocrity and urban blight that consumes our world? Will Brevard continue to be someplace special?
Tell me, where are we going?
Share your thoughts.
Paul Gauguin’s painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going, lives at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, centerpiece of the Tompkins Collection.