"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two
opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to
function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are
hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise."
— F. Scott Fitzgerald (via Ace Weekly)
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
— Mohandas K. Gandhi
There is a revolution brewing in Lexington. Fed up with the intransigence and bureaucracy of 'old' Lexington, 'new' Lexingtonians are gearing up for an overthrow of the old regime.
As a lifelong rebel and iconoclast, I love it. As a business owner, I want the more vibrant Lexington (and downtown) that these changes promise. As a father of a two-year-old, I want my son to have the greatest opportunities to learn, live, play, and work – and want his birthplace to provide those opportunities. Lexington must change, or it will not grow. If it does not grow, Lexington will wither and die.
Still, I'm a bit troubled…
More on why in a bit. First, we need to describe the new and old Lexingtons. (Or, if you Twitter – and you should – #OldLex and #NewLex.)
OldLex is rooted in our city's and our region's traditions. It wants to build on the heritage of our horse farms, our coal, our bourbon, our tobacco, and our basketball. It values formality and processes and order and control, and is often obstinate in the face of change. OldLex tends to respect big international companies, large events, and wealth. It generally shuns technology.
NewLex is borne of our city's innovative and intellectual potential. It yearns to be free of restrictions and limitations imposed by centuries of tradition. It values innovation and creativity and transparency and freedom, and usually gleefully wallows in the messiness and chaos of change. NewLex tends to respect speed, intellect, local-ness, and the environment. It embraces technology.
So there, in admitted caricature, are the two cultures of Lexington. They currently stand in perplexed opposition to one another. They blink in bewilderment at the other's actions (or inactions) and question the other's motives.
I am a confirmed NewLex kinda guy. As a reader of this blog, I suspect that you also lean toward the NewLex camp.
But, as I mentioned, I'm troubled by something in the conflict between NewLex and OldLex. I also hear the same concern echoed in comments on my blog and in NewLex Twitter discussions. In summary, it is this: The desire for continuity is almost as strong as the desire for change.
While we decry the adoption of outdated icons of horses as the central identity our city, we still love the beautiful horses, the farms, the racetracks, and the uniqueness they bestow upon our city and state.
We wish that some of the $36.5 million that just went to our new basketball coach had gone instead to improve our schools or our university. But we do love our 'Cats, our Coach Cal, and our championships.
We cannot fathom why our city's representatives haven't adopted more transparent practices and implemented more current technologies, but what, really, have we done to facilitate that? (Have I already forgotten how mystifying Twitter was just a couple of months ago?)
As much as we advocate overturning the old ways of thinking and the old ways of doing things, we NewLexers sure like a lot of the old things.
And we should like them. The horses, the basketball, and the bourbon are all significant and important parts of our heritage and our identity. They are a part of what makes us 'US'.
And in that heritage lies our one bond with our OldLex foes, and, I believe, our single best opportunity to effect real and necessary change in our city. As NewLexers, we must challenge ourselves to embrace and leverage our past as a springboard into our future.
Can a vibrant horse industry exist alongside an even-more-vibrant Eds-and-Meds economy? I think so.
Can we use Lexington's defunct distilling industry and empty warehouses to build a vibrant arts and cultural (and distilling!) community? I think so.
OldLex certainly comes with many flaws. But, if we're honest with ourselves, NewLex can be just as problematic. We often come off as brash and abrasive. I kinda like being brash and abrasive. The problem is that 'brash and abrasive' doesn't get the hard work of changing our city done; It brings such work to a halt as OldLex digs in their heels.
NewLex often appears impractical. We are full of plans and ideas, but frequently come up way short on tangible actions and, ultimately, results. We must learn to transform our ideas and plans into actions on the ground. We must, in short, be the change we wish to see in the world.
So I make a declaration that may not be popular with all of my NewLex compatriots: I choose both. I choose the heritage that makes Lexington great. I choose the creativity and intellect that will drive us into the future. I choose to act with transparency and speed. I choose to love the singular beauty of our horse farms. I choose to reject the parts of (Old AND New) Lexington which hold our city back from becoming truly great. NewLex? OldLex?
I choose both. I choose Lexington.
5 thoughts on “I choose both”
Bang on. Nice piece, could not have said it better myself (in fact have tried, but failed :-).
Great post, Rob. You have it exactly right. New Lexington can embrace the symbols of the old that we love and reinvent them for the future. Horses and bourbon aren’t just vestiges of the stodgy Lexington that drives many of us nuts; they are symbols we can leverage for a bright future. They are the unique brand we can use to get the world’s attention. And once we have that attention, we can show them what Lexington is and can be, not just what it has been.
Rob, your blog is an absolute gem! I had no idea it existed until EPM introduced us at the Social Innovation Forum, and I saw a link to it on Twitter. I’ve heard that your car shop is the best in town, but I think you may have only recently found your true calling in blogging. Your writing is full of excellent insights and formulated clearly and succinctly. Keep up the great work — this is going way up there on my bookmarks!
One other thing New Lex needs is perspective. Too many times the Newlex crowd jumps on an issue as if it just occurred and do not understand the history behind it. Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it.
Wonderful post! Love your insight.