Q&A - June 10, 2016

The city of Okmulgee was founded during Reconstruction after the Civil War. In 1878, the Creek Nation built a wooden council house, and the city has been the capital of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation ever since.

Okmulgee attracted pioneers and later blossomed into a center of commerce during the oil boom in the early 1900s. Over the decades, the fortunes of Okmulgee have swung like a pendulum. It has seen periods of growth as well as decline. It has known opulence and prosperity as well as apathy and desperation. Okmulgee is not one story; it is a collection of many stories. It is a town both evolving and devolving—a story that is unfinished, and I believe the next chapter is up to us.

Q: Is there too much change taking place in Okmulgee?

The second law of thermodynamics observes that the natural flow of heat is from a hotter to a colder state and describes the effect of “entropy” on all things observable. In brief, nothing in this world remains the same. Everything measurable to science is in a constant state of flux. This is true in the laboratory as well as in our daily lives. For instance, when you woke up this morning, you were not quite the same person you were the day before. There were microscopic changes in your anatomy. Your hair and nails had grown, your skin and organs aged a day. The undeniable effects of time take its toll on everything in this old world, even on you and me.

At any given time, in any given community, there is change taking place. Sometimes it is almost imperceptible, and sometimes it is sweeping. Sometimes it is perceived negatively and resisted, and sometimes it is welcomed and embraced. But whether we like it or not, change is occurring. On issues of change, townspeople often line up in one camp or the other—some desiring no change at all and others relishing it. Mistrust and division can be the result, and when this happens, the change that will occur within a community is the most detrimental of all. Separation and conflict invite crippling change that can erode societal underpinnings and utterly destroy a community.

But the good news is that the negative effects of change can be reversed by the positive effects of change. Decline and depopulation can be reversed by cooperation and development; illiteracy and intolerance by education and enlightenment; poverty and crime by opportunity and determination; depression and loneliness by companionship and spirituality; sickness and disease by proper diet, exercise and access to healthcare. Our community need not settle for deterioration and degradation when we have friendships built on trust and neighbors who look out for one another and when we have support for community leaders who can bring about positive change. Is there too much change taking place in Okmulgee? I say no! What I see happening in Okmulgee right now is the deliberate reversal of entropy—the positive swing of the pendulum.

Thank you for the thought-provoking question. Please email topics for me to address in future columns to osuit-president@okstate.edu.