An Inspired Community

Publication Note: This column was first published in the March 2, 2017 edition of the Lonoke County Democrat weekly newspaper, linked HERE in its original format.  It is the 6th installment of the “Look at Lonoke” column.

In past editions of this column, we have begun a conversation about what makes Lonoke a unique place to call home.  Quite often, those things which give our community a “local distinctiveness” are overlooked, difficult to articulate, or altogether invisible.

Why is that the case?  Perhaps this is true because we live in a world where success and achievement are constantly evaluated based on a numeric scale or a visible metric.  There tends to be a perception that something must be quantified in order to be justified.

But, conversely, we also understand that not everything which is beneficial can be measured in numbers.  Sometimes those things cannot even be neatly described with words or articulate verbiage.

Sometimes, the innate qualities of a thing can only be captured in art and emotive expressions.

I would like for us to look at Lonoke in that way.

It’s hard to properly evaluate “quality of life” on paper.  It’s difficult to convince a world that is looking for numeric justification that something has to be experienced in order to be understood.

But this is often the truth.  

Author Simon Sinek has notably observed, “People don’t respond to ‘WHAT’ you do, they respond to ‘WHY’ you do it.”   And while the “what” is typically the most visible or obvious aspect of our work, the “why” connects with the part of our brain that controls emotion and forms memory, and is yet less visible.

As an Architect, I often learn better with diagrams and visual aids which depict forms, relationships, and connections, rather than verbal and numeric descriptors.  In looking at a diagram of the parts of the brain, I find it interesting that the smallest part of the brain is the limbic area, which happens to be the center which is most impacted by this question of “why.”

Right at the center.

The answer to the question of “why” comes from deep within.  “Why” addresses a closely-held purpose, cause, or belief.  It compels us.  It stands to reason that when we discover and are capable of expressing the reason why we are doing something, the clarity behind our work is motivating and attractive to others.

I believe this is certainly true for our community.  We must know the story we understand about ourselves, before we can tell it to those around us.  We need to know why we believe in ourselves before we can articulate to others why they should believe in our community, too.

It is important that we become a community of unifying vision – a community with a clear, concise understanding of why we exist and what direction we are pointed for our future.  Our “how” is the everyday living and interaction that we have with one another.  Our “what”- the ultimate outcome- is simply the byproduct, or the evidence of our “why”

Today, Lonoke is a community that is having a transparent, respectful conversation about a vision for our future.  It is important that we not be so focused on “what” needs to be changed or improved that we lose our focus on what we truly believe about ourselves – the real “why” behind who we are and what we are doing.  

Said a different way, it is less important WHAT we end up building together, as it is WHY we believe in one another.  As generations pass, the “what” becomes different – the built fabric of our community may look different, or advances in  technology may eliminate methods that were formerly necessary.  The train tracks may no longer run down Front Street and cross Center Street.  If we are chasing a “what”, we may simply quit if something doesn’t turn out like we expect, or if it doesn’t come in the time frame we expect.  However, if we take a long view and have a clear picture of “why,” then we can find redemptive purpose in the re-use, renovation, or reclamation of our familiar places and forms.

What is our “why?”  Why do we choose Lonoke?  I believe Lonoke’s “why” will be reflected in the individual experiences and perspectives of our friends & neighbors.  We have a “blank canvas” of opportunity for inspired young families, creative entrepreneurs, and compassionate peacemakers.  Those are things that you have to see here in Lonoke, to believe.

Ryan Biles is a local architect and a member of the Lonoke Lions Club.  You are invited to start with “why” and use the hashtag #LookAtLonoke as you continue this conversation on social media.

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