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Listen and find synergy on issues

August 13, 2012
By Keith Gorgas

I've read with great interest quite a few recent articles in the Enterprise and in the Press-Republican about how people in the North Country are coming together to seek a greater common good. There have also been a flurry of Guest Commentaries and essays by regularly featured writers, challenging us to think long and hard for solutions to some of the social and economic handicaps, for want of a better term, that are unique to the sparsely populated regions of northern New York. It seems that everything is on the table, and it is encouraging that groups are putting their minds together to explore so many different possibilities of how to maintain and improve the quality of life and economic survival of this special part of the globe.

Dialogue is healthy. In most conflicts, the best path may be hard to find at first, but in the long run, it will be found in the center of compromise and must take into account the wants and needs of not just a few but all those concerned and affected by any given outcome. So much more is accomplished when, rather than trying to out-shout or outmaneuver each other, a genuine synthesis of several causes is achieved.

Synergy was a word that Buckminster Fuller taught us about, for those who can remember that far back. Synergy is two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia, from synergos, meaning "working together." Synergy, in terms that this layman can wrap his head around, is the concept that one plus one can equal three. The whole product is greater than the sum of its parts. If you don't get it, go seek out some of old Bucky's writings. He explained it better than I ever will be able to.

And synergy is a great thing when we all have to share the same limited resources: on a global scale, or just right here in the Adirondacks and surrounding areas.

Pick whatever topic you wish, and a synergistic approach will prove to lead to the best solution. Consolidating school systems, or parts of them, is one hot topic. One side sees the possibility of saving a lot of tax money by busing kids from all over to a central location. Others see this as the loss of local identity. Both have some great points on their side. I'm thankful my kids are all grown up and done with school so that I don't have to get too bothered over this issue, but to many parents and taxpayers, this is a huge question.

Or take the bike path-railroad debate. Again, both sides can present very persuasive arguments for what they want. I observed a very dedicated young lady enlisting some North Star clients to sign her petition to tear up the tracks the other day. I'm not sure they had a comprehensive idea of all the implications of what they were signing, and I attempted to engage her in a conversation about the subject and its merits. Within a few seconds, it was clear that she had no interest in even considering any other option than ripping up the tracks and building a great bicycle path through the forests. In her mind, that was the only way to save the Adirondacks and its residents from certain economic, if not biological, extinction. Her zeal impressed me; her closed-mindedness, not so much.

There are many other topics simmering in the stew right now, and that's great. As my father used to say, "Difference of opinion is what makes the world go 'round." Funding for the airport, ambulances and fire department, where to put cell phone towers, coordinating public transportation, how to handle invasive species, transportation and communication corridors through the Park, how to market ourselves to the tourism industry, and even the question of how to rescue the Hotel Saranac from its present state of ruin are all topics that present an opportunity for the community and its various members to seek synergistic solutions. On most of these topics, I do have my own deeply rooted and firmly held opinions, but I want to have the ability to hear out the sides I don't agree with. To consider other folks' concerns and desires, and the reasons for them, is not a sign of weakness. Far from it, because in doing so, we give ourselves the occasion to expand our thoughts and horizons, and we open to the possibility of arriving at a truly synergistic solution - an end beyond that which neither side alone could have dared to even dream of.


Keith Gorgas lives in Goldsmith in the town of Franklin.



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