Today is August 20th, and the first time in my life that the state fair is not King of the scene, unless you count the food stands that are lined up in a lonely little display, hoping to give some comfort to the otherwise empty grounds. I’m wondering if the flies are as disappointed as the kids to miss out on the obscene but optimistically bright spectacle that in my youth was truly the ONLY BIG attraction to look forward to, right up there with Christmas, in our little known corner of the world. Fireworks, celebrity concerts, the infamous barns (not just for farmers by a long shot), giant stuffed animals, and elephant ears found their way into my dreams by July and lingered in my consciousness till school started. I rode the double ferris wheel (today’s fair kids don’t know what they’re missing!!) a million times then couldn’t sleep without getting back on for another million. The overload of noise and smells somehow gave the illusion of something really important, really grand, and especially, really magical, happening in an otherwise sleepy and quiet little town. I wanted to believe that this could be my every day life, always something to do, something to see, entertainment, constant fun and engagement, instead of the conflicted boredom and tiredness that I was already experiencing by the ripe old age of 11. I was beginning by age 11 to really see that life was something to escape, that something was missing, and that something was wrong.
What does this have to do with healing and the current state of things? A maturing. An awakening. An opportunity. We tend to begin the search for thrills and to divert our attention from the mundane miracle of natural life quite early. Now, even at the tender age of 2 or 3, we see little ones reaching for the rectangular magical lure of a world beyond, seemingly available at the touch of a finger. Even food tends to lose its allure for some in comparison to the next click. And just as I was so anxiously awaiting cotton candy and worn out legs from walking the midway for hours, in all the innocent optimism of childhood, thinking that I would find a new life full of great adventures at the WV State Fair, and this new life would somehow make up for my own shortcomings and my perceived missing out on what must be a superior way of living in places more exciting, we are as a society missing the treasure that is our life in search of something better. We wear ourselves out chasing an illusion that leaves us disappointed, empty, a bit nauseous, broke, full of noise that doesn’t actually say anything worth listening to, and the realization that we are on the merry go round of fakery disguised as a lot of fun, but actually gets us nowhere.
The WV State fair is not there to lose ourselves in this year. But we can lose ourselves in all kinds of things now, from following fake news to worrying about numbers (that can never be fully accurate), the future, and of course we can lose ourselves in the “good deed” of worry, forgetting that it is a negative prayer.
The fair was fun for me, the fair did have a sense of magic, and I have fond memories of its uplifting light to bring something new just before the beginning of a school year full of the same old thing day in and day out; however, I now understand that if I had lived the way I lived during the fair all the time, the magic would turn to darkness and the fun would turn to dysfunction. As the world goes through a virus upgrade, we pause and reconsider what it is we are doing as a society. What rides are worth waiting in line for? What displays deserve our precious attention? Do we pay the price to get in the gates over and over and over, or is one trip enough to fill our senses and remind us of what really matters?
As the years went by, the fair lost its allure, and I returned to the simple joys of things like climbing a tree, riding a bike or taking a walk by water, and I realized that what I loved most about the fair was seeing all kinds of people, because I love connection. I can connect without the fair. The U.S. and perhaps the entire world is getting the opportunity to decide what we do now that we have made too big of a mess by playing too big of a game for all the wrong reasons for too long. It’s time to clean up, rest up, consider new ways of living, and find gratitude in the free and consistent gift of life its self. The mother Earth that gives us life is the best fairground ever created; let’s enjoy the last of the long days and warm bright starry nights, the display of colors that will surely explode against our majestic mountains in the next few months, and revel in the sounds of summer’s goodbye as crickets and frogs continue singing us to sleep on the merry go round of all merry go rounds. This wild ride in outer space on this magnificent planet is not a reality from which to escape, but a dream to awaken INTO.
– Sherry McLaughlin, Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper September 2020. Follow Sherry on Facebook at “Awake with Sherry.”