The power of possibilities

No known species of reindeer can fly, but there are hundreds of thousands of living creatures that have yet to be classified. While most of them are insects and bugs, this does not completely rule out the possibility of flying reindeer, which only Santa Claus (and Clement Moore) have ever seen.

— B.C. Stats

The power of possibility; what we don’t know but what we may discover – in a chance encounter, around a corner, in pursuit of something else, perhaps under a tree one morning. It tantalizes us, sometimes in a way that shows us as selfish beings, but it can also work in ways that show the generosity in people. "What could be" is a powerful force. It is imagination, keeping the mind open to possibilities.

It can also be a survival mechanism. There is no shortage of despair in the world today – perhaps no more than there has been in the past, but modern communication means we are more aware of it. Twenty years after the famine in Ethiopia, Darfur is a time bomb about to explode. War in the Congo, in Iraq and a dozen other countries is a way of life. In some democratic countries, politicians and voters seem to have become more polarized than ever. Even the owners and players of the irrelevant National Hockey League can’t find enough agreement to play a game.

These conflicts, and others, are rooted in differences, but we hold out hope that situations can change; differences can be overcome.

Writing in last Sunday’s New York Times about some of the things that have happened in the 104 years his grandmother has been alive, Roger Cohen, of course, eventually got around to Iraq:

"She was 21 when the British installed a monarchy in the modern Iraq that they carved from the defunct Ottoman Empire. Eighty-three years later, the country’s statehood still seems tenuous.

"It is tenuous because different currents in history, different epochs almost, are clashing there, as they do now throughout the world. It used to be that we could ignore our differences. No longer."

We can’t ignore our differences, nor should we want to. Our differences are what make life worth living. They are what make the world interesting and feed the imagination. Indeed, we could hardly be anything but different. How could you possibly package together the variables of flesh and bone, intellect and emotion, conscience and experience, and come up with two identical people? We have to be different.

But our differences are most often framed as problems, obstacles to be overcome. A recent spate of letters in this paper brought out some different perspectives from Americans and Canadians, but even if one assumes that citizenship is a dividing line, Canadians and Americans still have far more common ground among them than differences.

What we too often forget is to respect those things that make us each different and unique. It is not all about "me"; it is about "us".

If we can remember to respect differences, while building bridges to try and understand our differences, our possibilities will increase.

We often talk about making a difference , changing things, making them different than they are. Creating new possibilities. Five people who do that are profiled in this paper, but there are dozens of examples locally. The Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation recently presented more than $100,000 in grants to organizations throughout the corridor. The Pemberton Community Fund, established under the umbrella of the successful Community Foundation of Whistler, will be offering financial support to worthwhile causes in the new year. The food bank, Whistler Animals Galore, Search and Rescue are all run by people who want to make things better, and supported by many more people who believe in the same things. The Rotary Club sends containers of goods to Romania, and members of the local service club have travelled to various parts of the world to help others.

The volume of committees, task forces and boards in this town is approaching the number of residents, and every one is filled by volunteers. Indeed, volunteering is almost a prerequisite for living in Whistler, Squamish or Pemberton, equivalent to Banff’s reason-to-reside requirement. It is founded in the desire to make a difference, to bring about change and to accomplish goals. And while striving to achieve those possibilities we make discoveries.

And so we celebrate what we may not yet know or have discovered but for which we hold out hope. A little less stress, a stash of powder… even flying reindeer.

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