BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Included in my great-grandmother’s diary is a story recalling an evening in the year 1902. Earlier that year, she and my great-grandfather and their children had moved to a homestead eight miles south of what is now known as Carnegie, Oklahoma. Before there was an Alden community, there was simply an expanse. Before section lines and the Ozark Trail were cut in and before other quarter sections were settled, there were no landmarks. The land was new and unfamiliar to them.
Her diary tells of a trip that her husband and boys had taken to Apache. Nightfall came and they had not returned. Sometime after dark, she and her daughters heard them in distance. She hurriedly lit a lantern and yelled, but was unable to get their attention across the dark prairie. The men continued several miles northward until they neared the Fort Cobb area and realized that they had passed the homestead. They redirected to the southwest and with the assistance of the light made it home sometime after midnight. From that night forward, they hoisted a lantern on a tall pole that they had erected for a beacon to bring them home.
My great-grandmother recalled that the incident brought life to the song, There’s a Light in the Window for Thee, Brother” in a way that no other lesson could. The need and appreciation for light is rooted in our being. Virtually every world religion recognizes the primacy of light. In fact, most faiths emphasize light as a core principle. Christians are taught that the Bible is a lamp unto their feet and they fail to fulfil an essential biblical charge if they are not a “light unto the world.”
Allah is spoken of by those of the Muslim faith as the inspiring, motivating and guiding source of light. Annually, a billion Hindus, Sikhs and Jains light lanterns and earthen lamps in celebration of Diwali, the festival recognizing that light awakens awareness of God and the triumph of good over evil. Hanukkah celebrants light their menorahs to celebrate the enduring miracle of enduring faith triumphing over evil. Kwanzaa, the secular celebration of black culture involves the lighting of seven candles rising from wooden stands, symbolic of the celebration’s seven principles, and recalling roots in Africa.
Even the Magi were guided by the light that shone from the Star of Bethlehem. More fundamentally, billions of believers proclaim that Christ was born to be the light of the world, fulfilling God’s first gift to the heavens and earth: “Let there be light.”
In addition to its spiritual nature, light is the catalyst for the process of photosynthesis enabling the earth to generate food and vegetation. The spectrum of natural sunlight includes both visible and invisible light waves that are as essential to the earth’s health as vitamins are to us. Perhaps nowhere on earth is there more exciting news about the science of light than Anadarko, Oklahoma. Cooperative Research between Oklahoma State University, Unami, LLC and the Delaware Nation Economic Development Authority is being applied in exciting experimental and industrial ways at the Delaware Nation’s Greentech Center in Anadarko. That scientific endeavor is essential to our future on this earth with the industrial application already employing a growing number of workers whose wages are making a positive impact on Caddo, Kiowa and Grady Counties.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the essential nature of light, we have a tendency to ignore the essential nature of light in our lives and light for the benefit of others. Perhaps the greatest sorrow is that Oklahoma and Oklahomans are needlessly losing our way. Just like my great-grandparents needed a light in the darkness of pre-statehood Oklahoma Territory, we need to use the light to redirect our priorities. Realizing that our teachers are among the best in the world, we will understand that our schools are not struggling because of the quality of teachers. Our schools are struggling because of demographic factors such as poverty, health, addiction and under-employment. Our communities are struggling because we have de-emphasized quality of life issues in our communities. We all strive to make Oklahoma “business-friendly” but fail in our endeavor to adequately fund schools, roads, fire protection, medical services and other quality-of-life functions that make us attractive to businesses and make them want to locate here. We all strive to make Oklahoma “attractive to industry” but throw caution to the wind and actually jeopardize our future when we call for the repeal of regulations that keep us from becoming the next superfund site.
The electorate must become engaged in the process, become educated on the issues and be a light to our family, our community and our state. It takes discernment and we cannot keep our television on a single channel or read a single news source. It is not an easy job, however, until we all step up to the task, we will continue to be frustrated and we will continue to be a part of the problem.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative. If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or eMail me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.