What comes next?

Published 7:34 am Thursday, October 20, 2016

As I type these words, the vice presidential debate is still in Farmville’s future. By the time you read this, the debate will be history. All the planning, primping and scheduling that began more than a year ago, and the frenzy of activity seen around town and on Longwood University’s campus during recent weeks, culminated in an event planned to last just a few hours. I don’t know which aspects went according to plan and which, if any, went awry. You have that advantage. You can look back. You know.

It reminds me of a wedding. Once the bride-to-be and the prospective groom declare their intentions, the planning begins. What kind of a wedding will it be? Where and when will it happen? Who will be invited? Will the family factions mingle in peace?

I’ve heard about the magnificence of weddings in recent years. By comparison, my own — decades ago at this point — was relatively uncomplicated. Yet, even in its simplicity, there were a myriad of details requiring attention. Picking a date. Deciding on attire. Ordering a cake and flowers. Arranging for photographs. Selecting music. Mailing invitations. After months and months of planning, the actual activities on that momentous day — the ceremony and the celebrating — took just a few hours. For the most part, things went as expected.

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The tradition in which we were married specifies that the bride and groom say “I will,” rather than Hollywood’s more famous “I do.” I’m pleased to report that my husband and I both got our lines right. Yet, I recall a person approaching me at the reception to say, “Something has to go wrong at every wedding, so now you don’t have to worry about anything else.” At this stage of my life, I can’t recall what it was that went amiss. In my memory, the day was perfect.

Advance planning for a brief moment occurs in many other realms as well — an athlete in training for a race that will be over in minutes; an actor rehearsing for an evening’s performance. Or, consider NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Work began in 2000, but the launch didn’t take place until January 2006. At the time, Pluto was listed among the solar system’s nine planets. By the time New Horizons arrived at its intended destination on July 14, 2015, Pluto had been reclassified as a dwarf planet. That change in planetary status wasn’t part of the original plan and it didn’t diminish the significance of the encounter. Yet, despite the magnitude of the occasion, by the very next day, the spacecraft was beginning its departure procedures.

In these instances, and in many more, meticulous preparations preceded a fleeting event. In each case, however, the event also marked a beginning of something intended to endure.

Scientists have gathered a tremendous amount of scientific data about Pluto. A post-encounter science conference will be held in late 2017, and the spacecraft’s mission has been extended to include a close encounter with another Kuiper Belt object in 2019. The knowledge gained will impact what children learn about our solar system for decades to come.

When a bride and groom undergo a joining, the clock may measure mere minutes, but the action creates a bond intended to be lifelong. The couple goes forth into the future to face better and worse, richer and poorer, or sickness and health. The wedding vows they exchange impact all the days that follow.

And, that vice presidential debate? What lasting legacy will it bestow upon Farmville and Longwood University? Fresh paint may survive a year. Infrastructure improvements may stand for a generation. Sharing Farmville’s story with the nation may bring economic advantages, possibly increasing tourism and elevating Longwood’s stature. Hoped-for results such as these may come to fruition and reshape the future for our entire region.

This reshaping is true not only of the debate, not only of weddings and not only of space exploration. It is true of every moment. All that has gone on before contributes to the molding of each minute. And for better or worse, the next minute awaits.

Karen Bellenir, a Farmville resident since 2009, blogs for Pier Perspectives at PierPress.com and serves as Editorial Director for Wordwright LLC (www.Wordwrightllc.com). A book titled Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia, featuring a compilation of her past columns was published in September. Her email address is kbellenir@wordwrightllc.com.