Living It

The stress of life's ontological experiment

Nebraska

In Nebraska, the stadium is full, or the stadium is empty.

Memorial Stadium on a Cornhuskers Game Day
They call it "Sea of Red"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:091507-USCNeb-MemorialStadium.jpg
The Nebraska Cornhuskers’ football games have sold out 333 consecutive times, since 1962. For over 50 years, the stadium has been ‘completely full’. By contrast, the vacancy on off-days is conspicuous. In a lot of other places, and in a lot of other psychology approaches, the glass is either half empty or it is half full. Nebraska does not operate in half-measures, though. Something is different about Nebraska. Nebraska is like everyplace else. There are schools here, there are people, there is history, there is faith; at the same time, Nebraska is like no other place.

Homesteaders' House
Small Beginnings...
Photo by M Shanahan, taken at Homestead Act National Monument
Nebraska is like no other place. Why? Because it is by being so incredibly normal that Nebraska is so unique. Do you know what I love about Nebraska? The National Homestead Act Monument, the place where one of the very most democratic ways that “the West was Won” is commemorated. If a homesteader could stay on his or her 160 acres for 5 years, make improvements, and pay the 18$ registration fee – the land was claimed. This amount in 1870 would be about $300 today. I love the impish little Nebraska Cornhuskers wizard that people use to indicate support for their team. I’m a Catholic, and wizardry and such actually puts me on edge (including all things Hogwartian), but there is something cute about the little gnome-like Cornhuskers wizard. I love the highly delicious, cheap, clean, healthy, good quality buffets – at the grocery store! There is a specific store that does this really well. I am not sure if I have permission to name them.

Wagon Train by Chimney Rock - Nebraska
North Platte River Valley Wagon Train, by Wiliam Henry Jackson
http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/scotts_bluff/essay_American_Indians_traders_trappers.html
Nebraska means “Flat Water”. This is a reference to the Platte River, and “rivière plate” means, well, “Flat River” in French, the language of the third wave of explorers, after the Spanish and the First Nations. This very flatness made it poor for navigation, but highly suitable for land travel alongside it. The Platte River also flows fairly directly on a West-East axis, precisely the line that settlers wanted to travel. The Platte River was, as it were, the main ‘artery’ for Westward expansion, especially to Oregon, California, and other places West where settlers believed there were better prospects. Perhaps that is one reason they call this America's Heartland: it has helped circulate a great deal of the life of its people.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln
Honest Abe
http://capitol.org/building/history/lincoln-sculpture
For six months now, I have been in Lincoln, Nebraska, and have been loving it. My term has six months more to go, and people I love are waiting for me back home. The days are long, the pay is low and the stress can be high in my current professionally-required posting. When I am down, I travel to the state legislature and I look at Lincoln's homely, noble bearing, then I look around town at Lincoln’s amazingly beautiful women. I consider the Platte River: treacherous for navigation, but excellent for safe terrestrial conduct of so many future millions. I remember the humble homestead beginnings of so many American Dreams-Come-True. I remember that I am not alone.

The stadium here is always full.

Matthew Shanahan, M.Sc., is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Western Ontario.

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