Thursday, October 30, 2014

Walking in the Shadow of (Bored) Giants

Invention and innovation are words often heard in, and when conversing about Dayton, Ohio. Our local history is full of well-documented discoveries, primarily the Wright Brothers creation of the first powered and manned aircraft. Learning about Dayton's history can feel like walking in the shadow of giants.

Here at Bonnett's Bookstore we often discuss various aspects of Dayton's history with visitors looking for related esoterica and ephemera. Such discussions have given me many excuses to ponder Dayton's discoveries, and the how and why of our past's intellectual motherload.

Another thing often overheard or expressed locally are statements of boredom: "There's nothing to do in Dayton." A local tavern has even made bumper stickers proclaiming, "DAYTON'S ALRIGHT - if you've never been anywhere else." Frankly, I'm a believer in the lyric from the Harvey Danger song "Flagpole Sitta", which says, "If you're bored, then you're boring." There's plenty to do around here, and interesting influences from all over the world.

Dayton sits just south of what has been called "The Crossroads of America." It's a sure bet that other locales have embraced that moniker as well, but the fact of Dayton being a crossroads is clear; Interstates 70 & 75 meet just north of Dayton, providing easy access to everything mainland America has to offer, agriculturally, industrially, educationally, scientifically, commercially, politically, and culturally speaking - and it has always been so. We're at a confluence of rivers, trails, canals, roads, rails, and highways which handily connect us to everywhere else. Even the earliest explorers of Ohio followed routes established long before by the Native American nations, which became the National Road and the Dixie Highway, and are now I-70 and I-75.

Based on the elements above I eventually concluded that Boredom might be Dayton's best natural resource, which I've stated here in the shop on many occasions. I usually say it in a joking manner to avoid putting folks off, but it's an idea that I now find may have some traction. Peace and quiet may seem like boredom to some, or an opportunity for meditation, pondering, and reflection to others. This idea was backed up by Isaac Asimov in 1959! Asimov's essay can be found on MIT Technology Review and is linked at the bottom of this post.

Dayton may be a quiet, peaceful, or as some say "boring" place to be, but during the Industrial Age in which we saw the bulk of our local invention and ideas, travelers from everywhere found themselves in contact with Dayton, bringing their knowledge and news along with them, and leaving innovative Daytonians to put the pieces together, inventing technologies which have changed the course of history for the entire world.