Dennis Lyons

A few times a week — my goal is three — I drive down 4th Street to the Sunbury YMCA to do some walking and other exercises.

Some people may find the Y kind of old school, but I love the place. The staff is cheerful and helpful. The cost is reasonable. And I find everything I need there, including stationary bicycles, treadmills, weight machines and, of course, the pool. 

I spend most of my time there walking the oval banked track that surrounds the upper reaches of the basketball court. I usually pop in my earbuds and tune to a favorite podcast — all the while using my fingers to keep track of how many times around I go. (It’s 20 for a mile, in case you’re interested.)

When you walk the Y track, you are rarely alone. Once in a while, you might catch some solo time. But usually, as was the case late morning Wednesday, there are several others walking at the same time.

Few of them, I have come to realize, are likely to walk at the same pace as me.

Many walk faster, so I have to squeeze left to the railing every so often to let them lap me.

Some are slower. When I want to pass, I try to do it at the wide portion of one of the two short sides of the track. Acceleration, particularly after knee-tendon surgery two years ago, is not one of my strong points. But so far, I’ve managed to move forward without any mishaps.

I’m going on about this because it occurred to me the other day that the adjustments I make walking with people of varying fitness levels and goals — and the ones they make in dealing with my pace — are similar to the ones we should and need to make in of life.

We’re heading to the end of the second decade of the 21st century. That’s hard to grasp, especially if, like me, you still have fresh memories of all the angst we shared about the turn of the century. Many thought “Y2K” might bring with it some sort of technology Armageddon. I remember having reporters at the paper I worked for in Lansdale, Pennsylvania back then out at midnight checking gas pumps and ATMs to see if the computer networks were still working.

It all turned out to be much ado about nothing. The computers never stopped working. 

What we didn’t know then, though, was how increasingly broken much of our human culture would get over the ensuing 20 years and how sharply deeper our divisions would become.

Disagreeing with each other has always been a national pastime in America. That’s nothing new and there’s nothing wrong with a strong argument backed up by actual facts. 

What’s changed in the past two decades, is the harshness of those arguments and the diminished civility. It seems it’s no longer enough to state one’s case. The other side, whatever it happens to be, seemingly needs to be insulted and vilified in the process.

While we never lost connection with the internet as the new century dawned, we ended up greatly damaging our connections with each other.

As we move ahead to decade three of this century, I don’t think there’s any problem more important to address.

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