published Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

David Cook: Ideas and power

A week ago, I tossed out to you, beloved readers, a series of questions, including this one:

What's the best, craziest, most fun idea out there on improving one aspect of Chattanooga?

"The Center for Mindful Living,'' a reader named Betsy emailed.

The Center, located on McCallie Avenue, teaches mindfulness and stress-reduction through awareness. In other words, all that anxiety, anger and sadness that rise like a vine, clutching your heart and mind.

There's a solution for it.

The center's classes are inexpensive, varied and staggered for different times of day. Its website quotes the Dalai Lama: "If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.''

Another idea: more downtown disc golf.

"Acquire one of the properties adjacent to Coolidge Park ... or Renaissance Park and redevelop it as a Frisbee [golf] course. This would make what is already an amazing public space even further off the chain awesome!'' a friend named Steve emailed.

Love it.

Another idea: more marsupials.

"Chattanooga needs to have decorated animal figures positioned around town,'' Melissa emailed.

She said other cities have artists create statues of certain animals, which are then placed strategically around town.

Her idea for the Chattanooga animal?

"The possum,'' she wrote.

Secretive, underground artists plant statuesque opossums in strategic places throughout the city, thus pushing back against a sanitized downtown with crazy, off-beat guerrilla art while elevating the stature of an indigenous, ubiquitous, night-loving animal that practices pacifism by sleeping instead of fighting?

Say no more. Let's start it, like yesterday.

Another idea: more green lights.

"Synchronize our traffic lights to create a wave of green lights flowing down each street,'' Greg emailed. "The best way to get people to drive calmly is to remove incentives for driving in a fast or erratic fashion ... in the morning, have the lights timed for inbound traffic, and in the evening have the lights set up to clear the cars out of downtown.''


And this one, too:

"A Sky Tram from Ross's Landing side of the river to the North Shore side,'' Brenda suggested.

(And on top of the Sky Tram is an opossum statue, and when the Sky Tram lands on the north side of the river, it stops right next to the first hole tee box of the disc golf course!)

Along with the best-idea question, I also asked who was the most powerful person in the area?

"The individual,'' several people responded. "Only you can change you.''

"Bob Corker,'' one reader said.

"Rick Davis,'' another reader wrote.

"Our Lord Jesus Christ,'' said another.

What a trio. (Which one of those is not like the others?)

"The most powerful man in Chattanooga is Allen Casey -- owner of the ugly downtown barge. Who else is powerful enough to stand up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- and every other government authority -- and win for 4 years in a row!'' texted a friend named Matt.

For others, power was cast across a wide range of groups: cops, the gangs, gay Chattanoogans, the wealthy families on Lookout Mountain, folks like Joe Ledbetter (founder of Chattanooga Whiskey), Chris Dortch and Daniel Griffith (both working to promote independent film in the area).

"Anyone who voted for Barry Obama,'' one reader said.

"Luther,'' said another.

We'll end with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work "Where Do We Go From Here?"

"Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic.''

In other words, power is only as good as the good it does. Power ought to serve the greater good and not just a certain few.

Why? Because all of life has an inherent drive to flourish. Black, brown, white, rich, poor, young, old, able-bodied, disabled, gay, straight, human, animal -- all want to live full lives.

Even opossums.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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