There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.

– Ecclesiastes 3

Maine’s second annual Startup & Create Week kicks off Monday. With more than 75 events at 20 locations across Portland, this entrepreneurial shindig will have something for everyone in what has come to be called the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” – successful business founders and hopeful would-be entrepreneurs; subject matter experts and the mildly curious; people born and raised in Maine; people returning to Maine and people visiting for the first time; people seeking new and better ways to continue the long-established Maine tradition of “making do”; and people with dreams of becoming market and world leaders.

On a pragmatic level, this gathering will have information and personal connections for all of these people – both the answers to question they have now and the questions they haven’t yet learned they should ask. But to my mind, there is a function to be served by this week that goes beyond the purely pragmatic – the function of celebration.

Maine today stands at a demographic and economic crossroads. In one direction stretches a road that is very clear: We get slowly older, more fearful, more stuck in our ways, more resistant to change. Why? Because change is too threatening for those with a modicum of money and power in their grasp and too unimaginable for the poor and uneducated to even begin to formulate. It is a path exemplified by the comically tragic struggle for deck chairs on the Titanic going down today in Augusta, a drama destined to repeat itself with “Groundhog Day” regularity every other June for the foreseeable future given the trends so obvious to all those not on board.

In another direction stretches a path that is far less clear. Indeed it almost certainly isn’t a single path we all must follow. It is, rather, the unforeseen but confidently anticipated outcome of a growing collective energy driven by two deep convictions. The first is that this place on the face of the earth we call Maine is among the best on the planet to live and work. It is, we know in our hearts as Dylan Thomas knew of Wales, “the woods, the river and the sea where a boy” can “in the listening summertime of the dead whisper the truth of his joy to the trees, the stones and the fish in the tide.” To be, truly be, in Maine is to know such joy.

The second conviction is a deep and contagious optimism that, in spite of whatever current trends may imply, we can – if we choose not a hunkered-down fearful resistance to change but a welcoming and courageous embrace of its challenge – create along these woods, rivers and sea the lives we want.

Nourishing, spreading and celebrating these two convictions – joy and optimism – is, paradoxically, both the least and the most pragmatic reason to welcome, participate in and make an annual June tradition of Maine Startup and Create Week.

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions Inc. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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