Thursday, October 14, 2010

Place Matters

I've got another post in the works, but I thought it might be good to make a stopgap post in the meanwhile.

It's a core value for me that place is an important component of existence. I suspect that most people don't dwell on what place means quite as much as I do. It's second only to time in how I go about viewing the world, which says a lot coming from an historian.

Place has a lot of aspects that are fascinating to me. A place is both a construct and an external reality. There is no unit of place. Units depend on boundaries, and fundamentally, the only boundaries between places are arbitrarily imposed boundaries. Yet, despite its indefinability, place exists. Nothing is in isolation and there is no place that stands unconnected to the places around it, and there are no hard and fast ways to separate one place from an adjacent place.

A place not only connects to the places nearby, but also to the things that inhabit the place now, in the past, and in the future. A place can dictate the actions of the things in it or it can be changed by the actions of those things. A place can be special, ordinary, or undesirable. A place can mean different things to different people. A place can change and a place's meaning can change.

I won't even get into what it means to "own" a place!

For me, place even takes on a spiritual side. Despite the attempts of some, no place in the world is the same. Every place has thousands of stories; dramas enacted over time. Places nourish us. Our connections to our social communities and the community of life are made evident through place. The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe... all of these come from a place that matters (or should matter) to us. These things depend on these places. Our bodies are made from these places. The stories that shaped us happened in these places. The stories and nourishment that made our ancestors came from these places. If places are disposable or insignificant as so many people seem to think, then we are disposable and insignificant, because we are, in so many ways, our places.

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