Reclaiming our places from cartography.
Are we breaking, or are we fading?
This progress which has our cities bandaged up in scaffolding, is it holding the crushed bones of our society together — just barely — or is this really where the robust flares of ambition take place, each unveiling a notch in the steep climb to progress?
One thing is clear: to have perfect architecture these days is to never have architecture at all.
With increased corporate mobility around the world, efficient construction designs and an endless array of social technologies facilitating our relocation (and access to home from afar) our places — those places that mark us, that follow us wherever we travel to, tugging at us to return — are disintegrating faster.
But unpeel the scaffolding and you will find that our global renovation project did a shoddy job cleaning up. Because we’re still here, glittering with all our ancient wisdoms.
The Internet grape-vine informs me that NASA is doing research on sun-gazing. Following a yogi from India as he begins his process of cutting ties with a parasitic human existence by allowing the combined energies of the Sun and Earth to fuse through his body and feed his soul.
Scientifically implausible, the rationalists scream. A hoax!
But imagine feeding your soul to replenish your cellular respiration. Imagine the Earth, not as green-and-blue grid-work, but as life humming in our bones.
Yogis have imagined it so, as have the Aboriginals of North America, who have long held heshook-ishtsawalk — that “everything is connected.” It means the total lived experience of the land — the consistency of the soil, the spirit of the wind and the many whispers and thoughts of the people who are related to it — as part of a web-like reality that defines our relationship to place, our sense of belonging.
And if you won’t take their word for it, there is the French concept of terroir to consider. Colloquially used to refer to the unique personality of wine, based on the composition of the soil, the direction of the air and minute regional and environmental particularities, this imagining of a sense of place is also a reference to the people of a locale. It says: every fibre of your being belongs here.
Under the cacophonous blare of industry, these whispers are barely perceptible. Floating fifteen storeys above the Earth, we can barely imagine belonging to the land without the land belonging to us.
…But the yogis are emerging, shoes off and ready to bask in metabolic revolution. And our places are still there — those places that mark us, that follow us wherever we go, tugging at us to return — unchanged by sterile cartography, ugly, xenophobic nationalism and the tar-streaked designs of corporate mobility.
Look closer. The antidote is there … accidentally sucked into the vacuum bag.