Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does Place Matter?


Cecilieaux
left an interesting comment last night, one I wanted to follow up on. It would have generated a reply that is two miles long so I'm doing it here. It would also be interesting to hear what others have to say about it.

He says: The gist of where you and I intersect is in the experience of thinking that a place makes a difference. I did. I don't any more.

My position is that place most definitely matters.

There was a time when I went along with the "grow where you're planted" view of this, that we should be able to make a life, no matter where we are. And I suppose in the strictest definition, we can be alive anywhere. We can exist anywhere, as long as we have food and water. But can we make a life? Really?

The fact remains: There's a difference between Pacific Heights and the Tenderloin. There's a difference between Beverly Hills and Norwalk. There's a difference between Roland Park and Hampden.

There's a difference between my house and the house next door.

There's a difference between France and Germany.

And there's a difference between the US and Thailand. :)

It's all about environment and community. Some of it is only a geographic difference but the important part is culture.

Trying to live in a community that is substantially different, that holds different values and customs than our own is a lonely prospect at best. At worst, it can be alienating and isolating. Anyone who claims it isn't alienating hasn't experienced it.

There is an argument to made for growing where one is planted and if there is no other option, I suppose that is the only route to go. But I believe it is not the healthiest one.

I believe the people, the values, the customs, the art, the education, the geography and the culture that surrounds us does affect us. It shapes us. It is how we mesh ourselves into the world. It is how we create community and from community, we grow into who we will be in the world.

What say you? Do you think place matters? Do you believe someone can thrive in one environment and not in another?

Thanks for the comment, Cecilieaux. I think this could be very interesting! :)
~*

30 comments:

ThomasLB said...

I read a parable just this morning that makes your point:

"There Srila Prabhupada clearly explains that the reason the king of elephants was being defeated by the crocodile is because the crocodile was in its natural element, namely the water, whereas the elephant was in an unnatural element. As a result the crocodile was becoming stronger, and the elephant was becoming weaker. Bearing this comparison in mind, Srila Prabhupada explains in his purport to this lila that the person in the grhastha ashram may find himself in a more natural element for making spiritual progress than he would if he tried to maintain himself artificially in the brahmacari ashram." (link)

We'll always do best in our natural environment. Most of us have to feather our own nests, but if you've got a nest all feathered and waiting for you...

Tricia said...

"Trying to live in a community that is substantially different, that holds different values and customs than our own is a lonely prospect at best. At worst, it can be alienating and isolating. Anyone who claims it isn't alienating hasn't experienced it."

Texas vs. Michigan:

I'm making the best of living in Michigan, but I crave being amongst my accent, by outgoing personality that gets me funny looks up here, the weather, the food, the culture.

I agree with you 150%.

Anvilcloud said...

This is interesting to think about. I don't deny you your point and your reality. However, people live in the tropics and the Arctic, the desert and the jungle, plateau and plain, and the city and the wilderness. They do it with low-level technology or high-level technology, and they manage. For almost everyone in this world, it is crucial to make the best of it and bloom where they are planted because they have little choice. While it is true that some environments and soils suit some plants better than others, it is also true that we are not plants.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I actually agree with Cecilieaux. In my life, I have experienced over and over again - where ever you go there you are.

I think we live and experience within our small world. Whether I'm in France or Denver or Kansas, I experience it through my world.

I love Paris - would love to move there - believe I belong there or lived there in many past lives - but I'm still me when I'm there - goofy, outspoken, American.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think that place matters, but that being said, most people are less sensitive to it than you are, and are able to bloom to some degree where planted.

It's possible that they could and would bloom more fully somewhere else, though. Since relatively few have the means or mobility to travel far from their origins, or if they do, to do so with an open mind and heart and not as a voyeuristic tourist, they have no idea that they really belong elsewhere.

Most people are easily imprinted with the values of their families and societies. You are rare in that you resisted this and knew from a young age that it wasn't you.

If more people were attuned to their own souls, there would probably be a lot more culture hopping until they found the right fit.

Emily said...

I sort of agree with both of you. Moving to London has been hard. We are out of place here and uncomfortable. We would not like to spend our lives here. Yet, we are willing to move to yet another new place because feeling out of our element has helped us to grow and because as long as our family is together we can find happiness anywhere.

I think with young kids, our lives have become more about them than where we are. Home has become not where we hang our hats but where we park the stroller.

MsLittlePea said...

I agree with you for the most part. For me it's more about weather. I like heat. I like the sun. I won't survive emotionally in a cold climate and I would do whatever I needed to do to stay in the tropics. I had a complete emotional breakdown one winter I spent in Canada when I woke up on Easter morning and it was snowing. I kept crying,"But it's Easter! Easter dammit!" It's funny to talk about now but at the time, I seriously felt like falling on the ground and just letting myself die. And I truly, truly love Canada. I just know it's not home. My husband grew up there and he says it never felt like home for the very same reason. He did everything he was told he needed to do so that he could some day start a life in the South. But I know there are some who don't have that option and can make the most of it when in an environment that make s them unhappy....

Bob said...

I think claudia touched on it - if you aren't comfortable/happy/insert appropriate word here/ with yourself then it doesn't matter where you are. Like she says, where ever you go, there you are.

that being said, I do think that people can be happier/better/insert proper word here/ in an environment that suits them.

Geneviève said...

Eldorado doesn't exist elsewhere, it is here or nowhere.

Aliki2006 said...

Well, you know that I think place matters--so very much! We can cope with where we are, but are much more fulfilled in places that speak to us.

slouching mom said...

Hmm. I agree with aliki.

Molly said...

Place matters a lot. As has been said here, we are adaptable, can make a go of it anywhere. But I believe certain places speak to our souls. Even though I left my homeland [young and foolish], whenever I go back I feel a peace I feel nowhere else. Even though I no longer know very many people there, I know the rocks there, the smell there, and the countryside feels like I've known it for all time. Yes, we can manage, we can bloom anywhere, but best, I think, in the place where we feel we are a physical part of the landscape...

PeterAtLarge said...

From an historical perspective, let's not forget that it's only relatively recently that most people have had any serious choice in the matter of where they live. The vast majority of human beings throughout history have lived their entire lives within walking distance of where they were born. A journey from one village to the next could be a trek in itself. Even in post-Columbian times, the choice to move across oceans was momentous and wildly exceptional. There's something, too, about "roots" that I don't fully understand. After forty-five years of living in the United States, I still feel strangely deracinated. And I still proudly declare, to anyone who'll listen, that I'm a Geordie--i.e. a person born Tyneside in Northern England. And I left that place (not of my own choice) when I was one and a half years old, never to return! So I do believe there's something deeply resonant about place in the human psyche. Blessings, PaL

liv said...

It's a shameless plug, Chani, but you can read some of my thoughts on place in my out-of-my niche post at snoskred tomorrow. I am living proof that you can bloom where you're planted if you're willing. Obviously, I believe that you'll be happier in some places than others, but I also believe that happiness and fulfillment are decisions.

ewe are here said...

While I do think that 'place' matters, it only matters if you know and are comfortable with who 'you' are.

It's actually one of the reasons I named my blog what I did, because wherever you go, there you are. There's no escaping yourself by just picking up and moving ... something it took me a bit of time and travel to figure out.

painted maypole said...

i think it can go both way. Sometimes we have to grow where we are planted, and that is what is best for us, and sometimes we just have to get the hell out of dodge. I've been in both positions. ;)

jen said...

i think ultimately how we live in our own skin matters the most. but there is something critical about what our souls need to thrive...and that can come with environment or open space or culture, etc.

orchids, see...they are beautiful. but damn hard to grow in the desert.

Julie Pippert said...

Yes, I do agree with you on the whole here. I'll also ditto Aliki.

Julie
Using My Words

Snoskred said...

I don't know. I think most things are a choice. Every morning when you get up you can make a choice about the kind of day you're going to have, and if you are determined you can make it happen, if you don't let anyone else drag you down.

Maybe there is a place out there for each of us, our heart home, and we don't know it until we get there. Maybe that is what you experienced when you went to Thailand - and maybe the rest of us might never get to that heart home ourselves.

I do know that when we drive down the road to our new home, it makes me get emotional. I have wanted to live here for so long, and I made it a reality. It feels good.

Snoskred
www.snoskred.org

flutter said...

I think place makes all the difference. Topography matters.

Josie said...

I think place matters, but having said that, I would not restrict myself to one place. I think we have to experience it first before we can decide.

I grew up in a rainforest, and found myself living in a desert, and found to my absolute amazement that I loved it. Sage brush, tumbleweed, cacti, rattlesnakes, dry weather. I would never have believed it. I think the same applies to culture. We may find ourselves living in cultures that we would not have believed we could love.

We really do need to try everything out first before we make any decisions.

SUEB0B said...

I used to be one of those "bloom where you are planted" Pollyannas, too. Then I moved to a place where I could NOT make it work. I tried and tried for 4 years. I tried to fake it til I could make it. I ventured out. I smiled bravely. I wanted it to work. But it was like being killed inside.

I moved a mere 30 miles away, but the culture is totally different here. I knew the FIRST day I moved that I was home. Every single day I go around thanking my lucky stars that I get to live here. And when I visit the old place? It feels bad. It just does. I can't make it different.

Diddums said...

The same can be true of working environments - that last comment by SUEBoB reminds me of how I felt in an office I worked in. I would feel fresh and breezy when I was outside, then I stepped into the office and an oppressive weight came down... I was there for 10 years. Nothing I could do would make it better. I only gained in both confidence and happiness when the office closed down. :-).

blooming desertpea said...

To make a statement easy:

Place does not matter as much but people/culture do!

g said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bohemiangirl said...

I spent a good chunk of my life moving around because I wasn't satisfied. I kept running away. Essentially, I was trying to find a place that would satisfy me rather than look inside and work on myself. Having said that, I did live in places that helped me grow and I do believe, like you, that a place with the right community, can help us come into ourselves. It's all about doing it for the right reasons, I guess. Does that make sense?

KC said...

I really think it depends on the person. I know I am very affected by my local environment but JP, less so.

crazymumma said...

I was always lost, out of place in school. Not grade school so much, but high scool. So much so that when it finished it took me many years to return to school. I chose art school not for any particular reason, just because it MIGHT work.

I walked in. And it felt like home.

Home. The smells, the energy. And I was good. It was me. completely.

So yes. There is a place where you thrive.

enigma4ever said...

I think knowing where you feel at home and where you feel like you is about really knowing yourself..I see many people try to MAKE their homes who they are...and they don'ever fully grasp that Community is something else entirely...I do understand what you feel..and the need to be where you feel at home...and where you feel like you fit...sigh...

g said...

I'm not sure if you've already read my comment, but reading it again, I think I took your post too literally; and not only made a presumptuous comment, but one that sounded a bit self-absorbed and inappropriate. (Aside from lengthy.) :)

As a result, I deleted it. My sincerest apologies. Thank you.