Renewing deep connections

One of the wonderful websites that you will find linked on Gloria Deo's right-side bar is The Front Porch Republic. Like many of the sites I recommend, I don't check in on this one nearly often enough, but they often have fascinating articles and commentaries, generally encouraging the renewal of genuine community - and with it a more genuine politics in American life.

They have had articles celebrating the "new urbanism" that we see in many American cities - including my own city, Lafayette - in which new developments (or renewed downtown areas) include homes, grocers, coffee shops, all close together to promote walking (instead of driving) and more interaction with one's immediate neighbors. I think this is a very important and positive move towards helping isolated Americans find a more real community.

I see two other potential trends that I also believe are very healthy.
Last year Americans moved less. They stayed more. It is difficult for an individual or a family to become rooted in any community if their job frequently causes them to move to a new place. There were less movies primarily because of the poor economy, and as commerce picks up again (assuming it does) then presumably so will mobility. But hopefully the experience of staying longer in one place will convince more people of its value. Hopefully as technologies are better utilized by companies, the physical location of any given employee will become more flexible, allowing people to stay longer in a community they connect with.

The other trend I see (even in my own family, but also in television ads) is that more people are attempting to grow more of their own food - even if it is only a couple of vegetables in a flower-bed garden. There is a growing desire not to have over-processed and artificial food for health reasons, but also for reasons of environmental protection (why burn fossil fuels bringing me a tomato from California when I can grow my own) and social justice (why buy food produced by pseudo-slave labor in the Far East when I can grow my own).

There is, I believe, another positive reason to support this last trend: renewed connection to the land. For most of human history, our ancestors have felt a deep connection to the land that sustained them. This shaped they way they thought of their world, even the nature of language itself. For most of us that connection has been obliterated by a reliance on the artificial. Reforging that connection will, I believe, have many great benefits - even on a spiritual level for Westerners.

I got to thinking about all this recently thanks to this cool quote from J.R.R. Tolkien:

"[Family life must have been different] in the days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood - they were not mistaken for there was in a sense real (not metaphorical) connections between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air and later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardized international diet...are artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours."

- J.R.R. Tolkien, from an unpublished letter to Arthur Greeves, June 22, 1930.

The 'strength of the hills' may not be ours again for sometime, but the strength of the soil pot or the back-yard garden is a nice place to start.

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Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the enlightening post! I followed the link from FPR. I'd be interested in reading the whole letter or whatever parts of it are available, to get the context.

10:35 AM, May 25, 2010  

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