Public MeaningPlace

Day 271 Week 39 Q3 Friday, September 29, 2023

If you are a book person, you may have frequented libraries and bookstores even more in the past before there was Amazon. Every time you went to a book place and spent time occasionally rubbing shoulders with other book people, you were casting a vote for your identity as a book person. If you learned to use chopsticks when you were young but were not from a part of the world or culture that used them, you may derive pleasure every time you use them. This tiny skill can give your life meaning, especially if you have traveled in the Far East and had a chance to use chopsticks there. Suppose you have extensive experience traveling in far-off places where you do not speak the language, where transportation was often dicey by affluent American standards, and where you learned to pack lightly and be ready to move quickly. In that case, you may feel some identity as a traveler. All these activities give your life meaning to a degree, and every time you engage in them, you cast a vote for your identity. These public shared activities all create meaning in peopleā€™s lives and help them to have an identity.

Similarly, small town USA used to have a Main Street where you could conduct your business and feel a part of the town. Where you be be seen and acknowledged and greeted. And where you could also see, acknowledge and greet others who shared your identity as a person of this place. The combination of big box stores, online purchasing and the global pandemic has largely killed Main Street USA in small towns that are also tourist destinations, where the stores that sold things you needed, like books, socks, underwear and food, have been replaced by trinkets, artworks and other non-necessities. I have lived in three cute, down-to-earth, real, working towns. that have lost their souls over the last twenty years. The farmers, fishermen, musicians and artists have all been priced out of the market.  And where excellent restaurants can not find wait staff and are forced into becoming take-out only because it costs too much to live in the area. These were all public MeaningPlaces that support identity creation and maintenance.

 When these places become tourist traps that can not support local culture but have to import big names from the big cities, they lose the ability to create meaning, maintain community and support identity. They become about consumption, accumulation and too many nonprofits begging for money from people who live in town part-time and make their money elsewhere. In short, they become filled with old people who are rich compared to the locals, and they are dying, as is meaning in our culture.

This is where creative outliers come in – we create meaning in our personal lives and also create Public MeaningPlaces.That is where they primarily come from. MeaningPlaces are also places of Trust. Both are fragile in that when either trust or meaning is lost, they are both very difficult to regain.