Monday, October 17, 2016

Soul Searching

What does it mean to talk about a city's 'soul' ? Is there any such thing?  I'll go overboard and say yes, that most people understand the concept -even though they are inclined to think in favorable terms, often pre-set terms articulated by others.
Visiting the city of Billings, Mt., recently, I put the question to a politically minded (i.e. aware of the world around them) group at a cocktail party.  Almost all agreed without asking me to define my own terms. Almost to a one I was referred to a recent article in Outside magazine calling Billings one of  the best places to live in the US. To live actively, that is, since the article described all the wonderful 'outdoor' activities available there, uniformly portrayed under clear blue skies. Implied: available to people active enough to participate. People willing to go to meet the city's soul (the magazine never used the word) more than halfway.
But what is there in a city that reaches out to people rather than making people seek out 'best things' on their own? The magazine made a great deal out of craft breweries as well.
Externals guaranteed to catch the tourist eye.
How to define the more complicated aspects of soul that has to do with the character of  its residents, and the larger matter of culture. How to comprehend the 'culture' of a city of 110,000 that has casinos in almost every block of one of the main thoroughfares leading into town? That seems to have more banks - the largest buildings in sight - than gas stations? A spread of homes and industry (oil, services, endless chain stores) across a vast plain?

No comments:

Post a Comment