A Sense of Place – Connections

A sense of Place – connections

On Wednesday a student of mine invited me to give a talk on place and its link to sustainability. She had asked me back in November and at the time it seemed like a long way off and a great idea. As the date loomed I pondered on what I would share with a group of 70 enthusiastic UBC students and especially how I would appeal to their passion on sustainability issues.

When in doubt I believe we should always turn in and reflect on our own perception of the topic or situation we are hoping to converse about. So much of what we believe to be true is influenced by media, both social and news. We each operate in our own communities sharing information and ideas with each other in the comfort that we are in agreement. We only have to look to our own Facebook page or Twitter feed to observe that our peers are reading or sharing similar websites and videos to us, they care about the same issues we do. Do not misunderstand me there is nothing wrong with this, I do it myself everyday – it is my way of knowing and making sense of the world. It is only at times when I am asked to stop and reflect on this that I begin to see the flaws in my perfect comfort design.

I began by thinking about what home meant to me – is it a place? Is it a group pf people or indeed a person? Is it a sense of being of feeling like you have ‘arrived’ somewhere? Is it more sensual a particular smell, a genre of music, your mother’s cooking? I think for me it was/is all of these things and so I began to decipher this relating it to physical place. I created a Google Tour Builder, which is a fantastic website where you can create your own map tour together with images, links and audio. Suddenly my array of physical homes began to take the shape of geometric shape and so I compared it thus

My homes
My homes using Google Tour Builder
Geometry by wikipedia.org
Geometry by wikipedia.org

Doreen Massey’s power geometry suddenly came to life before my eyes – it really is about connections after all and my own life is a visualization of this.

So how does all this relate to sense of place and specifically why am I writing about it specifically in terms of my focus on the Middle East? Well if I could make the dots darker for length of time spent in each place, the core of my geometric life would be focused in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. My heart aches when I look at the picture for all of the items I mentioned, a particular smell, a genre of music, my mother’s version of Sudanese cooking, and much more. As I glanced through my own social networks or analyzed the news I focus on I sensed an undercurrent of Arab culture in how I viewed the world – it was the lens which I used to understand many other things. I think we all have a default space which we go to and I found mine. But it has grown and changed, and now that Middle Eastern core is stretched across the globe added different perspectives and voices to the mix. My sense of place is full of energy and diversity in its geometry and this is what gives it power. It is also what saddens me in these desperate times as we witness the ancients lands, birth places of Algebra, science and agriculture descend into darkness. I am reminded of a poem by one of my favourite poets from the region Khalil Gibran ‘Dead Are My People‘ and of his sorrow at the events in his own birthplace of Lebanon.

There is so much more I could say on the Middle East and the current situations but I will save that for another day. I want you to reflect on your own sense of place and your own connections, it is these that will bring some balance into the world, it is these that will bring awareness to others – you have more in common with each other than you think and that is the key to a sustainable world.



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