Considering place and time

Yesterday I wrote about “Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America,” and specifically about the value of place.

A related aspect to place is time. This is expressed in the idiom that “there’s a time and place for everything.” It’s also often heard at weddings in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” So while the context for individual experience and shared cultural experience always occurs in a particular place, it also occurs in a particular time. Borrowing from yesterday’s chapter “Local History: A Way to Place and Home:”

“As much as a place is rendered real by its geography, environment, demography, social and built structures, organized spaces, made things, and social forms and ways, a place also belongs to a time: a period and its happenings, events, memories, and dreams… when philosophers, artists, geographers, and sociologists have recited their lyrics of place as home, family, neighborhood, town, village, and region, so the historian offers the music—the rhythm and the beat—of a linking narrative. Narrative alone affords an understanding through stories and tales of what a place was, where it stood in the process of becoming, and how it exists in the folds of memory and the unfolding layers of interpretation.”

I think that there are about 1,000 years of cumulative history alive at any given time. This history is alive through the insight, perspective, and attitude of the living and it helps form a linking narrative on a large scale. As a friend of mine says, a linking narrative allows for the past, present, and future to be constantly “washing over one another” as fluid and dynamic forces.