Purpose in Place: Belonging where you live and living where you belong

In a time of reduced or curtailed travel, people have started to find renewed interest in the places they live, or that they have previously taken for granted.

I have experienced both. My home, Victoria, B.C. Canada, is considered by many to be a paradise, although I have not always shared this view, mainly because it has become increasingly expensive to live here. The only people that can afford it–in the sense of settling down and buying a house–are the ones who were already here, or those that have recently arrived. The others, like myself, living permanently temporary or temporarily permanent have become like the animals in many of our national parks; looking from the outside in at a world to which they no longer belong.

Recently I visited Jasper and Banff on the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains. The two most visited destinations in Canada, drawing millions of visitors each year, however this year there have been far fewer due to the continued border closures between Canada and the United States.

These restrictions however have prompted Canadians, myself included, to travel within the country and often within the province. If given the choice I would have returned to the American Southwest, but going back to Banff after nearly thirty years (the last time I went was when I was 12) proved to be not only the ideal choice, but the obvious one.

Thus far, I have taken my home on Vancouver Island and Canada in general for granted, but now because of this recent trip I have found a renewed interest in both the Canadian Rockies and the Northwest coast of North America.

Discovering or rediscovering the significance of the place in which one lives can be the single best response to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic and the state of the world in general, so instead of projecting one’s consciousness, body and senses on a foreign place, one is reinforcing the connections that are already there.

This may seem simple, and it is. In the search for a Theory of Everything we must remember that the explanation we are seeking is likely to be simple. Like place, the simple things are the ones that are most neglected. Not simple in a way that is facile, weak or ordinary, but simple in that it reduces complexity to a singularity. A superset in which the complexity and contradictions of the world are a subset.

A theory of everything is not a contradiction even though its parts may constitute one.

Once we have our solution, all contradictions cease and we are left with an integrated whole. An ecosystem in which everything contributes and everything has its place.

If we look at our world in this way, there is nothing that doesn’t belong, except for the absurd way in which we live. Effectively removing the elements of the environment that are its reason for being, and our reason for visiting it in the first place.

Unlike what it was a hundred, fifty or even twenty years ago, you would be lucky to see any animals in Banff today at all. It is a place to see people, not animals. But as people, we still have the chance to see the land as it was before parks, towns or people themselves. It is a place to remember what it was to be ourselves, which hopefully will help us come back to the land so that those that rightfully belong there may return too.