A Power of Place?

Based on a number of examples, I have long wondered whether geographic areas might be subject to what I have called a “power of place,” territories that affect – and are affected by – the human activities that occur there. I offer this suggestion as a question, as an inquiry that might benefit from the study of chaos and complexity. For similar reasons that earthquake fault lines are considered “attractors” for geologic forces; or estate sales can be attractors for antique dealers; or hospitals as attractors for diseases, our world may be subject to the interplay of forces that otherwise lay hidden within what we are inclined to treat as “randomness” or “coincidence.” That nothing more meaningful as “coincidence” may be involved is a possibility that should not be dismissed. Still, after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, I could not help but recall the violent history of the area in New York City where those buildings stood. These lands once served as a cemetery for dead slaves – persons who had been denied their self-ownership recognition – and later became the site of a U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the power of the state to use its powers of eminent domain to forcibly take such properties from present owners – another denial of private ownership claims – and give them to institutionally-established corporate interests for their commercial use. Might the fact that the WTC stood near the churchyard wherein lie the remains of the grandfather of corporate-statism, Alexander Hamilton, trigger hidden influences that our conscious minds might prefer ignoring?

Such thoughts came to my mind after the past four days in Orlando, Florida. Like it or not, people living there may find their city subject to the kinds of scars endured by such places as Salem, Massachusetts; Waco, Texas; Hiroshima, Japan; or other sites of human destruction. This past Friday, a woman singer who had become well-known from a television program was murdered right after her performance in Orlando. On Sunday, forty-nine people were murdered – and many others grievously wounded – at the gay club in Orlando. Just last night, at a Disney resort in Orlando, a two-year old boy was taken – and presumably killed – by an alligator. This trifecta of horrible events will likely be explained as “coincidences,” and perhaps this is all that they are. But in the hubris of our insistence on using what we already know – or think we know – to understand the uncertainties of our complex world, we might keep our minds open to the possibilities – that is possibilities of other factors influencing our lives. With the collapse of Western Civilization – along with so much of the “certainties” we thought we knew about how the world works – we had best learn to re-examine our thinking, and to ask the question most of us fear asking: “how do we know what we know?”


2:14 pm on June 15, 2016