Claremont Insider: Thoughts for the Season

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thoughts for the Season

A few holiday thoughts:

David Allen's blog had some nice observations on the Christopher Irion PhotoBooth mural on display in the Plaza between the Packing House and the new parking structure on 1st St. just west of Indian Hill Blvd.

Allen's December 9th post said:

Spend a few minutes taking in the photos and you can’t help but be fascinated, and moved, by the humanity on display. I'm not sure I can explain why, but I get misty-eyed when I saw the portraits, and whenever I think of them too. There's just a vulnerability, a playfulness, a serenity to the people in these candid photos, and seeing so many of them in one place has a powerful, humbling impact.

I think the photos are worthwhile even if you don't live in Claremont, but living there does add a new element. These are our friends and neighbors, and you’re bound to see someone you know represented, even if it’s just someone you’ve seen around the Village but can’t place.

Whatever it is that divides us, there is also a tie that binds. It has been our contention and operating principle here at the Insider that real community, here as elsewhere, springs up spontaneously out of networks of friendships and neighborhoods. And all the energy we've seen expended on political intervention, machinations, scheming or elitism, cannot prevent those networks from forming.

Communities cross those artificial political and social divisions that have been imposed on us. The strength and resilience of our community comes from the sum of all of those faces David Allen spoke of, not just a select few. It is the central structure Robert Frost spoke of in "Silken Tent":

And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round...,

Robert Frost, The Silken Tent

We are all of us a part of that, and excluding anyone from the conversation weakens us all. It is odd and ironic indeed that in a town with such a Capraesque sense of community a few Mr. Potters should want to control everything. Are we Bedford Falls, or are we Pottersville?

Communities are not structures like the Village Expansion or City Hall - bronze plaqued monuments to a few egos - communities are people.

As Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey says at one point to Lionel Barrymore's Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life":

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this town.

We are that rabble, and we've observed in the past few years that whatever self-organizing human spirit and energy it is that forms communities cannot be denied. In fact, the harder someone tries to quash it, the harder it springs back.

We hope our friends in the Claremont 400, who hold so much local power, recognize this fundamental law of nature and that they dedicate the New Year to the right of every person to have an equal voice in shaping our town, to real inclusivity, and to real community.