Carl Jung and others on a ‘Sense of Place’.
Some thoughts from figures of note (and a tiny contribution from this writer) on philosophical Sense of Place as well as the physical.
Note; Jung, Carl– from his Collected Works (cw) edited by Meridith Sabrini, North Atlantic Books, Berkley. California,2002.
Reading around the subject – on “A Sense of Place” – I found some interesting comments by Carl Jung where he writes/speaks about returning – usually to nature something that he sees as a place or entity ‘Mother Nature’. Concern for the loss of connection with this ‘place’ runs as a (non-musical?) leitmotif throughout Jung’s entire opus; “Our task is not to return to nature in the manner of Rousseau[i], but to find the natural man”. Jung believed that the loss of emotional participation in nature has resulted in a sense of c (lack of a sense of place), matter was to him the tangible exterior of things and the spirit the non-visible interior.
By way of compensating for the loss of a world that pulsed with our blood and breathed with our breath, we have developed an enthusiasm for facts – mountains of facts, far beyond any single individual’s power to survey … . the facts are burying us. (c.w. 11 par 797), Jung, C. 1939. (There’s a much quoted child’s question that asks; “If adults know so much why aren’t they happy?”). “The development of consciousness is a slow and laborious process that took untold ages to reach the civilised state (±6000 years ago – the invention of writing). This development is far from complete as indefinably large areas of the mind still remain in darkness”. Jung goes on to explain that civilisation is a most expensive process & its acquisition has been paid for by enormous losses (see the video “The Story of Stuff”) the extent of which “we have largely forgotten or have never appreciated”. (c.w. 10, par 154-5) Jung, C 1928.
Of course classical sciences propensity for viewing a present state in its environmental context persisted down throughout the centuries. (Phil Myrick, Power of Place, 2011). He goes on; We see Placemaking as one solution to these problems. ‘Placemaking is the nexus between sustainability and livability: by making our communities more livable, and more about places, we also are doing the right thing for the planet. Placemaking provides concrete actions and results that boost broader sustainability goals such as smart growth, walkability, public transportation, local food, and bikes, yet brings it home for people in tangible, positive ways. We feel it is important to give people a proactive approach to sustainability in their hometowns. Creating lively town centres and neighbourhoods that enhance pride of place and promote local economic development is critical to improving local quality of life as well as quality of the environment. In fact, we can reinvent entire regions starting from the heart of local communities and building outwards’.
However in Winifred Gallagher’s book The Power of Place, ( 1993, Possidon Press USA), there is a strong echo of Jung’s ‘cosmic & social isolation’, Gallagher reinforces the need to stay in touch with our environment, especially for city dwellers who tend to be overwhelmed with intellectual stimulation and lack stimulation from nature. She too feels we need to find a place that is removed from the ‘facts of civilisation’ Gallagher claims, “So yes, we do need that trip to the countryside once in a while”. She goes further to hope for a change in a later work; “In the future I’m planning on searching within the field of architectural psychology. I want to know how urban planning, architecture and interior design affect us. I’ll be looking at academic works but also at other philosophical or spiritual concepts such as the Asian Chi”.
Hippocrates too observed that our well-being is affected by our settings –( The Hippocratic treatise Airs, Waters, Places served as a template for viewing the relationships between places, health, disease, and the physical and mental constitutional nature of people and nations up to the early twentieth century. Central to this conception of the body and its environment is the perception of causal connections between a place Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies) so this is not a new concept. This writer has oftimes observed that in Northern Ireland the richer, “settled” communities that were ‘given’ the best land in the valleys became introspective and dour while the native people were left to settle the hills and upper poorer land. These produced far great percentage of thinkers and visionaries not to mention musicians and
poets of note. People who could see farther than their own microcosm.
On a lighter note; from Bryon, A.T. Don Juan, “What men call gallantry and gods adultery is so much more common where the climate’s sultry”.
Many others have had difficulties with a ‘Sense of Place’ too;
“I am here, and here is nowhere in particular” Golding William, The Spire,
“There is no mysterious essence we can call a ‘place’. Place is change. It is motion killed by the mind, and preserved in the amber of memory.” Baker, J. A. , The Peregrine
“The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
Winifred Gallagher, The Power of Place, Harper Perennial, 1994.
[i] Les Reveries du Promeneur Solitaire;
I used to sit on the beach by the lakeside in some hidden refuge. There, the sound of the waves and the stirring of the water held my senses still, drove out of my mind all other kinds of agitation, and immersed it in a delightful reverie. Night often crept upon me without my noticing…