Re: Religion in our City

04/07/17 - posted by Paul Judge

Pat, yours is a good question, one that geographers, sociologists, and cultural anthropologists encompass. And that historian/archivists like Nicole Meldahl shall one day document.

Those of us who grew up in major urban areas during mid-century times recall distinct neighborhoods where first and second generations of immigrant, ethnic populations dominated. As has been noted on this board in past discussions close bonds and identity of those neighborhoods insulated and affirmed cultural identity. Eventually younger generations assimilated into a larger society that offered innovation and opportunity. We descendants moved away from the city into the suburbs that offered other qualities of life. New immigrants and as you sometimes put it ‘else-whereans’ moved into familiar vacant spaces. The legacy and identity of neighborhoods diluted as earlier populations thinned in numbers or moved elsewhere. Concurrent with all of that has been the pace of technological change affecting the boundaries of our personal horizons. Accelerated changes in transportation, upward mobility, mass media and popular culture has acted upon our social deportment.

Many of us grew up in communities knit together and closely monitored by family elders, parish priests, school nuns and brothers, rabbis, ministers, and strictures of what once were the quite tight (and frankly unequal) limits of social behavior and opportunity. I’m not surprised that we elders may sometimes feel rattled by ‘Future Shock’ to borrow from the title of Alfred Toffler’s 1970 book about "too much change in too short a period of time”.

During the oil embargo of 1974 that gripped the nation in panic five compadres and I drove with our professor to hear an address by anthropologist Margaret Mead at Wheeler Hall at UC Berkeley. It was a standing room only affair. This small bent fabled woman stepped away from the microphone at the podium and stood propped by her polished gnarled, curved walking stick. She spoke so that you could hear a pin drop. Among the things she said the following made an indelible impression upon me. Ours is the only society where in the fabric of daily life the generations are intentionally isolated > youngsters off to schools > parents away to jobs > elders segregated to retirement communities. She asked us to imagine life without the automobile, the refrigerator, and television. We’d live closer together again; we’d touch the soil and grow more of our food; and once more we’d talk story, read, and make music together!

There have always been oracles observing the end is nigh due to blah, blah, blah. We could listen to 18th Century French philosopher Francois de la Rouchefoucauld
“Old men like to offer good advice, in order to console themselves for no longer being in a position to give bad examples.”

But, I’ll end this for now while whistling Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia’s song, “Touch of Grey”.

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