People are compelled to gather. We are compelled to have time alone and in small groups, and we are also compelled to gather in large and huge groups. And we build spaces and places in our cities to do so. This is a characteristic of how we live as a species.
Last night I was struck by how we gather to listen to live music in the thousands despite our easy access to the music. Recently the only way to hear and enjoy others’ music was live, with the musician right in front of you. Radio, television, records, tapes, CDs and itunes have not dampened our interest in gathering to hear music live. And the spaces we have created for this very activity still serve this impulse. They are critical to our very being.
Having places to gather en mass are a feature in every community/town/city I have experienced. Not necessarily for everyone to gather – those who are attracted to the invitation to gather show up. And we build bigger and bigger spaces for gathering as we need to, be it hockey arenas, concert halls, open spaces in front of city hall and the provincial legisture, and expansive open green spaces. We use the spaces to gather to protest, enjoy culture, have a celebration, watch sports, raise money, hang out with families and friends, and just be with other people.
Ultimately these massive places are a place where we look after each other, whether the community hall in a rural town or the convention centre in a city. At a concert we are feeding our cultural identity and sorting out how we make our way through the world as individuals and as a collective. The same is happening when we gather to protest the decisions of our elected officials. In times of crisis we gather to hold one another, to hear news of what is happening or what to do next. We create places for the commons to nourish our souls. They help us thrive as a people.
From last night’s mass gathering to hear Death Cab for Cutie at Edmonton’s Shaw Convention Centre (from ‘The Sound of Settling’:
If you’ve got an impulse let it out
A city’s impulse? To gather its people and host them well.