In his best selling book “Care Of The Soul”, Thomas Moore observes that: “Relatedness is a signal of soul. By allowing the sometimes vulnerable feelings of relatedness, soul pours into life.”
It was this sentence that inspired reflection upon the soul of Nashville this holiday season. What happens when little by little the qualities that imbue a community with its’ uniqueness vanish and at what cost?
The evaporation and disintegration of a city’s soul can be gradual, subtle and to some, invisible. Much like an unsuspecting frog placed in a pot of room temperature water and slowly brought to boil, its seems Nashville is extinguishing some of what has made it a wonderful place to live for decades.
The latest announcement to eliminate the 10-minute parking spaces at the Nashville Airport is merely one--seemingly insignificant--indicator of the city’s loss of soul.
BNA is one of few major airports in the country where one has the opportunity to greet a loved one outside baggage claim. On any given day, hundreds—maybe thousands--of people arriving are greeted by family, friends or business associates who are able to say: “I’ll be waiting for you out front”.
There has always been something very hospitable and 'uniquely Nashville' about the convenience and beauty of this kind of reception. And most visitors are pleasantly surprised and relieved upon discovering a familiar face sitting on the bumper of a vehicle with the trunk popped awaiting their arrival.
Over the years it’s been a privilege to observe families and friends carrying banners for sons and daughters in the armed forces or returning from a honeymoon or Grandparents meeting grandchildren for the first time. And it's impossible to quantify the profundity of strangers shedding tears of joy for one another during an intimate moment of reunion.
Several years ago, while in the midst of chemotherapy, a dear friend flew in to care for me. Feeling rather weak and vulnerable, it was comforting to park just outside baggage claim and wait. Knowing I was self-conscious about the recent involuntary loss of hair, my friend walked out of the airport wearing a ridiculous fake baldhead piece. I fell to my knees laughing and as I looked around a few security guards and dozens of travelers nearby were laughing with me and applauding her antics. And in that moment it seemed there was recognition and healing--amongst total strangers.
It is difficult to accept that Nashville has actually 'grown' (or devolved) into a place that places greater value on profits than people. And yet it appears that is what’s happened.
As part of a $240 million, five-year capital improvement project, the airport plans to get rid of the diagonal short-term parking spots outside baggage claim in mid-2016. How many dollars will fill the coffers as a result is unknown but it appears that economics takes precedence over quality of life.
Most Nashvillians know (and complain incessantly) about our ‘soul killing’ traffic. Those of us who have been here for decades grieve weekly as more and more cranes appear and historical landmarks become invisible. Combine that with increasingly congested streets all over the city--with little hope for improvement--and you’ve got some unhappy campers longing for ‘the good ole days’.
According to Moore, it is the intangible characteristics integral to the spirit of a community which also create its’ soulfulness. And while growth and change are not inherently negative, the degeneration seems to occur in spite of well-meaning attempts to improve, modernize and 'advance'--with little regard for community impact. And for many Nashvillians, it feels as though there is increasingly less regard for the characteristics that made our city attractive enough to inspire ten of thousands to follow their hearts compass and relocate in Middle Tennessee over the last couple decades.
Perhaps we’ve grown accustomed to a bottom line society wherein what makes economic sense overrides all other considerations. Is it possible that the elimination of the 10-minute parking space is symptomatic (and a perfect example) of what is eroding the soul of our beloved City? Are we to accept the current trend which seems to suggest that what connects us is less important than financial gain?
As someone (very popular and wise) once said: 'For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt 16:25-26 (KJV)
Whatever the answer, sadly when we Nashvillians say: “ya’ll come back now” we also must inform you that the next time “we won’t be waiting for you.”
Molly Secours is a writer, filmmaker who probably thinks too much but has big dreams of a loving world. She may be reached at: Mollysecours@gmail.com