Every place has a spirit — an overarching attitude, an image of itself and its values permeating through every person, faction, or activity.
Some cities are full of people proud to live there (Vancouver, Manhattan, Tokyo). Other cities, like Jackson, have a population largely disenfranchised with their home. “Last one out of Jackson, turn out the lights.” The mistake in a town like Jackson is to blame the infrastructure and the amenities for the “spirit of the city.” The thinking goes that “if we just had better government/ education/jobs/protection/parks/shops, then we could feel good about our town.” But those things won’t fix the spirit. You can, however, heal the world if you’ve got the right spirit.
All our squabbling about which things to fix misses the point that, even if we fix our idols—reclaiming our heritage as an historical midwestern town, revitalizing Michigan Avenue into a hub of activity, attracting young entrepreneurs to launch new ventures—we will not have addressed our spiritual malaise.
The people who love Jackson all have something in common. They are all grounded in something other than Jackson. They don’t need Jackson to be lovely in order to love it. They’re lovers and would love their city regardless of whether it was in Siberia, Madagascar, or mid-Michigan.
We must learn to love our city because we’re lovers, not because it’s lovely.