Friday, June 12, 2009

Ghost Towns

Funny how peculiar old phrases can take on new meanings as we consider them from new perspectives. Ghost town is one of these.

The familiar understanding of this term is a town that once was flourishing, but now is abandoned. No one lives or works there any more. One day when its main industry went out of business or went away, so did the entire population. Except, of course, if they have a caretaker or two who serve as tour guides if the place has now promoted itself as a tourist attraction.

Old gold rush towns fit this description, as do old railroad towns, mining towns or mill towns.

We have a slightly different understanding of the term haunted house, which usually has a more sinister connotation. Often the references to these are about people who died tragic deaths there. So in a funny way, we have differentiated between a ghost town and a ghost house.

Both are about the need to move on. The individual spirit needs to move on from the place where they were murdered or died in an accident. In a ghost town, some of the same may be necessary, but there is also a collective hold on our imagination. Probably a lot of people who visit ghost towns assure themselves that abandoned towns are a thing of the past and that we would not make those same mistakes again. But, of course, history does repeat itself. When major employers leave a town, those who remain have to do something to create new work if they are going to continue to live there.

Ghosts try and hang on to what was, but in order to survive and thrive, we must look toward what can be and what we would like to have happen, and then move toward it. Visions of the past are instructive and serve to raise our consciousness to new levels of possibility.

We have to consider what kind of world we want to live in, rather than focusing on what kind of world we used to live in. It is good to appreciate the past. Then we need to use the lessons of the past to help create our future.

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