San Francisco always seems imaginary to me. Unlike many of my friends I’ve never felt the urge to move here because it would be like asking to live in a daydream: beautiful and otherworldly but insubstantial. But then, the digital worlds that we build of which Silicon Valley is the spiritual home are no more than the myths that we create together. Substantial things, tangible results, and the conditions of people’s lives really can be affected by that which most people would consider to be imaginary or illusory. (As a lapsed anthropologist this doesn’t surprise me–much of what we think of as ‘culture’ could be looked at as rules for living which are arbitrary but not without meaning. In other words, culture is made of imaginary things.)
When I arrived in San Francisco this time my mind was aswirl with the tragic events and human suffering straining the globe. Many schools of theology and philosophy agree that suffering is universal, but right now seems to be a very keen time for people experiencing suffering in the particular.
I went for a walk. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day with San Francisco’s rolling hills cradling its unique eclectic architecture. I found myself strolling along the Panhandle and into Golden Gate park where cedar and eucalyptus trees diffused their sanctifying scent over me as their boughs shook in the wind against a cloudless sky. More than ever I felt like I was strolling through the dream of a place rather than a material location. How far removed that sunlit glade was from shadow and despair.
Later that evening I went to the final performances of a Dance Hack Day that I’d read about. Teams who had been working together for a day presented the outcomes of their technical and artistic partnerships. People from all kinds of disciplines, with all kinds of skill sets, worked together across time zones and national borders to create work that was both ephemeral and perpetual. This is the kind of work that really inspires me. I took comfort in this reminder of what we can achieve together. This is a dream that I can believe in; one that I could devote my support to making real.