Uncanny Cliffs

This morning, the rather skilled Loren Eaton poked me about Manchester’s Beetham Tower. His post is embedded below, and my thoughts follow.

Cities are creatures of stone, speaking in noise, shape, and colour, as humans speak in noise, shape, and colour. Just as we might have feelings about a person because of their accent, their stance, or other facets of their presentation, so we take our sense of buildings not from their utility but from their acoustics, architecture, and other visceral aesthetics.

In this way, a person might as easily be scared of certain cities as of certain people without conscious cause, might as easily be urbanist as racist.

Or trip on one of the myriad other hidden edges in interaction.

I have taken many holidays in the North of England and over my several years of court advocacy visited many northern towns and cities. And across these journeys I have found many hidden gems, both tangible and ineffable. I have enjoyed myself. But I have never fully enjoyed a trip to Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, or other cities of the area. My most spiritual experiences collapse while I am rising. The common feeling of strangers is pushed back by a sense of murk.

Not because these cities are cold; I feel no such oddity in York. Or because they are densely urban; I feel no such oddity in Bristol. Or because of any defining difference.

But because they are not different enough. The buildings loom neither as familiar walls nor as cliffs to be ascended, but as the sides of some uncanny valley, ever on the verge of being comfort or being adventure yet achieving neither.

Are you unsettled more by the strangeness of new places? Or by the moments they are almost familiar?

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