Historically, I have been among the intuitively impared. My linear, rational, analytical abilities have tended to dominate my psyche. I have often ignored my perceptive abilities out of my compulsion to take reality, esp. people, "at face value." No wonder my girlfriends are generally intuitive, non-linear thinkers, well versed in a spontaneous approach to life.
Increasingly, I am learning to place my hyperactive brain on the shelf, to look within and simply see, without needing to explain or figure out. And, interestingly enough, this has expanded my capacity for reason. My scope is broader, my ability distinguish is sharper, and the peace in my being has become predominant.
My mind is more and more a tool at my disposal rather than then the holder of the reigns. Now, I am applying it to my current predicament of searching for a new home, and my critical faculties are in full swing. In case you live in one of these places, forgive me. I am not trying to be balanced in my assesment. But know that I have had a wonderful time with wonderful people in these truely remarkable cities (the only three in the world I'm considering, in fact! ;0)
I have come up with a one word summary for each:
Chico - comfort
Eugene - apathy
Portland - hedonism
Chico is beautiful. The downtown is warm and welcoming and Bidwell park (the nations 18th largest city park in a city that doesn't even rank in the biggest 300 cities) cuts all the way to it's edge. The neighborhoods surrounding downtown are full of small streets, and cute little houses. But despite a majority of greens and progressives on the Chico city council for most of the last ten years suburban development continues rapidly. Still, there is an enforced tree ordinance (developers must leave a certain number of trees per acerage.) There is a strong anit-war/peace and justice movement, and there is a strong sense of community, in the broader sense. But there are only two place-based, residental communities, plus a number of "hippie flophouses." Energy for change is high, and there is liberally minded affluence to support it. But affluence is dangerous - I doubt many people would actually be willing to make significant changes to their lifestyle.
Eugene has a strong sense of mutual support. My guess is that the cities urban food production per capita is one of the highest in the nation. Affluence is low - you could probably call the area economically depressed. But this is by choice for many. There is a strong "make-do with less" sensability out of a desire to escape the rat race and live more sustainably. Were I to seriously predict a major collapse of western civilization in the coming years, Eugene is probably the place I would go. I think people would come together really fast. The potential to create a strong network of mutual support and social welfare is striking. Yet without external motivation people seem content to focus on their particular interests and their particular social scene. Somehow the benefits of increased integration seem recognized yet not worth it. I wonder how possible it would be to galvanize people.
If I decided I could take living in a big city, Portland would be it. It is home of City Repair, an organization focused on humanizing the public urban environment. Tryon Life Community Farm offers a rural, communal living option within the city limits. Love Tribe creates community-based, touch-positive events. Alternative building is apparently big business here for new houses and renovations. Music and art is a big deal. But it's a city, and most people seem primarily focused on living their hip, groovy, individual lifestyles. If that includes being eco and community oriented, cool, but that's more a byproduct then a fundamental driver. Diversity is strong, but so is gentrification. It's just big (and it's not even that big comparatively)! A single person or organization could only have so much influence, and the architecture of a large city means to much diffusion to allow those influences to generate collective momentum.
I've reached the obvious conclusion - no where is perfect, and if I decide to move to one of these cities the choice of which (and the choice of this region in the first place) will be largely arbitrary. It will be, at best, an informed guess as to what would be the "best place for me to be," if such a thing exists.
Well, so much for reason. At least I'm enjoying the process...