Meeting Places
About Meeting kinship Meeting nature Meeting conflict Meeting god
Dunwich: vision of a meeting place (Justin Todd)
From 'Men of Dunwich by Rowland Parker, Granada (1978)

It did not take long for me to realise that my random collision with Suffolk in the early 1980s might run deeper than a one-off scientific project. The first mental alert came when I read in Rowland Parker's book 'Men of Dunwich' that one, William Belamy, together with twenty other mariners of Dunwich, withheld his taxes as a protest against the chronic inefficiency of the town's government. This minor local rebellion happened in 1287. The possibility of Suffolk being a family meeting place could not be ignored when I learned that at this time Kemps (my mother's family) were Domesday property holders in the town and surrounding countryside.  Now, after decades spent unravelling many skeins of family history, starting with the birth of my grandfather Kemp in Aldeburgh a few miles from Dunwich, I can see that the Bellamy connection was through the Flemmings, who came to East Anglia in the 13th century in the pay of the Count of Flanders. The Kemps had arrived much earlier from Normandy and were established as henchmen of the local Suffolk aristocracy prior to the Norman Conquest.
Now, it still surprises me to think that I lived for so much of my life without roots in family and place, although I have always had a keen interest in history. With respect to place, the question 'Where do you come from?' has to mean something again. These days people live everywhere, which is the same as living nowhere. Like a vitamin deficiency, a contact deficiency with one's ancestors weakens the body, the mind, and the spirit. In fact, it strikes me that the great challenge of our times is to rebuild connection into our self- conscious lives by reaching out to others and by being part of something larger than ourselves.
Connectedness has to be the key to living a full and rounded life. The problem is much larger than family. Modern physics recognizes the whole universe as a web of dynamic relationships of which humans are but a tiny outcome. It is within this grand cosmic perspective that a capacity signal out special places to make connections was crucial to launch the primal religions of indigenous peoples. In a practical sense, choosing meeting places to make connections is part and parcel of healing the fundamental disease of our time - the fragmentation of the world and knowledge about it into isolated parts. Piecemeal knowledge is not useful at a time when the real task is to understand and redress the extensive destruction of the life systems of planet Earth brought about by human single- mindedness.
By putting ourselves in the perspective of the rest of reality, human self- consciousness enables us to discover the humiliating truth that the entire world does not revolve around us as human beings, and never has. The moment of recognition comes when we realize that for almost all of geological history humankind has not existed and has thus been irrelevant to the rest of the universe. If in addition we begin to see ourselves, not just as other people see us, but as all the other species of the natural world view us, as just another animal relative, we suddenly find ourselves in a very broad biological perspective. From a religious, and especially a Christian viewpoint, this recognition of our real place in a grand scheme of things provides a dramatic moment of humility and of possible conversion to a way of thinking about ourselves as part of the body of the universe, showing reverence to all life. Above all, we belong to places and places do not belong to us
This is my personal perspective of life, and addresses the three vital ties to place that give our days meaning.  They focus on places in the present where we can make connections with our ancestors and fit these people in the wider context of global history and the cosmos.  For example there are:-
      • Places of landing.
We are by nature a migrant species, and we should mark and celebrate our places of arrival and departure.
      • Places of settlement.
There are some places in every country that have a particular significance for particular groups of people because their ancestors have built kinship networks. 
      • Places of interaction between peoples
So many of our places of historical encounter are hidden in the landscape, with little more than a sign to point to them, if that. Many of these are places of conflict, telling stories that we need to know to understand grievances that have been handed down from generation to generation, but there are others that symbolize cooperation, productivity and friendship.
      • Places of sacred significance
Sacred or holy places are found in different cultures, past and present, all over the world. Such places are frequently marked or embellished by architectural structures and art. In most cases, it can be shown that the sacredness of a place is linked in some way to natural objects and features such trees, stones, water, mountains, caves, and forms in the landscape. It can further be shown that these natural objects and forms lie at the root of the forms and shapes employed to mark or embellish a sacred site.  In this context, my religious standpoint in all this is that the development of modern science has made incredible much of the content of traditional belief of religions based on a supernatural god.  Sacredness and spiritualism without God means that the quest for transcendent living is satisfied in nothing else but genetic demand for inner and outer order that evolved the concepts of 'intelligence', 'love' and 'free being'. Silence and contemplation are not just for monks and nuns, they are natural functions of human biology.
Denis Bellamy, Cardiff, 2000