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Yin and Yang and You and Me

The Founders incorporated Agincourt at at time when Transcendental perspectives held sway. At the core of its original townsite was a three-part organization, each zone reflecting a co-equal aspect of the human condition; I wonder sometimes if seven years’ distance from the origin of the project has given me any insight to those earliest decisions—or whether viewing at speed and seeing it in a rearview mirror has distorted my perception, everything reversed, in quick retreat.

Memory can be selective. Perhaps it has to be.

The town center consists of two Midwestern squares, three hundred feet on a side, east and west of Broad Street like civic saddlebags. To the east is The Commons; on the west, The Square. The Commons is Yin; dark, receding, passive, feminine, and politically incorrect today. The Square is Yang; light, advancing, active, masculine (and, in isolation, equally incorrect, I suppose). As a Daoist notion, though, they are not two separate entities—like good and bad—but a whole, the unified landscape of mountain and valley. My reading of Eastern philosophies is fractured, incomplete, wanting depth, needing more.  I apologize.

As citizens, our lives take place in both domains. On weekend afternoons and weekday evenings, The Commons is scattered with people strolling, lying on the grass, reading in the shade of old trees, feeding koi in the pond, alone together; it is as casual a place as The Square is an ordered one. For there you will find the city’s other side, its pride; its flags and alphabetical lists of ultimate sacrifice. If one is estrogen, the other testosterone. Don’t make me choose.

Farther east and west are two larger polygonal blocks . Right of The Commons is (or, rather, was) the site of The Academy, space many would-be towns provided for an educational institution beyond or more properly outside the standard publicly-supported system. Such a site was generally offered to anyone willing to build such an academy. Ours was established just before the Civil War as Bishop Kemper Academy, a day and boarding school for young women, operated by the Protestant Episcopal Church and named for Jackson Kemper, first and only missionary bishop of the northwest. Institutions like Kemper Academy afforded an aura of status and stability, but most failed after only a few years, a couple decades at most. A detailed history of Kemper has yet to be written.

If the Academy represents the ancient Greek ideal of mind or intellect, then it was meant to be balanced by the courthouse block west of The Square. There the Founders acknowledged the body, our physical presence and its spatial needs. Deeds of property are recorded here, marriages licensed; breached contracts mediated, transgressions litigated, lost lives honored. Oaths taken. Flags saluted. Votes cast.

With Body and Mind safely set in place for all to see, they are framed—bracketed—by the parentheses of Spirit, the third of humanity’s facets. There you find the Church Blocks: four sites awarded by lottery to the city’s earliest spiritual institutions. They were churches* at the outset, but later joined by temples and mosques and meeting rooms where our spiritual welfare has been discussed, debated, deployed, debunked.

*Five denominations lobbied for four lots—Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist—but since then there have been a dozen more.

manx

Here, now, I find the Daoist Yin-Yang less than required, and the Manx come happily to my rescue. Their triskelion has Bronze Age origins and fits more neatly with my understanding of the triune Greek notion of MindBodySpirit that might have guided the Founders in their plan.

How many of Agincourt’s citizens today understand this, see this as I do?


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