Carl Gustave Jung the great psychiatrist once said that one of the negative aspects of modernity was the anonymity that was bought to peoples lives when they lived in huge cities which overpowers the human spirit and reduces the individuals role to that of an ant. He said that the heritage of humans is the scale of the hunting group, the tribe, the village and the small town. His point is that for our psychological health we need to live somewhere that is small enough for us to 'know' and be 'known'. We need a place where we rub shoulders with the familiar and the known - where our humanity is enhanced and developed amongst friends and acquaintances - a place that humanises rather than dehumanises - where we can become someone with a name and a face rather than a cypher.
I was thinking about this when I drove down the hill turned left to head down the harbour and saw to my immediate right that the circus had come to town again - A huge circus tent only one minute away from where I live. As I drove to work I pondered on the human scale and convenience of the city of Whangarei.
My workplace is a pleasant 20 minute drive with the shining Whangarei harbour on my right.
My yacht is 4 minutes drive away. I can be on board in 10 minutes.
Revas Pizzas to die for Restaurant is 3 minutes away.
Parks and walking tracks are close to the city centre or within easy reach of town.
The library, the shopping centre, swimming pool, hospital and all the other amenities of a small town are all within 5 - 10 minutes drive.
The coast and its many stunning beaches are about 30 minutes away by car.
The downside of course is that it doesn't have the huge choice and depth of choice of a city such as New Zealands biggest city of Auckland - and Whangarei can't match London or New York for international sophistication and excitement. Nor is it a crossroads to other foreign countries and cultures close by on a shared border. It is too much of a backwater for that - BUT as I found out in 2006 you can purchase a ticket, clamber aboard a 747 and go and have a look at all those other very nice places.
Whangarei is fairly typical of New Zealand. Outside of the four main population centres of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, most of the country is made up of small towns
- places where, when the circus comes to town, it is only a short drive there and back and where when you sit waiting for the show to start, you scan the audience, and you see many people that you know and many that you have never met, but are familiar to you in the way that faces are when you live in a small town. You know and you are known.