People talk often of the busy city street, especially in regard to New York City, assuming this translates to complexity. But cities are simple. An elegance keeps the taco maker in the taco truck, the novelist in his hovel, and the billionaire in his corner office. People I know talk about how they wish they knew people in other arenas and call for unity and integration. But as Moltmann said, the only way towards unity is delving deeper into our own tradition. And, I would add, into our own identity. If you want unity between, for instance, urban and rural, you must first acknowledge difference and then move towards those things we have in common. The city, at its best, seeks to do this and so New York coined the phrase “melting pot.” One of my mentors believes America works less like a melting pot and more like a salad bowl. He’s right in part: New Yorkers keep to their buroughs, their hoods, their routines. But it’s this keeping that allows us to steal from one another. It is because the Chinese woman keeps to Brooklyn’s Chinatown and because the Puerto Rican man keeps to Little Puerto Rico that they might meet in Sunset Park, fall in love, and give birth to an interracial baby that looks Filipino. And it’s also a lack of this keeping that unveils the beautiful complexity of the tiny town and shows why break up in a small town is a beehive, kicked.
The simplicity of keeping helps you because it relieves the pressure from relationships. You need pressure-less in a transient place like New York. You meet people in one environment and want to add the circles you share slowly. Keeping to our spaces prevents complex relationships. And relationships are messy enough so it helps us to ease into them. The Taco Truck Guy is only that to me. But what if he could be more?
Well, in a small town, the Taco Truck Guy could be everything. He could be mayor. He could be a future senator. He could be an actor that leaves and comes back. He could be my crack dealer. He could be anything and therefore is anything but my Taco Truck Guy. I see through his Tacos to his potential or his usefulness to me and therefore whatever he does in a tiny town, I cannot let him simply serve me tacos. He’s a Taco Truck Guy who’s’ everything to me and therefore nothing to me as even a generic taco truck guy. Which is another kind of fallacy.
As Emerson said, the city is recruited from the country. In New York are dozens of men and women from the towns and shires and slums of every country in our world, all come to bring a piece of home to a new and magical place filled with wonder that dwarfs you, that shows you you’re nothing. But they come from places where everybody is everything. See in a small town, the burden of society is shared by fewer people. Granted, you need less things, but still basic infrastructure to get even a tiny town up and running could mean your girlfriend is the daughter of the only sewer inspector, the niece of the only pharmacist, the sister of the only basketball referee, the protégé of the local sensei, and the babysitter of the mayor. The moment you break up with her, you not only affect your relationship with those basic parts of life — sewage, medicine, sports, mentorship, and government. You affect all of the relationships connected to those relationships. That’s why break up in a small town is a beehive, kicked. Remember the mayor in Gilmore Girls? Remember Lorelai’s breakups?
Remember how Luke and Lorelai partnered up to subvert both of those?
That complexity could be leveraged for the small town business owner, the small town nonprofit runner, the tiny town artist, or even the single person looking to avoid a break up in a small town. But to leverage it, you need to follow the noise.
Or make some noise.
What’s unique to small towns and tiny towns? Streets are never noisy. Quiet streets — certainly quiet downtown streets — are actually a problem. Sure, if you want quiet, get a farmhouse. But the point of a city is that’s where the people are. Noise can help you and noise can be leveraged to help those connected to you. As you might see in my friend Shawn Willis‘ film Urban Century, vertical real estate has a compounding effect that the sprawling big box retailers can never achieve. Noise and vertical density actually helps a city generate revenue because where the people are, there are the jobs and the shops and the houses. The taller you go, the noisier it gets, the more revenue and culture and relationship you can cram into a small space. It’s why main streets all across the country have grown exponentially in recent years: suburbia is this unsustainable false compromise between the tiny town and the big city. Surburbia actually cuts out the beautiful complexity of a tiny town and cuts out the power of a city to offer one job or identity — and only one job or identity — to any given patron or client.
If you’re a business owner in a tiny town, one option is to make the pull of your magnet so strong that people come into your story anyways through product, atmosphere, and so on. That’s actually really hard to do unless you’re offering something no one else offers like third wave coffee in a town of McDonald’s or if you have the budget for global products like an iPhone or a Tesla.
The other option is to create a noisy street through big events that drive them into your quiet space.
That seems counter-intuitive, but the truth is that the most successful businesses, nonprofit ventures, and relationship generators in any tiny town focus on this. It’s a massive revival at a church. It’s a demolition derby at a county fair. It’s a basketball tournament or a prom at the local high school. The key is to bring the noise to you and therefore to bring the beautiful complexity of the small town to you. Because the safest place in a kicked behive is the nest of the queen.
I’m not telling you to strive for power, influence, wealth, and fleeting pleasures.
I’m simply saying that if you’re worried about break up in a small town or if you’re worried about what the beautiful complexity of a tiny town would do to you because everyone knows you, then use that alleged weakness as an advantage. Be honest about who you are — your faults, your past, everything they could use against you. Then move forward in authenticity to bring their complex relationships together in an event shaped around your goal.
Because sometimes the behive, kicked, attacks the outsider.
And sometimes the behive, kicked, is deployed by the insider.
It just depends on where you’re standing and whether you see this beautiful complexity of a tiny town as a weakness or a strength. And break up in a small town doesn’t have to be hard if you’re honest, integrated, kind, and gentile.