During some recent travel, I chanced to stay in a brand new hotel near a major American city. There was nothing extraordinary about the place. I had no complaints. The hotel was comfortable and clean and these are evidently things that must be appreciated.
However, what bothered me was the fact that it was not connected to any one place. It was as if a giant helicopter had dropped the whole building into a space and called it Hotel #341 and that further down the highway an identical building was airlifted to a similar space and called Hotel #342.
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As I looked out my window, this impression was confirmed by a patch of mangled trees and brush that seemed to reflect the impact of the dropped hotel. There was no attempt to connect this wild area to the well-manicured lawn that surrounded the hotel. There were no landmarks, save the highway in the distance, to help identify where I was. Hotel #341 could be anywhere.
Inside Hotel #341, I felt as though I was in a pod insulated from the rest of the world. The rooms were hermetically sealed; the windows would not open. My room was nearly identical to those around me. All had the same decorations and supplies. In all the rooms, one could find those same meaningless modern art pictures that have no connection to the locale. I looked in vain for something that would distinguish my room from any other in this hotel or from the whole chain of hotels down the highway. Save for a local directory of restaurants (many of them featuring identical chain restaurants) and other useful places, I could not find any references to anything.
There is, however, a way out of Hotel #341. On the wall is mounted a huge portal that takes you out. This is the flat screen television with a remote that gives the resident the power to view hundreds of stations. Thus, it might be argued, the person can break away from the artificial world of Hotel #341 and vicariously experience an immense variety of entertainments. However, it must be noted that although there are many choices available, these choices are also all identical to the choices found in any nearby hotel.
Again it must be stressed that my stay was not uncomfortable. The staff was polite and helpful. Save for its sameness, there was nothing memorable about my stay.
Something obviously was missing. I did not sense that spontaneous and organic element that enters into things and delights the human spirit by their distinctness and novelty. I did not find that connection to a locale that makes the wide world a marvelous and adventurous place, full of variety and beauty. I found Hotel #341, forever the same, forever nowhere.
If we are to return to order, we will need to reconnect with the places around us. We will need to insert the human element back into the economy and go beyond mass standardization. Despite all its comforts, we must check out of Hotel #341.
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