One of my central ideas about Beta Culture, about creating it, is that every culture on Earth, past and present, is potential source material for designing our own unique cultural environment. We can borrow, copy, or just outright steal ideas and ways of doing from any and every culture.
Borrow cultural goodies from the Mormons. Steal from the Catholics. Copy good stuff from the Romans, the Shakers, the Japanese, the Italians, the Navajo. Borrow, copy, steal … and make it ours.
If you’ve been reading these posts on Beta Culture, you’ve probably come across me making the point that culture is basically “This is how my people do things” — the real-world customs and traditions, actions and attitudes of a self-identified People.
Religion — the formalized way of relating to the supernatural — is a subset of culture, I think you’d agree, and most cultures throughout human history have had religion at or near their hearts. The most basic argument for the creation of Beta Culture is that we haven’t yet had a culture that has NOTHING of religion or faith, the supernatural or mystical, about it … and that this is worth doing.
The Nexus, a church-like meeting place which is nothing like a church, is one of the central ideas to creating this new culture.
Speaking of which, there are several repurposed former churches here in Schenectady. One, a beautiful modern church near downtown, now houses a graphic design firm. Another, also downtown, is home to an acting company. Within just a few blocks of my house, there’s a VACANT church, with another vacant-looking one about a mile away.
Given my choice, I would steal the hell out of the “church” idea, and create — in some of these old churches — a Nexus in every major town in the United States. Of course Nexus would have nothing at all to do with religion or unsupported belief, everything to do with enhancing the culture and interactions and freedoms of Beta community members.
I wrote briefly about repurposing a former government office compound here: Beta Culture: A Community Nexus.
The [facility] features interconnected buildings with 10-foot-wide hallways, including a full-sized gymnasium with locker rooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and even its own bowling alley. Plus cafes, lounges and common areas scattered throughout. Not to mention 600-space parking, and this sweet, sweet, feature: a full-sized commercial kitchen with industrial-sized ovens, which just screams on-site restaurant and bakery!
Tell me that doesn’t sound like the ultimate headquarters of an evil genius bent on world domination. Or, you know, the central nexus of a growing, worldwide social organization aimed at making the world a better place for everybody living on it.
So say there was this community center owned by Betas — atheists — with all sorts of interior goodies for unbelievers. What might some of those things be?
1) A meeting place where members can get together for planning, for discussion, for socializing.
2) A public freethinker library and reading room, for community outreach and proselytizing.
3) A media center and digital lab for creating online and printed support media.
4) A coffee house for networking among local college students.
5) A child care facility and preschool for working Beta parents.
6) Classroom(s) for teaching Beta ideas and values, among other things.
7) At least one small apartment for visiting atheist/freethinker speakers.
This all probably seems a bit utopian, but I see it as desirable, and even do-able. Every organization, no matter how large, starts somewhere small, with an idealized plan that one day — given the investment of enough time and effort and good ideas by the people who want to see it happen — becomes the reality.
Or, you know, it fails and vanishes.
But the truth is, a certain amount of blue-sky optimism at the outset is the only way anything EVER happens.