Happy Equinox (I think): another day, yes, another Beltline meeting. This one is the Northeast Study Area.
I went primarily because I have been involved in the Northeast a little bit, although I live in the Northwest side of Atlanta, and because I wanted to hear again what the Meeting Coordinator was supposed to do, since I was selected as the Northside M.C. (that sounds like a good rap name for me - M.C. Northside).
Anyway, the high point of the meeting occurred for me during the stakeholder values identification, when people were supposed to call out those ideas or values they most want to see in the Beltline, and someone from the back of the room called out, in a heavy accent, "Zen parks."
"Zen parks?," the facilitator asked.
"Yes, Zen parks," the person repeated. I turned around to see what Zen Master had come to this meeting, but did not recognize him. He went on talking, but with his thick accent it was hard to understand him - the meeting facilitator was having problems, too. But as he was going on explaining himself, I heard "like in Las Vegas."
I didn't know they had public Zen parks in Las Vegas. I've heard the city's been through a lot of changes, but I didn't know they included public Zen parks. But it slowly dawned on the facilitator and I that he was saying "theme parks," and not "Zen parks," and no one was sure if he was serious or not (theme parks are a far cry from any vision of the Beltline articulated by anyone so far).
But what a great idea - Zen parks! That's exactly what the Beltline needs, and I'm not being ironic here. A 22-mile loop of transit, parks and trails connecting high-density commercial, retail and residential development, interspersed with quiet and reflective Zen spots where the busy commuters, shoppers and residents can come, pause, and take a moment to find themselves before diving back into the fray.
There has been to date no spiritual dimension to the Beltline plans - no proposed chapels, no historic cathedrals to be preserved, and Praise Be His Name, no mega-churches. It's ripe for proposing Zen parks!
I knew there was a reason that I got involved in this.