Berlin and the sea

I love this passage from Yi-Fu Tuans Space and Place. The Perspective of Experience:

“What is space? Let an episode in the life of the theologian Paul Tillich focus the question so that it bears on the meaning of space in experience. Tillich was born and brought up in a small town in eastern Germany before the turn of the century. The town was medieval in character. Surrounded by a wall and administered from a medieval town hall, it gave the impression of a small, protected, and self-contained world. To an imaginative child it felt narrow and restrictive. Every year, however young Tillich was able to escape with his family to the Baltic Sea. The flight to the limitless horizon and unrestricted space of the seashore was a great event. Much later Tillich chose a place on the Atlantic Ocean for his days of retirement, a decision that undoubtedly owed much to those early experiences. As a boy Tillich was also able to escape from the narrowness of small-town life by making trips to Berlin. Visits to the big city curiously reminded him of the sea. Berlin, too, gave Tillich a feeling of openness, infinity, unrestricted space. Experiences of this kind make us ponder anew the meaning of a word like “space” or “spaciousness” that we think we know well.”

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