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The last picture show

May 4, 2011

Encore Video store is closing. Perhaps this seems, to many, like an inevitable, mundane event given our increasing use of free or low-cost video streams and hand-held devices which travel with us.

There truly is no longer a need to stay home to watch something interesting. No need to browse or gather or spend any time in a communal place to learn what others find engaging or valuable. No need for a family movie night selection process.

Most of us are now fully capable of fulfilling our need for entertainment or education with a "virtual IV" of content, anywhere we are.

Not being a television watcher for years, I've spent many an hour lamenting the fact that both adults and children routinely waste precious hours of their lives sitting and watching others doing the living.

Strange then, that I should feel a pang of nostalgia and longing at the closure of a video store.

But, here's the thing.

Encore Video, like the thousands of other neighborhood video stores, was one of the last places in this small town where people came together, outside of church, to see, run into, be influenced by and jointly share, even if by proxy, a sense of connectedness to the people that make up our larger community.

You could argue that the grocery store serves that same purpose, but I'd beg to differ.

At the grocery store, we are focused on a purchase for sustenance.

At Encore, we came to purchase and try-on a world view.

We came to Encore to wander through ideas, viewpoints, fantasies, shared sorrows, inspirational moments, historical lessons and silly romps, savoring the full compendium of human experience - together.

We, without realizing it, were expressing, in public, our need to see one another and to gain a sense of the inner lives of our neighbors, and to acknowledge our own.

And, even if we weren't aware of it at the time, this became an act of community.

We could sneak a peak at the videos in someone else's hands and see their values. We could ask for recommendations, references and reviews. We could gauge our sense of what was important against that of our fellow woman or man.

We could know, by the way in which powerful or popular movies flew off the shelves, how our human compatriots were leaning.

We could glimpse into the heart of strangers who looked like us. We could risk sharing that we cared about what others believed.

The video store, in a very real way, was our most recent attempt to create a human library - a storehouse of communal knowledge. It was a kind of a non-denominational temple, if you will, that still required our personal attendance.

It's true that I prefer the written word. And I am thrilled that our other, more traditional, library is on target to reopen this coming July.

But I must pause, and take note of this other closure in town - the one that now moves us closer to an increasingly personal and short-sighted focus - literally to about 12 inches from our face.

With Encore departing, and many of us now looking down, transfixed on a small black box where we text, Facebook, talk or view, I must acknowledge a ponderous feeling of loneliness that grows ever stronger.

Let me now say farewell, on behalf of myself and our community, to a place we didn't know we loved, and needed, until we lost it.

E-views would like to invite other writers in the community to submit columns for consideration which address the interaction of e-media and everyday life in a small town.

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