CITY

DEFINITION

City

A large and densely populated urban area; may include several independent administrative districts

I think it’s fair to say that the modern city is about as far away from our natural state as we could ever get, save perhaps living underground; but on the whole, most people, if not love cities, tolerate them for what they can get out of them.

For starters, there are many employment opportunities, and then on top of that, you have arts, live music, theatre, opera, cinema, big shops, mixed together with seriously high density housing; oh, and maybe the odd park to add a sprinkling of greenery to the city (sort of like they do in an english pub with the adding of a garnish to your meal).

So what else is there, can anyone think of anything I have forgotten?

Let’s recap. We have employment, shops, housing, arts, and somewhere to walk the dog. I think that’ll do for now.

When the first cities started appearing several thousand years ago (built because of the development of agriculture, and man’s ability to specialise), they were tiny affairs compared with today; with perhaps a few thousand people, bartering and trading away – a really vibrant community I am sure. And from those humble beginnings, the modern monster was born. From several thousand, to almost twenty million people in some of the world’s largest cities. Twenty million people, all squashed together in a sprawling concrete metropolis!

And so, as the cities became more and more densely populated, due to the money and power that were being accumulated there, the city planners (I think that may be too grand a title for them) came up with a new way to cram more people in. They built upwards!

After the second world war they cleared the “slum” (a district of a city marked by poverty and inferior living conditions) areas of britain, and replaced them with high rise blocks, which as we will see later, became the new “slums;” and they keep building more, and more, and more.

Don’t complain about it. Celebrate it!

If you look out over your capital city, or if you happen to be on holiday, or on business, take a moment to find a tall structure to go up and have a look at the view. You have to admit that it’s pretty amazing (being up high that is, not the city), as you look down – not because it’s so ugly or the monuments are so beautiful, but because it is man’s testament to himself and to his abilities to create something out of nothing. If you think of all the developments that have taken place over the last hundred years or so, it is nothing short of remarkable.

Cities have now become such amazingly busy places. There is always something going on 24 hours a day, whether it is people dancing the night away in a nightclub, or maintenance men fixing the underground railway – it never stops. Wealth is continually being generated, new art and performances are shown; political and business leaders are continually making decisions; tourists are constantly visiting, and the people are swarming around like flies. Millions of people, commuting in and out of the city every day for work. Deliveries being made.

Everyone is on the move, going somewhere, and it creates a real buzz (excuse the pun) in the city. Everyone looks like they have something important to do, somewhere important to go, busy, busy, busy. They finish their day’s work, and they then sit on a packed train, or even sit in their cars for hours on end in traffic jams! They arrive home, stressed but satisfied; their work is done, until the next day – but at least they have helped to contribute.

Cities also host major sporting events, where visitors from all over the world come to see what is on offer. The city is cleaned up, beggars are flushed into the drains, graffiti is removed; flags go up, prices go up, and the games begin. You couldn’t really imagine holding the olympic games in a small town could you? Only a city is good enough!

But what is a city really? I mean, beneath all the glamour, which is illusion? What is at the heart of the city beneath the fireworks at new year and the culture festivals? Let’s explore this in a little more detail.

The joy of commuting

I used to commute into london on a regular basis. I lived about twenty five miles from the centre, which should take you about thirty minutes to complete in the car (on a sunday), but within minutes of starting my journey, I was stuck on the motorway crawling along at between zero and twenty miles per hour. I would take this opportunity to light a cigarette, drink my takeaway coffee, make a few phone calls (not at the same time you understand!), and listen to a cd. Others would have their papers folded at the wheel, some even doing the crossword; so although the journey could take upwards of two hours, cost a fortune in fuel, and even more in parking; it was worth it.

I was getting fairly well paid, and anyway, I kind of liked the excitement of sitting in the queue, knowing I would be going into the city. I even had a laugh when I used to see a huge sign, painted onto a fence that said “Why do I do this every day!” as we all crawled past it at two miles an hour.

The fun stopped when I started catching the train or the underground into work. There were never any seats available when I got on, and if there were, they were always between two extremely large people, and their bags. But coming home was worst of all, especially in the summer if the air conditioning wasn’t working. We were crammed in like sardines in a can, and you could always guarantee that someone’s sweaty armpit would be stuck in your face. It was always a thoroughly unpleasant journey, whatever the temperature!

One thing I did notice, was that the more expert commuters managed to fold their evening papers in a special way, so they could continue to read them with little hand movement!

Apart from commuting, I liked the city. I liked that my office was on the eleventh floor and I could look out on the people below. I liked the fast elevator that took me up and down in 8.4 seconds. I liked going for a hot sausage and bacon sandwich washed down with a cappuccino before work, going shopping at lunchtime, and I especially liked going out to the pub after work (if I wasn’t driving). It was an exciting time for me, but a lifestyle I couldn’t sustain.

Cities are the same… Everywhere

After a year of commuting, I left my london job on the friday, had a farewell party, and took a taxi home. That was it, no more cities for me; I was off to australia!

I flew out on the sunday, arrived on the monday, but of course, I had forgotten that sydney was a city; and when I walked through the streets, found it to be smaller, somewhat cleaner, but nonetheless, much like london. There were the same shops, the same bars, the same tall apartment buildings, and the same office skyscrapers. There were the usual street buskers and street beggars. The only difference I could see was that they had a nice bridge, over a nice harbour, the weather was good, and the police had guns; other than that, it was the same as any other city.

Over the last few years, I have visited many countries and many cities, and although they all have their own peculiarities and monuments, they all provide the same thing – employment, high density living and entertainment; always mixed in with a sprinkling of greenery.

I would like you to stop and think about your own city, whether you live there or just visit occasionally, and think what you like or dislike about it. Then ask yourself what is at the heart of the city. Some of you may think that the heart of the city is the people, and whilst I would agree that the people make it what it is, I think we may be missing something important here.

You see, during the day, most cities are bustling with people, but I have walked around the city centre of many cities (especially around the business district) late at night, and I can tell you that apart from the homeless, the criminally minded, and the odd party reveller, it is a pretty solitary place.

As the grey walls of the office buildings tower above you, and the pavement stretches out in front of you, it as if all life has left this place, like a deserted city left to rot by the inhabitants. The street lights are a depressing orange; fear creeps in to you, and you begin to wonder who or what might be round the next corner. The warmth of the people has been replaced by cold steel and glass. Concrete abounds. There is no life here. There is no connection with the earth. This is an alien landscape created by man.

Life is sustained at night only by keeping people up dancing, drinking, and being entertained – otherwise there would be no reason to be there. You see, most people don’t live in the center of the city, unless they have plenty of money. Ah, yes, money. Before I forget.

Money: Come and get it if you can

So behind all the glamour, the theatres, the live music venues, the nightclubs, the cinemas and the restaurants; what do we need cities for? Well it’s not for living. We have plenty of space everywhere else for that (something the rich have found out). Cities exist because they are the centre of power, and with power comes money. It didn’t used to be like this though. The power and the wealth were distributed throughout the country, but as more and more of the rural industries closed, so people had to look for work elsewhere. They needed money, so they followed it. And it emanated from the city. So people moved closer, they gave up their land and their connection with the earth, and found any space they could to be near a source of work. Some people became successful, but the majority stayed poor, no matter how hard they worked; and it is the same today: only in the west, people do not need to live in corrugated iron huts in “shanty towns” (small crude shelters used as a dwelling), they have been moved up in the world, up many feet into the sky in fact, into tower blocks.

Thousands of them were built in the uk after the second world war, and I’m sure it was the case in your country too.

They were hailed as the new way to give poor people a decent place to live, away from the slums they had to inhabit; but quickly, these wonder structures became modern slums, inhabited by the poor, the insane, the criminal, the unemployed, the addicted.

Soon they became like ghettos (Any segregated mode of living or working that results from bias or stereotyping), where the unwashed and the unwanted were kept out of sight of the wealthy classes. One by one, they were all stacked on top of each other.

If they had any connection to the earth left, they had now lost it. They were now prisoners of the city, surrounded not by steel bars, but by concrete. Concrete everywhere.

Concrete

“A strong hard building material composed of sand and gravel and cement and water”

When it was invented, concrete must have been seen as a true godsend. A tough, cheap building material, just the thing to put up all those lovely housing blocks with.

But to me, concrete is one of those materials that just doesn’t fit in the world. It has no organic feel to it; it feels like it is – cold and dead. I don’t know why.

Maybe it is the way it absorbs sunlight or the way it stains when it is wet, what do you think? Have a look at the concrete buildings in your city and see what sort of feeling you get.

It’s strange, but steel structures or glass buildings just don’t have the feeling of death as concrete does, at least they reflect the light somehow. But in the fifties and sixties, concrete was the de-rigueur (required by etiquette or usage or fashion) of building materials. I personally would like to meet the man who invented it, give him a shake, and say “What did you think you were doing?”

So you could say that the concrete housing blocks were one of the single greatest mistakes the planners ever made, but as we know, they’re human; and humans make mistakes. As we have said in other topics, any time someone has a grand idea, it usually means misery for the worst off in society. I think they are demolishing the worst of them now, but in cramped cities it is always hard to find space for everyone, especially those who do not seem able to help themselves.

So many people remain in their tiny apartments surrounded by drug dealers, delinquent children, the mentally unstable, the long term unemployed and the alcoholics; spread evenly between regular working people and immigrants, who just can’t make enough (or don’t have the motivation to make enough); all squeezed into concrete rabbit warrens, built many metres into the sky. The people don’t respect the buildings, because most of them don’t respect themselves. They are disadvantaged strangers thrown together, because of necessity. The necessity of somewhere to live, in order to make money.

In london, on the opposite side of the river to the council managed blocks, there are also many tower blocks, but these are apartment buildings, not built using the cheapest materials. These buildings have all the things the poor buildings don’t have, including an air of refinement. They may have a doorman, or a concierge, or marble floors; and the attention to detail in the lift might be exquisite. These are not buildings for the disadvantaged, these are not buildings for the unemployed, or the mentally unstable; these are buildings for those who have made it! They may still rise into the sky, but this is a different story to the council owned blocks.

The people who inhabit these buildings, work in business, in the arts, in politics; they have a very busy social life. They are polite to each other, as they pass in the morning and evening. All in all, a very different story.

Back in the council block there is fear, there is anger, there is hatred, there is alienation, poverty; and back in the nice apartment block, there is laughter, classical music and fine ornaments; and back in the council block there is cheap takeaway food, satellite tv, and flat packed furniture from one of the big stores.

So what is it about these two apartment buildings that makes them so different? Is it the marble flooring in the entrance hall of the expensive apartment building, versus concrete flooring and bars on the glass to stop people smashing it in the other? Or is it the nice mirror in the nice lift versus the polished aluminium in the other lift as the people can’t be trusted not to smash a mirror?

Ok, so one is more aesthetically (in a tasteful way) pleasing, because more time, more skill, and more money has gone into it; but there is something much more fundamental, which is not at all obvious to the naked eye (although some of the results of it are), and that is that the buildings have different energies.

Do you understand? Let me try to explain.

Rich vs. poor

If we say that everything in the world contains energy, it makes sense that, like the positive charge of a proton, there is a balancing negative charge of an electron. And if we believe that nature keeps everything in balance, humans must contain negative and positive energies, the same way as a building materials contain negative and positive energies. So perhaps that is why I feel so depressed around concrete. Perhaps it gives off negative energy.

Whatever the case, there has to be more to the story than one group having more money than the other.

Let us try a quick experiment, where we switch both sets of tenants.

What do you think would happen?

They still have their same jobs (or lack of them), and they still have the same amount of education and money.

What would happen to the buildings? What sort of “vibe” would we be getting from either building? Would it have changed, or would it be the same?

Let me ask you a different question: Do you think people have the ability to give off different energies? Do you think you can get a “positive vibe” or a “negative vibe” from someone?

Wherever we go, we carry this vibration with us. Because it is us. We are vibrating! Although the buildings have different energies, it is the people who give off the strongest energies.

Now let’s imagine we swapped both tenants again, but this time, we swapped their lives as well. We now give the council tenants plenty of money and we send them off to their new shiny apartment building across the river. What do you think will happen? Will they still feel miserable? Will they still think their lives are terrible? Those who have addictions will still be addicted of course, and those with mental problems will still have them. So what has money enabled them to do?

Well, they’ll definitely start buying things, and those who are addicted will buy more substances. Over time, the apartment building will start to look like their old one; there will be graffiti on the walls of the lift, there may be drug dealing in the stairwell, and shouting and violence coming from some apartments.

Meanwhile, what do you think is going on in the council apartment building? The tenants don’t have money any more, and they don’t have their old lives out on the town, but they still have something to bring – themselves. They will probably start to clean up the mess the other tenants have left. They will clean out the apartments and order them more. They will clean the graffiti off the walls, they will clean the gardens, and may even arrange to have the council paint the walls and plant some trees. Perhaps they will try to create something positive.

What do you think? Would it be as I predict? And if so, why? Do you think it is because the people are better educated, better schooled in the way of society, have better manners, appreciate things more? Because if they don’t have money, that can’t be the motivating force. Or do you think it is a clear case that these are the “good” people and the council estate tenants are the “bad” people. Whatever it is, it is not about inherently good or bad, but people do create energy around them that is either negatively or positively charged, I am sure of it; although you must test this out for yourselves.

Let us explore this more deeply.

When we are happy in ourselves, we create positive emotions; and when we are unhappy, we create negative emotions. Now the reason we may be able to feel happy is we have taken care of our primary needs. We have provided ourselves with food, shelter, and clothing and can sustain it thanks to having the means to pay for it all. If we have problems, we have time and space to work through them, and we also are able to create meaningful relationships.

Now, without wanting to judge (for that would be of no use to our discussion), when you provide man with a home, you take away one of the primal responsibilities of being human, which is to provide shelter for himself and his family. If he does not have to provide it himself, and if he has no means of providing food and clothing because he has no money, he starts to lose self-esteem (a feeling of pride in yourself); and when that goes, he starts to take no interest in anything external. Soon he becomes reliant on handouts from other people, which is society, in the form of benefits paid from taxes raised.

Why should he look after anything? Why doesn’t someone else do it?

He becomes lazy and inward looking, thinking about himself, his problems and what a miserable life he has been given, “if only I could find a way out of it…” So he creates more and more negative emotions making it hard for the positive ones to shine through. But that’s just my opinion!

Let the tower blocks fall

Pain, suffering and self-pity, that’s what I see when I look at these great crumbling tower blocks, that are testament only to man’s inability to understand himself; where man becomes a slave to others in power, where he loses all identity and becomes a social security number – a problem that has to be looked after.

So what would happen if we demolished the tower blocks and put nothing in their place but green grass?

The energy of the place would be restored to balance (not that I want to create more homeless people you understand). And what if we let people who lived there, fend for themselves, without social security benefits? What would happen to them? Would they die? Would they turn to crime, or would the primary drive of the human being take over at last and drive them to provide shelter, food and clothing for themselves and their family? These may be “human needs,” but they are not “human rights,” as we see day in day out in some places in asia and africa, where there is no social security, no tower blocks to fester in; just the need to find food and shelter – fast!

Perhaps those who feel as though their negative energies are because of injustice in society where they have been forced to be “poor,” should go and live for even one week on the streets of new delhi or somewhere similar. That may give their positive energies a wake up call!

The energy walk!

If you pay careful attention to yourself everywhere you walk in a city, you will notice that you can find different energies. Just test it out for yourself.

A city is a great place to examine things because everything is so cramped. You just have to walk off one of the main roads filled with pollution, shouting, running, pushing, and anger, and laughter, and retreat to a park. Suddenly, you will notice the energy changing. You will notice the birds, the grass, the trees. Suddenly the human energies are overtaken by nature’s, which are far more powerful.

Sit a while, notice how you are feeling, notice that there is a distinct calm come over you.

Now hurry back to the main street, back to your office, back to your meeting, back to your car, the metro, the crowding, the smell; and you may start to think “What am I doing here every day!?” And indeed, what are you doing there every day?

If we had such a thing as a city energy meter, we would see some pretty nasty things going on above it. Humans have such power in their minds and bodies, they can’t help letting some of it “leak” out. We may question whether it is really contained at all! But as we don’t have a c.e.m, we will have to use our own intuition as we travel the concrete streets, as we question the nature of the city, its construction and “design,” and how it relates to us, and the universe as a whole. We must ask ourselves how we came to exist in such a barren land, a land filled with misery and power, of control, and desire, of longing and becoming.

All for what? Money and status?

We must question how far from nature we have come as we cross into the patisserie to get our cappuccino and cake, smelling of corporate scent. We must question our choices, our parent’s choices, and how, if ever, you are going to be able to leave this all behind. Oh, and leave it behind you will, but I thought it would be better to try to leave it before you die!

The family is broken. Long live the city.

Cities have always been the power base of the area or the country; the place where deals were done, where schemes were plotted, and money changed hands. People were attracted like magnets to these places of dreams. They packed up and left their communities to find work, some left their wife and family behind, and they would return as often as they could, or send money.

But this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. We were weaned on small tribes of cooperating hunters, where the society was everyone in the tribe; now “society” meant the fashionable elite. And unless you were powerful and rich, you couldn’t become part of the “society.” So you did what you could to earn some money and pay for your lodgings, but lots soon found out that swapping their rural family lifestyles for money wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Divisions quickly arose in society between the rich and the poor, and they were segregated as much as possible, after all, the rich shouldn’t have to see beggars and the poor on their streets, should they? These low lives were intolerable, although they did do the work that the wealthy didn’t want to do, so they were tolerated.

Fast forward a few hundred years and the story is the same. The rich and powerful control the city and the money, and the rest just do the jobs the rich don’t want to do. Is that a bit unfair?

Ok, so a new class was created. The middle class, also known as the bourgeoisie, comprising traders and merchants, the general business lot! But the city was still controlled by the elite.

Fast forward to today, and still nothing has changed, except the middle class may have become a bit wealthier and so have the lower classes, but the gap between lower and upper class is now even greater.

And now people crave the status and the money even more, so they travel from all over the country to get to the main cities. Train and car journeys of greater than two hours each way are considered the norm. People get up at 5.30 am and get home after 7.00 pm.

So what’s happened to the family?

Well, not only does dad want to earn more money and get a better position, but now mum does too, thanks to all the campaigning about equal rights for women!

Let’s put this in perspective. The traditional village model would see the husband and wife working together on their farm, or close by, and bringing up the children together – you know, like a family?

Now mum and dad both leave the house early, so they need someone else to look after the kids! Can you see how ridiculous this has all become? We left our stable family homes in our small communities in search of great wealth, and most of us only found mediocrity, stress and longer hours.

This is the time of the individual, not of the family group, brought about by idiotic politicians and greedy businessmen. Now we have single parents who try their best to bring up the children whilst holding down a job, complaining they can’t afford day care. We have people in the council tower blocks complaining that their benefits aren’t enough to cover food for their kids. The pollution is getting worse, the tension in the cities has become intolerable, people are drinking too much, taking too many drugs, and raising the blood pressure of the whole city to bursting point. All for what?

The world has gone completely mad

Ok, the whole world isn’t mad, but most of us are! We have created this stress ourselves. This is not caused by others. We want the money, we want the lifestyle, we want the status, we want the consumer goods, and big cities provide all of that, at a cost. Your sanity! Do you see what I am trying to say here?

If we think back to our quaint ideological village, where people are engaged in creating a community to live in, where children can grow up understanding nature and seeing mum and dad all the time, rather than one of them for a couple of hours a day, being looked after by complete strangers, and then when they’re old enough sent away to school. Can you see what has happened? This isn’t progress, it’s disaster! All so we can buy more stuff, and show off to everyone how wealthy we are, and how cool we are.

But the quaint village isn’t an ideological dream, nor is it something we can force people to live in. I am talking about a working community that makes money for the community, and people work there because they want to be part of the community, do you see? This is not a place for people who live in a small village, but work in the city to pay for the pleasure of having a large house and garden.

We are a basic animal at heart; we have simple needs (although our new brain likes to make them complex), but we keep burdening ourselves, making life harder and harder by creating fantastic new technologies (like mobile phones), which eventually enslave all who use them, and create addiction. Don’t believe me? Then just take a walk down any city street and you will see people with weird cyborgesque headsets sticking out of their ears, their eyes glued to some magical screen. Don’t tell me we need all this stuff. Happiness is much easier than that.

By creating and fostering relationships with our fellow man, we can have a much more rewarding (and fun) time than chasing all the money and status in the world.

Cities were built by the powerful for the powerful; they are not for the likes of us who see a way out of this misery we have created. We should leave the powerful to their empty cities and watch them crumble as there will not be any servants to maintain them.

We will have created much more than they could ever hope. We will have created a life that matters; a life built on relationships, where we all join in with bringing up the children, where we spend time with each other; where we learn about ourselves and each other. Where we learn to go deeper than anyone has before.

This is not simple village life with village idiots. This is a real community; that is what we are missing.

“But what about the arts and the theatre?” I hear you cry. And yes, many people say it is the one thing the city has, that is truly great. The arts! Music! Film! Ballet! Opera! Museums! Well, if you like this stuff so much, you can create it, or hope that when the cities finally explode and return to dust, that your favourite theatre and opera house is still standing, you know, the one you have visited once in your life? A real favourite.

The balance of the negative energy

How do you think the council tower block dwellers would get on in a real community, where people took responsibility for themselves, their families and each other, where government assistance was a thing of the past, where they enjoyed being creative, growing their own food, and trading with other communities? They would feel just fine.

And what about all their negative emotions and activities, would they fall away? People who think will always have problems of some kind or another, but when you live in a community where they are here for you and you for them, then something fantastic happens. What is that something? You will have to create your own community and find out!

Can you imagine your city being returned to nature, where you lived in balance with the earth, and it with you? I bet you can’t! You’d have to give up too much. But when you’re ready you let me know. And to the politicians: Don’t worry, I’m not going to blow up the city. Like a good casserole, give it a bit more time in the oven and it will be ready itself!

We owe it to ourselves and to every other creature on this planet to become aware of our natural state; not wrapped in animal hide and living in caves, but alive, vibrant, bursting with positive energy, in complete awareness of self. Ready to explore the world!

Or you could just keep catching the 6.42 am to london every day. For the rest of your life…

An idealists dream? Hardly.

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