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The ethics of where you live

Quote by Eric O. Jacobsen:

I believe that choosing to live in a neighbourhood that is mixed in income, mixed in use, and replete with inviting public spaces can be an important fundamental ethical decision. When we can walk from our home to the corner coffee shop or park with the realistic expectation of running into someone who is destitute in one way or another, we place ourselves in the uncomfortable realm of Christian decision making.

— From the article “Where Then Shall We Live? The traditional neighbourhood as a fundamental ethical choice” in Comment magazine


‘Good cities consist of good people.’

Cities do not consist of freeways, buildings, transit systems, houses, malls, sidewalks, hydro wires, sewers, water mains, snowplows, corporations or government.

Good cities consist of good people. Like a vibrant company, they tap their best people — those with intelligence, energy, integrity, goodwill and a large well of experience — to do the best things. With a critical mass of good people, all the other elements of urban living — transit, wealth, a healthy environment … the list goes on and on — fall into place.

The key to successful cities in this age of increasingly specialized labour demand and a slowly eroding petroleum economy is to attract topnotch people who can adapt to the fundamental changes occurring in our community now.

Read the entire Ken Gray column in the Ottawa Citizen here.

– Hat tip: Richard Florida


Philip Bess: Cities shaped by love

In an essay with the provocative title, “Bring me my arrows of desire: cities shaped by love,” Gayle Doornbos writes a review of Philip Bess’s book, “Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred.”

For those who are unaware, Bess is a Notre Dame architecture professor who spoke to a Fort Wayne audience about urban design and sustainable development last month.

Doornbos begins her essay with dreams: Where do you dream of living?

Here are excerpts:

Bess’s gambit challenges us to reevaluate the current state of our cities, how we think about urbanism and the suburbs, and our visions of the good life. For him, a vision of the good life is paramount. It is not enough to merely have good design. Philip Bess argues that good city-building cannot be reduced to design. Good design aids flourishing and can reflect flourishing, but it cannot by itself create sense of community, a neighbourhood, or even a good city. …

… Bess’s work calls us to restore Christian thought about the city in a time when Christians have appropriately fought for justice in cities but neglected to develop sophisticated frameworks about the specific structure, design, policy, and theology that constitutes a good city. Finally, we must recapture the old Christian idea that architecture shapes the fabric of a city — it is not inconsequential to faith or to building community and place — belonging and identity in a broken world. Community, belonging, and cities must aspire to reflect this vision of good city life. “Our greatest cities,” writes Bess, “are products of love. Cities should be shaped and driven by the dream of a world made new.”

Read the essay here.

Also, Books & Culture magazine reviews his book here. Below is an excerpt:

Designs for a good urban experience, Bess explains, would take into consideration the ecological, economic, moral, and formal well-being of a neighborhood. Whether on the outskirts of a city or in the urban core, each neighborhood would enjoy “a walkable and mixed-use human environment wherein many if not most of the necessities and activities of daily human life are within a five- to ten-minute walk for persons of all ages and economic classes.” Such neighborhoods would embody the best social and aesthetic features of historic urban life, and to bring this vision to fruition would be to occasion human flourishing. Good urban planning is good theology.

Read the Books & Culture review here.

Photo courtesy of calm a llama down


“WHO-O-O is it?”

After seeing the title of this post and the video grab above, did you involuntarily say to yourself, in a tough New Yawk accent, “It’s the plumber. I’ve come to fix the sink”?

If you did, then you are the reason for this blog post.

In case you don’t know, the above picture is from an animated sketch featured on the old PBS children’s show, “The Electric Company.” (You can refresh your memory by watching the video on YouTube. And does the plumber really die at the end?)

In an earlier post titled “What creates community?” I said that shared stories create community, and that sharing happens when people experience the same happening. And although I edited it later, I originally said:

A group of individuals sitting at home watching the same show on separate televisions does not create community.

My dear wife read my post and gently took me to task. Not that unceasing television watching is an automatic good, but she reminded me that among people of our generation, growing up in the late ’70s, there is a certain kind of odd shared TV heritage.

In fact, all through the 20th century, there were different low-culture activities that you pretty much enjoyed alone — such as radio and TV shows, sports and movies — but then could talk about with your friends later.

And yes, books count too, Harry Potter fans.

As with any thing else, overuse of television cuts you off from friends, because you’re spending time that should be social time staring at the screen. But as my wife said, “Television actually can help you make connections with strangers.” Because then you have a shared experience with other people who root for the Colts, are addicted to “Lost” or still struggle with the hallucinogenic effects of watching too many Sid and Marty Krofft shows.