Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Urban Centers Coming

We are unable to live without each other. Even on a practical level, it is probably a million years since any human being was entirely and convincingly self-sufficient: able to survive without trading his skills for those of his fellow humans.
- Matt Ridley (1998), Zoologist & Science Writer

Babies instinctively know what is most important to human survival: connection. The little ones unable to connect emotionally with a caretaker fail to thrive. But emotional connectivity skills need constant maintenance throughout life and different skills are needed throughout different life stages. A baby's sustained gaze with eyes, bright like little lights hooks you in. Eye contact is the base of all in-vivo human connection. But a ten year old that hooks you with his eyes needs to do more to maintain the connection.
Human connections, of course, go way beyond person to person emotional communicating. We are the most complex social beings on the planet. Our web of connectedness is vast, intricate and so tied to our humanity that a person not securely connected experiences the negative physical systems of extreme loneliness. Today, humans are forging more and more virtual connections that are productive and time consuming. But real life connections seem to be decreasing. This trend cannot be blamed on technology. But may be, at least partly, linked to the way our living spaces have been structured.
Since the 1950's, when William Levitt and his brother Alfred, designed the first American suburb, Levittown, with long term mortgages and community pools, live connections in the United States have become increasingly trite. As people moved from urban centers, day to day contact with others decreased substantially, especially for women.
With increased physical distance other forms of human connection decrease. Now with the Internet, where you live matters less in so many ways, but connections based solely on technology do not meet a person's human emotional needs. As we become more connected through technology, people with means will choose to live physically closer to other humans, not only to meet their emotional needs for human contact but to increase the capacity of their creative pursuits. Sprawling suburbs, and especially the more recent McMansions, are on their way out of popularity. People want to see each other face to face, more often, and for longer periods of time. Cities are back.


  1. You're welcome.
    It's strange how things have a way of working. Consider the extreme conditions in which life still manages to thrive along vents in the sea floor. It seems that for some time, people have been pushed to their psychological brink. It has been a "sink or swim" scenario, full of stunning beauty, and terrible tragedy. There's really no way to put it into words without contradicting oneself at some point. But I've learned to applaud those who try and have tried (even when it's not easy). Finding the courage to make mistakes is a necessary part of learning, because it's all trial and error when you get down to it. This emotional disconnection with everyone that everyone is experiencing, isn't without it's own ironic rewards. It has made people less reliant on the idea that happiness is something only to be pursued outside of themselves. And from looking inward, people have become more profoundly aware of their connection with others.