Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Poverty of Wealth

I hear that most of the wealth of our nation lives in the cities. But when I look around at what we've built, all I can do is wonder why a wealthy people puts up with such an impoverished landscape. All the new buildings are bland and identical; you drive through whole developments, subdivisions, condo complexes, and everything looks the same. It's almost as bland and uniform as the old Soviet apartment highrises, except instead of gray, we might have some color splashed around. But it's a uniform color scheme, repeated on every condo, every house. Businesses like big box stores abound with blank walls facing every direction, and all the lawns sitting there as mere squares of flat green. What a waste.

Beyond that is what I call the tyranny of noise. It's appropriate that I'm reading One Square Inch Of Silence right now, because when you really stop and notice, here is no such thing as quiet space in a city. And most of the noise is just senseless. I've long had a major hatred against car alarms. I've never, ever in my life heard anyone say, upon hearing an alarm go off, "oh, someone must be breaking into that car!" Ever. I wonder if they're even effective for their intended purpose.

Yet, yesterday, with the windows open, I could hear them blaring all day. At one point, taking the trash out, one car just started going off on it's own. Nothing had touched it, nobody was around; the wind wasn't even blowing! But it honked for several minutes, filling the evening with noise and frustration. And earlier, one was going off for about a half hour before its hapless owner heard it, or the battery died. I really hope it was the latter.

I just don't know why we've all agreed to so much less than what's possible. A well-built cabin in the woods is more human than miles and miles of uniform condos. A meadow is more beautiful than a lawn. And a place where silence is at least an option is far more valuable than all the transportation systems in the world.


  1. One of the great advantages to living in a rural area is silence. On most nights, I can sit on my back deck or front porch and hear not much of anything -- except maybe the wind blowing through the trees in the forest behind the house.

    This is one of the things about South Bend (WA) I love the most. It's like being on my own little island.

  2. As someone who's been galavanting around in rural places the last two and a half years, it's killin' me being here in Dallas. Urban life is not for me. I envy your little island, sir.