Why is it so hard in the city to be content and happy? Why does it seem like no one wakes up in the morning, looks out the window, and says, "Ah, life is good, the world is good!"? Well, I'm gonna tell ya why (you knew that was coming, right?). It's because the city landscape is a soul sucking enemy of life.
Okay, hyperbole alert. There might be happy people in cities, who really knows. But look, the human species lived close to the natural world and its rhythms for 99.999% of our history, over two hundred thousand years. These rhythms are in our blood, our cells, our DNA. If you careto consider that all of life has always lived at one with the natural world, we can say it's been 4 billion years.
Urbanization is new. We've had cities for five or six thousand years, sure, but they were very small, and only in a few regions for much of that time (Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, Mexico, yadda yadda yadda). Rome was pretty urbanized, and look how fucked up they became. Then we returned to normality for the Dark Ages, back to the land. But cities began to grow again in the Middle Ages and into the Rennaisance. Still, it took the industrial revolution to really kick into the urban life, starting less than 200 years ago. Before that, only about 3% of the humans lived in cities. Now we're over 50%
Okay, history lesson over. The point is, our minds are not able to take in this way of life. It is profoundly unnatural. I know I'm a nature nut so I'm biased, but I when I was on the Appalachian Trail, or doing conservation work in Utah, or stuck on a cold, wet mountain in Vermont last fall, I'd still just have this feeling of well being about me. It's a sort of ocean of peace lifting beneath the boat of your daily life and its specific issues. You get up at dawn, look out at the trees, and you might be cold and your feet might be wet, the work might be hard and your cabin might have mice, but out there things are as they should be: the trees reach for light, the mosses creep, the leaves drop and decay. Deep down, your spirit is relaxed.
In an urban environment, you look out the window and see hard, agressive lines and forms, hordes of people all rather drawn into themselves against the surging masses, the noise, the bad air. Our schedules have nothing to do with daylight. Our work has nothing to do with the land. Artifice rules every interaction and activity.
A lot of people say they don't like nature. I accept that on one level, but in the end believe it's just that they're accustomed to comfort and ease, to climate control and screens to keep the bugs away. That's fine, I don't demand that everyone immediately start working on a farm or go live in some cabin in the woods. But I know that on a biological level, they don't hate nature. They ARE nature. And their nature is deeply missing the greater nature, and resists the artificial world that has been built in its place.
This goes on below the level of awareness, of course. I don't think anyone really understands this great discontent and where it comes from; most are hardly even aware of it, though they struggle constantly to placate it with consumerism, drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, and of course, the electronic hallucinations of cell phones, video games, and the TV. The upshot is that this conflict happening in our inner natures bubbles up as the negetivity and complaining that is the constant song of our urban civilization.
I know life will always be complex and tricky, and living in nature isn't a cure-all. But I know that for myself, being in a natural landscape, working with my hands, outside in the sunshine and open air, is something that at least eases a part of my spirit, such that I can tackle life's issues with a positive mindset. I know it is possible to be happy anywhere, but it is easier out there.