Richard Weber: The best of both worlds
If you are used to living in the city you probably think of a quiet country setting as being pretty dull compared to the thrill and excitement of a bustling urban environment. Well, I happen to live in the country and I think I have the best of both worlds.
People are driven to the city mostly because that’s where the jobs are, but that doesn’t mean you have to live there. More urbanites are keeping their jobs in the city and moving to the country or to small neighborhood communities. Commuting is at least a kind of compromise.
I’ve been lucky enough to live in the country for more than 30 years, first as a commuter and later as a retiree. I am not a farmer but I like to think I’ve earned the right to consider myself a full-fledged countryman.
Lest anyone think rural folk are isolated from civilization, we do have this modern invention called television, as well as the internet and computer, and we have our grocery stores and rotary clubs and libraries. And we send our kids to public school like everyone else.
The automobile also brings me closer to the city. If I want to attend a concert, go shopping, or visit a museum of art, history or science, I can just hop in the car drive into the city, as I often do.
The urbanite more likely comes to the country with a desire to escape from what is called the “rat race," and to recharge himself perhaps by fishing in a country pond or spending a few days in a quiet state or national park. When I visit the city l never feel like I am trying to escape from anything.
Some critics make much of the fact that culture is an artifact of civilization and therefore not natural. The distinction between the natural and artificial is, well, a bit artificial, but it is nevertheless a useful one. Language is one of the most universal artifacts of civilization, and yet nothing has added more depth to the experience of nature than natural history literature.
It is good to remember that we are very much a part of nature too. It’s not that life in the city has become too artificial, but that the urbanite is getting almost completely disconnected from nature.
The tragedy of the city is that there is simply too little direct contact with the natural world. It is all asphalt and concrete, air-conditioned offices and high-rise apartments, video screens and traffic jams and ads constantly hyping the best new products. In the city you can find all the branches of a thriving civilization and none of the roots.
Everything in the city is built by man and needs his constant attention to make it go. In the country you get a sense that nature is in control and the world pretty much runs itself. The sun rises, flowers bloom, and the seasons go on cycling without any help from us.
Wendell Berry once said that you can’t know who you are until you know where you are. The “where” is not something you can easily pin down in the fast pace of city life. In the country you always know pretty much where you are—anchored in the land, under a big blue sky, surrounded by the everlasting circle of the horizon.
There is a place where you can enjoy all the wonderful achievements of humanity and still maintain a sense of our vital connection to nature.
And that place is right here in the country.
Rich Weber is a science and nature enthusiast living in Ellis County. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org