Saturday, May 26, 2007

City living

I don't live in a city any more, and a trip to London yesterday with my daughter brought up very mixed feelings for me. I still enjoy the noise and the activity, to a certain extent, and I liked going to see a few of my old haunts, but the day left me with more of a sense of discomfort than I expected.

Part of me thought that my transition into country boy had come to completion, and that I was just more at home in the fields than I have been before. But another part of me realised that there are lots of things about cities which make me think about life generally and some of the parts of life which disturb me, or cause me concern, or something.

What struck me most was what a misfit I was - having lived 13 years in London it was a bit odd feeling a stranger in a place which was home for a third or so of my life. But I was aware of how trendy everyone seemed to be, or rather what a huge proportion of the people around seemed to be fashionistas! I don't have a problem with people being cool and hip and whatever outdated phrases I now use to describe being in touch with what's going on, but it seemed that 'individuality' was a uniform - in seeking to express themselves so many people are covered in brands and looks which actually just fit them into a mould!

Which led me onto another thought, there are so many looneys in the city! Not very PC, I know, and it wasn't just that there were a few wierdos, it was almost as if in an effort to be noticed in the crowds people were trying to draw attention to their strangeness - camp people were extra camp, loud people were extra loud, da boyz were extra gangstaaaaa, whatever. Perhaps this is more my perception or projection, but it seemed almost as if there was a search for identity going on, and in the absence of being able to be oneself, the adopted persona took an extra dimension. I was just one more tourist, out of depth in a city which felt like it had no heart.

And yet, in the life I was a part of in London only seven years ago, and in the friends i see when i visit, and in the churches I have been a part of in the city there is a sense of togetherness, community, faithfulness, shared searching, joy, hope, and a feeling of weaving together a rich tapestry of the colours of life. This wasn't the case in the city at large.

My glimpse of London yesterday was, for me, a glimpse of a culture which has lost identity, and perhaps lost hope, without anything of depth to cling onto people seemed to be living entirely on the surface of life, embroiled in issues of image, consumed by consumerism and carried along by sights and sounds without stopping to see and hear.

I suspect that this all betrays much more of my concerns about our contemporary culture. But it made me think of this one thing, and this is going to make me seem really cryptic and obscure, but I am going to write it anyway, perhaps we can discuss it later...

Jesus is the answer. What was the question?


quilly said...

I don't think the question matters.

Are you lost?

Are you lonely?

Are you frightened?

Are you sick?

Jesus is the answer.

I was drowning in debit, saw no way out. I had no friends. I had no social life. My health was failing (stress). And Jesus was the answer. I am not rich now, but my bills are paid. I am not lonely, I have many friends, Christian and non-believers alike. My health issues cleared up one-by-one.

No, it didn't happen overnight -- although the hope was instantaneous. Jesus is the answer whatever the question may be.

Nick said...

I'm not a fan of cities.

I can count on my hands the amount of times I have visited London. To be honest, I get very annoyed at London in particular because... fuelled by it's own press, it seems top have overinflated sense of self importance. A bit like the England football team.

I have a theory about cities... I think they are crucibles. I do not believe that people are truly designed to live in that close proximity of one another. I think they make people exaggerate their eccentricities for fear of losing individuality. I also believe that being cramped in with so many others breeds aggression and strife. People get claustrophobic.

What really annoys me is metropolitan elitism... the idea that what works within a big city, works everywhere. In the cities you have public transport at the click of a finger... out here you are lucky if you get a bus on the hour... and even then, that goes around the villages.

Arrgh I am ranting.


My sister and her boyfriend live in London - I really should visit them at some point.

Dr.John said...

I think you put your figer on the problem of the grater city> in the churhes people have an identity. In the greater city they are looking for an identity. You know Jesus might be the answer.

Tom said...

I don't think peopel in cities are unique in their cop-out of the search for identity, I just think they have an easier time of it. In the city, there are a thousand distractions that you can use to avoid asking hard questions about life, identity, and God. But in the smaller towns, the fewer distractions kind of force more people to come to grips with all that.

We live in a society dedicated to distraction, a society that does not value any answer that cannot be delivered in 30 second sound bites.

Anyway, good post.

Andrew said...

I am not a great fan of the city myself either. I am not even a great fan of towns as far as living in them goes. I like rural village life but withing reach of towns when you want them.

Had to venture into London last week for work and hated it. Up to government central near Trafalgar square. Hated every minute of it.

speaking of Gangstaaaa! I heard Jesus described as Gangstaaaa the other week by a group called LZ7 who are a youth rap type band. I was a tad shocked at this description and felt it a tad inappropriate. However upon realising I was being very old and I assume it meant cool or great or the man, or some other hip phrase I decided to let it go! Ah age creeps up on me once again.