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 I don't have a problem with people being cool and hip and whatever outdated phrases I now use to describe being in touch with what's going on, but it seemed that 'individuality' was a uniform - in seeking to express themselves so many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?