Reasonable Living

During the last couple months of lockdown, I have appreciated the conveniences of urban living. I walk to the nearby fruit and vegetable markets. We order food from restaurants that represent cuisines from all over the world. Indian curry. Japanese sushi. Italian pizza. Mexican tacos with a side of pre-made margaritas. Even before the pandemic shut down the city, all the major grocery stores delivered. It’s been easy to stay at or near home with so many services at our doorstep. We have lacked nothing — even without Amazon.

It’s reasonable to think that a city is the place to live if you’re ambitious and social. Some experts even argue that urban living is the more sustainable lifestyle choice, although that is debatable.

But what if your heart longs for wildness, nature, and the countryside? What if you find your peace in the rolling hills dotted with vineyards, the sweeping valleys carved by meandering rivers, or jagged rocky coasts? How do you reconcile reason with a deeper yearning?

If you could still have work that you enjoy at a sustainable salary, would you still live where you are?

For many people, career opportunities are the driving factors in their choice of where to live. But what if we prioritized the life we want to live, and then crafted a work life to support it?

The pandemic has accelerated what experts have called “the future of work.” As I write this, Silicon Valley tech companies are setting their strategies for employees’ return to the office. Or not. Twitter announced that many employees can work remotely for the foreseeable future. Salesforce, Microsoft, Google and Facebook won’t see employees back in the office until later this year or 2021.

Some people stay in cities because that’s where their social lives are centered. Restaurants, events, night clubs, and cafes on every block offer a generous buffet of options for socializing with friends. That is, in the BC era (Before COVID). We are still not sure how quickly and smoothly these establishments will re-open, and how people will feel about gathering in them. Our social lives may become more insular, a combination of small get-togethers in our homes and virtual video-based assemblies.

Maybe one day the most important community you belong to will be a virtual one, and it won’t matter where you live physically. 

Paul Graham

Listening and being present

Cities have personalities, or at least they tell us something, according to Paul Graham. He posits that cities tells us to be or do more — be smarter, be wealthier, be more powerful, be more popular.

We hear of defined centres where the most exciting things must be happening. At one time it was New York, for a few years it was Berlin, in the coming years, it will (perhaps) be Auckland. There are books that have to be read, and films that must be seen. There are people we should be visiting and opportunities that we must not pass up. It can feel like a privilege, until we become aware that it is a coercion.

School of Life

Wildness also has something to say. Slow down. Listen. Attend. Yield. Submit. In other words, nature tells “that’s enough.”

Aesop’s tale of “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse” explores the question of abundance. In the story, the City Mouse bragged about all the lavish food options, versus the simplicity of the country. But in the city, the two cousin-mice couldn’t even enjoy their opulent meal because they were constantly interrupted — by cats, dogs and other predators. Consider the predators as metaphors for today’s urban distractions, primarily in the form of a screen, and you understand how timeless is this tale. Where is the abundance, really?

The news media are pondering, “what is the future of cities?” Half the stories ring the death nell of cities and the other half defend them. The pandemic, and the opportunity to “work from anywhere,” seems to have opened our options to make choices based on the life we want to craft.

The invitation is to be intentional in the choosing.

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