Southern Views

It is interesting how the Bible equates creativity with bad behavior and pain. The whole childbirth thing is the basic creative act of life and the Bible says it always stems from “original sin” and is to forever be associated with pain and danger to the mother. All womankind is “cursed” in Genesis Chapter 3, and cities are said to be founded in sin and the pain of dislocation in the very next chapter.

Genesis Chapter 4, verses 11-17, can be interpreted as cities being created as a direct result of God’s punishment of Cain for killing his brother, Abel. In verse 11 God “curses” Cain from the earth. In verse 12 God tells Cain the earth will no longer yield sustenance to him. Later in the story, after Cain’s lamentations and a subsequent modification of the punishment decree, Cain, in verse 17 knocks up his wife, has a son and builds a city.

Cain was never much of a hunter and now, under the terms of the modified punishment decree, that he could no longer be a farmer, founding a city seemed like the only recourse left him to live and provide for his family. So, cities, it has been interpreted, were, like the pain of childbirth, born of sin and punishment and will forever require painful relocations.

Sounds about right, when you think about it. Jane Jacobs, and boodles of other urban theorists, think the only ongoing rationale for the continued existence of cities, or a city, is the city’s unique ability to foster creative ferment. Cities, it is thought, accomplish this fomenting of creative ferment by allowing the close proximity of vast numbers of folk, each with at least a slightly different point of view. The continuous and unavoidable clashing of all these points of view force folk to look anew at settled issues and, thereby, now and again experience creative revelations.

At the base of all the theories related to urban existence, is the notion that this primordial stew of creative impulse is the bedrock and foundation of it all. Cities have a working business model because they are constantly reinventing themselves economically, politically, artistically, industrially and so forth. Cities are not only doing this because of the primordial stew, the existence of the primordial stew allows cities to do this reinventing faster and with greater efficiency than is possible in other forms of human habitation.

While I cannot prove it to be true, I do believe this theory is correct. I confess that I have never come across anything I believe to be a fact-based conclusive proof of the theory. Never the less, it is one of those things that seem so self-evident that the resulting sensation of self-evidence is often taken for proof. It becomes a belief so strongly felt it is accepted as fact.

Now comes evidence in the form of everything from the first Presidential campaign of Howard Dean, to massive pillow fights in San Francisco to revolutions throughout the Islamic world that the world may have found a means of expanding the primordial stew far beyond the city’s boundaries. Social media inhabiting the internet has demonstrated it has the power to reach into, between, across, through, around and beyond cities to foment ferment, as it were.

It is thought that the World Wide Web, for the first time, gives huge, indeed, unlimited, numbers of creative types the practical option of living outside of a city without sacrificing access to the primordial stew so important to creative thought and action. Cities, it has been said, are only one or two atomic bombs exploded at the hands of terrorists or a really healthy and vigorous pandemic/plague from becoming a failed economic model. Should either, or both, occur, all people who can abandon cities will do so. More importantly, the annual spring and summer flood of young people relocating to cities to escape the drudgery of wherever they grew up will dry up to a trickle.

In the past, such young people seeking a better more meaningful life had no choice but to cast their fortunes with some city somewhere. Now, it is thought by some, the World Wide Web offers a viable alternative. An amicable social life, even for the most perverse among us, can be found by working the web. In the past, no matter how modestly bent and twisted one might be, a satisfactory social life outside a major metropolitan area could prove problematic. Now days, the pervert just down the lane or in the village across the valley can be discretely identified to the happiness and fulfillment of all concerned.

Likewise other Iunctian enthusiasts littering the countryside can be easily identified by another of their kind and summoned for periodic conversation, consultation and argument concerning the many and varied concepts relating to the Theory of Perpetual Tides. Oh joy!

Aside from the discomfort the destruction of hundreds of millions of humans caused by terrorists’ nuclear weapons and/or plague, the creative community need not be bothered by the demise of cities as long as the satellite uplinks and downlinks and the connections in between continue to function. As long as the web remains in operation, all human knowledge is available at the click of a button. And the ability to share that knowledge, opine upon it, argue about it, add to it or disprove some or all of it, etc., and to broadcast those new “proofs” also remains intact. If this be so, the primary function of cities, to foment creative ferment, is no longer an exclusive monopoly. Anybody, anywhere can play. Maybe it is time Cain returned home, back to the earth.

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Mike Copeland

Mike Copeland

I am old enough to know better. I have a B. A. from Birmingham Southern College and a Master's in City Planning from Georgia Tech. I have worked in SC State government for over a decade leaving as the Deputy Executive Director of the State Budget and Control Board, the state's administrative agency. I have owned the Fontaine Company since 1984 and am the managing member of viscerality.com.llc a management, marketing and consulting company.

I am the author of several novels, some of which you may buy and read if you are of a mind to do so.