I read a very intriguing article by Larry McMurtry in the recent Texas Monthly Magazine. This particular magazine is dedicated to the urbanization of Texas. According to the latest census figures 85% of the population of Texas now lives in urban/suburban areas. From the perspective of most of the magazine authors, this is a good thing as Texas is now climbing its way out of the pits of ignorance, crudeness, and independence into a new day of intellectualism, interdependence, culture, and civilization.
As a country preacher, I find the magazines embrasure of this movement a bit head scratching.
First an acknowledgement, it is very true that one gets exposed to a massive variety of things when heading into urban areas. There is fine dining. There is opera, ballet, and other forms of "higher culture." One engages and sees many different people and cultures and is forced to have one's world-view expanded. There are museums filled with information and pieces of nature and science and discovery. There are buildings dedicated to art and artists. There are centers of learning like colleges and universities where the mind can be expanded and trained. One has almost instant access to grocery stores, movies, hospitals, restaurants, and other such venues. Perhaps this is enough to say that cities are indeed centers of civilization.
But I am not so sure.
I lived in the city and suburbia for a while, and while that realm does have all the above, there are things that make me wonder where indeed things are more civilized.
1. In the country, you know your neighbors. You know people in your community. In some ways, you are more isolated, but in many other ways, you are definitely more connected. When I lived in urban/suburban areas, I had little or no contact with those living right next door to me. Doesn't happen that way in the country.
2. In the country, you have more room. There's actually open spaces. There are no subdivisions with 3000 square foot houses built on 1/16th of an acre lots. There are no apartment skyrises where people are literally stacked on top of one another. There are fields and meadows to walk and run in. There are trees that are hundreds of years old, and most of them are not in danger because someone wants to put in a mall or a restaurant.
3. It's quiet. No sounds of cars traveling up and down the roads at all hours of the night. No sirens--well, very rarely since volunteer fire departments don't have that many calls per day. No airplanes constantly buzzing over. No one playing loud music at all hours of the night. You can actually hear birds and cows and horses and donkeys and the wind whistling through the trees.
4. There are no concrete jungles. Enough said.
5. The highest crime and murder rates in the U.S. are found in cities with a population of over 250,000. While there is crime in rural areas, it pales in comparison. Conclusion: more people = higher crime rate.
6. While cities have museums and places to get a glimpse of nature, rural folks actually experience nature. They care for crops. They raise animals. They get their hands filthy and are in touch with the very essence of what makes grass and trees and plants grow. They realize the power of nature and how humankind relies upon rain and wind and sun to help produce the very things that feed the world's population.
7. People in the country produce the food that the people in the city eat, and they do it for poor pay, little recognition, and in spite of city folks regulating the heck of what they produce.
8. You never hear about people traveling to the city to find peace and quiet.
Oh, I know there are a few knocks to living in the country. There is still some prejudice. People cling to their guns and to their religion (but because of it we neither fear God nor man. We love God and are prepared when man goes astray). We aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but take a look at that list of items once more and answer this question: which do you think is actually more civilized?
Long ago, I made the remark after accepting the call to serve in Cat Spring, "I'm heading back to civilization." Guess there's no mystery in what I think.