The Well-Tempered City
As our cities become more ethnically diverse, we cannot rely on one overarching religion, or creed, or race, or power to give us a common language of entwinement. But we can call upon something deeper: our overarching sense of purpose. When the purpose of our cities is to compose wholeness, aligning humans and nature, with compassion permeating its entire entwined system, then its ways will be ways of love, and all its paths will be paths of peace.
Cities live at the intersection of dynamic environmental, economic, metabolic, social, and cultural systems. Responding to changing circumstances can be difficult because it is in our nature to want to return to the status quo rather than to risk moving on to an uncertain future, even if it might be a better one. This bias keeps human culture stable and reliable. In our evolutionary past, when change unfolded much more slowly, this was an important adaptive strategy. But in volatile times, when the context is so rapidly changing, we need to shift from old habits to find new, adaptive strategies more quickly.
Our cities are reflections of our perceptions and intentions, our aspirations, our cognitive biases, and our fears. These shape how we choose what our cities shall be from the vast metagenome of possibility.
The best was the virtuous city, a place in which people pursue knowledge, virtue, and happiness with humility. Next came the ignorant city, whose residents seek wealth, honor, freedom, and pleasure without aspiring to a higher state of well-being and true happiness. Last came the wicked city, whose people delude themselves, knowing that wisdom is the highest calling but justifying the pursuit of power and pleasure with arrogant, self-serving rationalizations.