Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Separate, Isolated Places

I was invited to a party in a "McMansion" recently and was surprised at how beautiful and warm it was inside. It had absolutely everything that anyone might need -- a game room/pub, a TV room, a wii room, an expansive laundry, a craft room, a library. Our hosts had personalized the impersonal walls with family photos and colorful paint and hand-crafted faux trim. It was nice inside and I felt at Home.

But when I stepped outside to leave, I marvelled at how empty the neighborhood was. How completely devoid of human activity and life. Just cars parked neatly in driveways and blank facades with closed shades. No children riding bikes, or music playing, or dogs roaming around.

I remember when I first came to DC and I was given a tour of Crystal City. My tour guide showed me the rows and rows of shops underground, the entrance to the metro station, the passageway to Pentagon City Mall and National Airport. "You never ever have to go outside in Crystal City," he told me proudly. "You never have to get rained on or go out in the wind. We're completely self contained."

But Crystal City, just like my friend's suburban house, reminded me of a very cozy bomb shelter in its separation from everything around it. You can certainly make a bomb-shelter a place, but why would you do it unless you absolutely had to? What does it reveal about us when we seek to separate ourselves completely from the community around us and, in many cases, from the wind, the rain, the sun, and nature in general?

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