The “Urban Effect” is a popular topic for School of Thought. Below is Chapter 12 from the book “Technology and Cosmogenesis”, published 1986.
[The photos were taken during School of Thought on December 16. 2010.]
More on the Urban Effect.
Twenty years ago I proposed that physical, emotional, racial and functional segregation were a greater evil than waste, pollution and environmental destruction. I think that I was on target then and that I am now. It is quite possible that in our neurosis about gasoline shortages we do not see the energy crisis as it is, a blessing in disguise.
The energy crisis will force us to do what we should have chosen to do long ago: put some yeast in our city-pancakes so as to thicken the life they can sustain. Such “levitation” will hasten, to a point, what I have referred to as the “Urban Effect”, a condition in which the vicarious, cooperative, inventive, social, cultural, creative propensities of wo-man can have a more favorable milieu in which to flourish and at a fraction of the price we now reluctantly pay or refuse to pay.
Since the Urban Effect is at the core of life, all life, at our respectable age of 3,500 million years, the Urban Effect, might well become an eschatological stress. The Urban Effect, in any case, is no abstraction. It is not the Almighty; it is not Super-Robot; it is not Big Brother; it is not the Masses. It is the personal, the you and I engaged in that amount of self and collective fulfillment permitted by the context and constraints of reality, the living and self-creating, within the natural order [TAO] of quantum-relativistic physics.
The need for myth has been reconsidered recently. We have built the technocratic myth with the automobile as the emblematic image and sacred icon. Together with irrefutable advantages to wo-man, we are also getting disastrous conditions and an inherent fragility; for instance, the real possibility of partial or critical paralysis of our society. But perhaps we don not need myth. We have the universe. In it we have life’s evolution running on the food chain storm and we, humans, are on the devastatingly and exhilarating cutting edge of it. In fact, the storm takes us, willy nilly, with itself. It is by now a tidal wave. We are its co-authors and we are thus co-responsible for it.
The roaring evolutionary tide is disciplined by the resources available [brain power included]. The resources available are organized and structured by the so-called lows of nature, the electromagnetic, nuclear, gravitational rules. We abide by the rules or we are done in by their very existence. Gravity and thermodynamics are routinely, moment after moment, giving, taking, prodding, padding, smacking us, reminding us of the limits of our extravagances.
Then at the top of the physical substructure of resources is the food chain disciplinarian. But this is not a benevolent master. For instance, we butcher hundreds of thousands of animals day in and day out. Then, in a perverted sublimination of the food chain imperative we butcher each other determinedly or, out of tedium on a quasi-metronomic routine.
To make coherence, equity, dignity and grace slightly less than a dream, we need to put a greater self-responsibility in our actions. Believe it or not, the Urban Effect is the comprehensive mode for that. It is the greatest transformer of dullness, of the resources of mass-energy-time-space, into sensitivity, mind, conscience, anticipation, by way of a compassionate inconsistency with the food chain’s impassioned imperative.
Since we ignore the physical ruled, thermodynamics, gravity, etc., every time we move into the costly isolation booth of our sub-urban utopias, we are left with pennies and dimes to “buy into the spirit”. The continent has the unflattering flavor of a gigantic pawn shop in which we try to buy time and respond to the distress signals of our consciences that are adrift in a distressed environmental sea.
Since the quick-fix is no fix at all, it is going to take more time than we are willing to put up with. It takes time and effort to reform our habitat into the sound economy that coherence and sensitivity can construct. It will require time and effort on a scale that our corporate powerhouses can barely anticipate or simulate. But it must be an economy of the real at the expense of an economy of the practical; an economy of the desirable at the expense of an economy of the feasible-marketable.
Reality stares us in the face, and its mindless authority and power are unforgiving. We will not cope with it unless we find ways of transcending it while abiding by the rules of the game defined in 20 thousand million years of development.
Modestly and imperfectly I am trying to put into concrete and tangible form what I firmly believe is the call of the Urban Effect. It is the triggering of an urban-environmental re-form that is the comprehensive opening of the doors to environmental sanity, pollution and waste reduction, social and cultural enrichment, waning of guilt, effective coping with population inflation, proper and frugal use of our physical, biological and human resources, and last but not least, a tangible and exhilarating contraposition of ‘immense’ nature and ‘intense’ humanness.