Thursday, February 7, 2008


Question: What's wrong with Pittsburgh?

Answer: Most people with means, most people with hope, most people with sense leave.

What then shall we do? In my own life, I am currently wrestling with issues of purpose, faith, and community. I am attempting to answer this question by living intentionally where I work, worshiping within walking distance of my house, and working on improving the living conditions of my neighborhood.

I read an iteresting article that was describing the decline of "mill-towns" like Pittsburgh. The bottom line: As long as the factory owners lived in the town where their mills operated, the living conditions in the town were wonderful--parks, good schools, clean streets, and the factories were clean. But when the factory owners moved out of town, the living conditions in the communtiy deteriorated; the factories as a result, or perhaps this is what caused the owners to move, were producing thick clouds of black smoke.

So what am I supposed to conclude? Live where you work. I don't know, is this too much to ask?


Rudi Boyd said...

what article are you referring to?

With the fast movement of capital now there is no incentive to live anywhere near your factory, hence the factories now in China, Mexico, etc. Thousands of miles from the CEO in NYC or London or Dubai.
The real reason the city(ies) fell apart in America is because the jobs left and people literally gave up--both the elites and the poor.

But, back to where to live? Hmmm, I don't know anymore, but if you live in the 'hood' to make a change, you'll be sacrificing alot in terms of money and security and what not, but perhaps, for many, it is what we can do to most serve God and show his love here in this mess called life.

And to serve or work in the really downtrodden areas of America is to live very detached from the mainstream of the world economy. I mean how connected are you in the poor neighborhoods of Dayton, Youngstown, Camden, Detroit? Pretty detached from the global economy. You'll be living in future ghost least for now, perhaps in the future things will improve. We can only hope.

Mark said...

Unfortunately I don't know where I read it. It was some library book that Courtney had checked out, I just read that quote in passing. I will try to find it, but I can't promise anything.

christopher said...

there is no doubt that small c 'community' is a more efficient use of resources and does more to bind humans to the things that make them whole (accountability, fellowship, safety, help, and so on). it makes me think of urban planners who used to build housing tracks but who now build upper c 'Communities' for shopping, old people, or young families. They try to build in all the elements. Let's see - add one local market, one fire house, a gazebo in a town square, a jogging path (you get the idea) and BAM! we have lower 'c' community. That assumes neighborliness, kindness, charity, and social interaction, I think, and really might only work if people also work in that community. So to me it is not just defining parts of a community, but also committing to it by working within it. And that is really difficult to do, given today's marketplace.

Mark said...

It does sound difficult, and I can see that both of you--Rob and Chris--have thought a great deal about this, but my next question would be is it at all possible? Is it, as it seems to me, the only solution?

Rudi Boyd said...

is it (community) the only solution? i don't know....i don't think so and what is 'it' the solution to? What is the problem? pittsburgh?

i mean i think about ur idea of community and why cities rise and fall and alot of it (i think) is way beyond the control of ANYONE in the given city (and at this point) perhaps even in the country. trans-national corporations really control everything ((and i dont mean that in an apocalyptic way) it is just the way it is)...they are the new nations/superpowers.

so anyway i digressed. mark, u often speak of living near where you work, but if you work (as many jobs are now) in a suburban office park 30 miles from home your living there won't help the 'city' (though i had a dream where urban planners and the term city were declared defunct' because cities no longer exist-at least as we know them, they are constants...there is no stopping of them, they go on indefinetly. but, of course u live far from work b/c you want to live in a nice home w/good skools and low taxes and that may or may not be near your workplace; and people will commute astronomical distances in order to get an affordable (but still large) people living in the Central Valley but community to the Bay Area to work...truly crazy, but they don't want to live in an apartment in the city if they can avoid it. and it is their 'right/freedom/option' to do that.


Mark said...

It might be that right/freedom/option is the problem. Or is it ignorance? Is it that we are ignorant of the consequences of choices? We are given the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, but when is there accountability? If in our pursuit we deny others of their right, then can we continue those pursuits? Perhaps this is a plus (or minus) to globalization, that now our choices affect people world wide. And so our pursuit of happiness will have to line up with theirs--well, maybe not line-up with--but their happiness will be more directly affected by our actions and so we will have to bear the weight of our actions world wide. I suppose something is bound to happen sooner than later, and I guess my question is: Is there reason to hope that what will happen will be good, and is there anything that I should do to make it so?

Rudi Boyd said...


reading works by urban theorists and UN experts the outlook for our 'world' is not too bright, honestly. Even if global warming is a hoax the potential for more catastrophes is higher than ever and our interconnectedness makes us more vulnerable. So we need to help each other, the starving neighbor, the sick person, whatever; but perhaps, now as much as ever, we have to turn to God. Otherwise there is no hope. And because this blog is supposed to be about HOPE, we need to grasp what hope is and where we find it and were it dwells!

Mark said...

Lots of Hope--to be precise--is the answer, I just didn't want to sound "preachy" or "sunday school" by giving the God answer right out of the gates. I wanted to reach it through dialouge, like we just did.

Perhaps that was stupid. I just need to know that other folks are comming to this conclusion when presented with the same information that I am getting. I agree entirely that the answer is Hope--Hope in an almighty power that is good and knowable and who wants to restore this broken world through the actions of those people who claim to be his followers.

"Lots" of hope, more specifically, is the name given to my not-so-original idea of taking vaccant "lots" and turning them into urban gardens.

On another note, I think that since economies of scale lend themselves to calamaties of scale perhaps one source of tangible hope would be to begin developing small scale sustainable systems, be they food, economic, and even entertainment. It's kind of the teach a man to fish lesson applied to every aspect of human existence. In that small way, just by working out a system in your own community, you would be taking one domino out of the series of possible calamities that make our present system so vulnerable. You know, Think globally, act locally.

Rudi Boyd said...

You know i feel the same way as you, and i can tell it in my super=liberal atheist friends, there really is no hope, we can compile all the stuff that needs to be fixed..but beyond 'throwing money at problems' we are w/out we NEED GOD!

My pastor always says w/o God we are w/o hope, and it is so depressing.

But I guess it is where do we turn. shall we read Habukkuk about the "fig tree not budding" and what have you. There is hope in Christ and we need to really take that!

THROW some knowledge at me! rrr. rather wisdom.