Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Suburbia - An Introvert's paradise


Suburbia is the bane of existence for those who follow New Urbanism. Suburban sprawl devastates natural environments to begin with, but is only made worse by the fact that it feeds itself on fossil fuels. Yet when I began reading Religion for Atheists by Alain de Boton, there was one benefit that I had never deeply considered before: It is an introvert's paradise.

To be clear, Boton does not make this argument. The book has nothing at all do with urban planning. What it does deal with is the transformation of our modern society. He argues, quite convincingly, that religious institutions is one place of few places where we can let our guard down to meet strangers.  We can make new friends at Church, which is incredibly rare for people who are well into their 30s. Few other places, people willing leave their protective shells at home and find a sense of community among people who do not necessarily share their socio-income status.

That is a very useful social function. No doubt about. If you need a lot of social stimulation, then it is a great place to find it. Yet introverts, like myself, find it more personally fulfilling to engage in activities of self-improvement - reading, writing, art, etc. - than to be forced into social engagement with others. We do not mind it, but would prefer to do so at times/places of our choosing. The suburbs provides that type of flexibility of being able to come and go as so desired. I do not have to get to know my neighbors if I chose not, but I can if I want to. 

There is still a lot that is wrong with suburbia, but we can also give credit to where it is due.

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