“Every city is a living body.”
— St. Augustine
Just as the ant unconsciously creates the ant hill, each tending to his small piece, unaware of the larger picture - so too do humans create cities. It is the inevitable expression of humanity to create settlements, birth local economies, facilitate the interaction and growth of human life - each doing his part to create a dynamic and living whole. In the past, these emergent cities created suboptimal conditions for truly vigorous and healthy living; today, we have the chance to build a city with a more holistic vision.
Every city is a monument, an expression of the humans that created it. Should it not be our primary mission to create something beautiful, something that magnifies our potential rather than stifling it; that multiplies our energy rather than sapping it?
Cities historically have been engines of economic growth. People moved to cities for work and focused on making money, at the expense of all else. In 1943 Los Angeles, the "eye-burning, lung-stinging, headache-inducing smog" was so thick that people thought Japan had launched some kind of poison gas attack on the city. In reality, it was just the lack of mindfulness about the health effects of industrial production. Many good things came out of this kind of productivity (a surplus of vital resources, more free time due to specialization of labor etc.), but it did however literally cement into our way of life certain negative externalities that were hitherto not considered.
Spend some time in these urban playgrounds and you’ll see for yourself. An underlying sense of biological unease plagues you as the invisible and visible fumes pass through your bodily system. You find it impossible to truly concentrate with the beeping of vehicles, the morning cacophony of leaf blowers. Our tap water? Oh, it's got a touch of poison for that extra zing - don't worry, it's just to keep those pearly whites cavity-free (complete nonsense by the way). Then there's our food, artfully laced with toxic chemicals, just so the lobby groups can spice up their margins. What about the friendly neighborhood cell towers? They may be carcinogenic, but who wouldn't trade that for unnoticeably faster WiFi?
Having personally spent time in one of the world’s largest metropolises, New York City, I am well aware of the feeling of living in such an environment. Even as someone who understands the health issues and does their best to mitigate them - in a city like New York it inevitably saps at your vital power. Friends I know consider it a cost and sacrifice they are willing to make temporarily in order to further their economic chances of success.
All of this, of course, is for the noble cause of economic progress, a cause so noble that it's willing to sacrifice our health at its altar. Do these cities even spare a thought for the common citizen? Nay - we're just expected to strap in and enjoy the bumpy ride towards this so-called "progress," even if it means trading our lungs for a wifi booster.
The infrastructure is built and the incentives are entrenched. We face great hurdles to completely refurbish these cities to become truly healthy. We must recognize that vital societies require overarching health principles. We must build anew.
I understand that the culture of the times naturally created these things and most people don’t have the time to consider the second order effects of their particular industry. But we do have the time, knowledge, capacity and opportunity now to create the metropolis we deserve.
“The confined air of a metropolis is hurtful to the minds and bodies of those who have never lived out of it. It is impure, stagnant—without breathing-space to allow a larger view of ourselves or others—and gives birth to a puny, sickly, unwholesome, and degenerate race of beings.”
— William Hazlitt
Healthy living is relatively simple. Fresh air, quality water, sunshine, natural organic foods, exercise and a tight knit community will get you the vast majority of the way. All we have to do is remove the constrictions of modern city life while keeping what makes cities great.
Anyone building a new city (or leading a current one) should incentivize the good things, and disincentivize the bad. A healthier population is one that can grow and flourish, one that will have more energy and resiliency to contribute to the city on a higher level. This is an immensely valuable and noble goal - realizing it could mean the difference between man ascending to the heavens, or spiraling down into hell.
Healthy living has a spiritual aspect as well. A spiritually devoid populace cannot be healthy no matter what. If your idols are demonic, then the society will become despondent. People need figures to look up to, to be inspired by, to seek truth from.
What I recommend here are principles and ideals to consider. If your immediate reaction to these are “THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE” or “WOW YOU’RE SCARED OF EVERYTHING”, think about why your mental limits have been so tightly constrained. We have done it before, we can do it again. There need not be any judgment, nor frustration about the past. Look and think FORWARDLY!
Here is what should be done. It isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.
- Pollution: Fix air quality, minimize particulate emissions, cease bioengineering in the form of chemtrails, curtail public smoking around others. I do not believe in the ‘all carbon emissions bad’ idea, but reducing smog and other particulates in the air is absolutely something that should be considered. Another option is to have sophisticated air filters in large public buildings.
- Lighting: Lighting affects health on a cellular level. Think about how you feel being in the sun for a few hours compared to being under fluorescent office lights and PC/Phone for a few hours. That’s all the ‘evidence’ you need. Our natural circadian rhythm is shot to pieces which is upstream of a myriad of health issues. It is my belief that if people rose with the sun and ceased computer work when the sun sets we would have a blossoming of health. Additionally, there is a major difference between energy-efficient LED bulbs and the warm glow of incandescent bulbs that littered the streets of our youth. Light pollution has negative effects on wildlife as well, impacting migratory patterns and sleep cycles just as it does with humans. Consider lighting public spaces with lanterns and great fires (natural infrared light therapy).
- Trash: When we live outside of nature’s laws we produce waste that isn’t easily broken down by natural forces. Avoiding materials that don’t biodegrade easily is the first step, then those who litter should be dealt with strictly. I am not totally against the chopping off of hands - find a bin, it’s not hard.
- Materials: What the city is made of has a permanent effect on the energy of the people. Think about how you feel visiting older structures made entirely of great stone, marble columns. It is an entirely different energetic imprint compared to the ‘efficient’ plastic box skyscrapers we build today. Avoid asbestos-like scenarios. Use wood, stone, metals. Zero synthetic plastic-based materials. Doing so imbues the entire city with vitality and you need not worry about potential toxic impacts in the future. They also last longer so from a functional viewpoint it’s a no brainer.
- Buildings should be beautiful: “Organic architecture seeks superior sense of use and a finer sense of comfort, expressed in organic simplicity.” - Frank Lloyd Wright. Limiting high rise buildings means that natural light flows through society more and minimizes the claustrophobic effect of big cities. Utilizing sunlight at every opportunity, skylights to reduce the need for artificial light. High ceilings raise the spirits of the human.
- Statues in public places: Speaking to the necessity of inspiring the populace, we should have inspirational, historical and mythological physical reminders. If you have ever spent time in a city such as Florence, it is impossible not to feel the beauty and magnitude of the human spirit with the ornate structures and statues that are throughout the city.
- Cities should be walkable: Walking is an essential human activity; it allows social human contact through movement and contributes to the health and the overall flow of the city. Cities are great because everything you might need is within walking distance. With everyone commuting to work in separate boxes of plastic (cars), you remove a ‘town square’ feeling that is powerful to both vitality and industry.
- Non-native Electromagnetic Frequencies: These insidious and invisible electric radiation sources affect our cells in perceptible and imperceptible ways. Minimize 4g towers. Utilize anti-emf material for buildings. Ethernet over wi-fi. I acquiesce that some electronic connection is necessary but it can be done in a more conscious way than ‘beaming more and more radiation through everyone’. Part of the reason you feel so much better in nature is because there is much less electromagnetic radiation. Something to consider; when was the last time you didn’t have cell service outdoors?
- Water: The archaic water systems of our cities deliver what is essentially poison to the citizens. In the mountains of northern Italy natural spring water flows through the municipal tap system, and fluoridation is banned. Spring water is ideal. No chlorination, no fluoridation. Ideally you do not poison your water supply to begin with, but having filtering systems that can actually remove such impurities is essential. Basing the water architecture off the natural shape of rivers can deliver a ‘living’ water which is much more healing.
- Organic foods: The standard should be food as it was created by nature; organic. People are eating foods that are soaked in chemicals such as RoundUp, now known to cause cancer. Encourage biodynamic farming, and put in place incentives for citizens to grow their own food. Utilize our animal friends and gift chickens to every citizen that wants them - they devour your organic food scraps and produce beautiful eggs for you to consume in return. If you remove the opportunity for toxic ‘food products’ in your stores, the people will be healthier.
- Public workout spaces; One of the jewels of Californian life is the open air, free-to-use Muscle Beach developments. These are important to encourage physical activity of the citizen, provide a community meeting point and contribute to the health of the city.
- Parks: As man is part of nature, we are healthiest when living amongst it. Bringing plant life indoors and also outdoors as much as possible has many physical and spiritual benefits. The best cities have the most nature blended within it; and completely pristine parks even in the heart of the city.
- Sunlight. The giver of all life, sunlight is essential to physical, mental and spiritual health. Implement mandated outdoor sunlight breaks, quartz glass windows that allow the full spectrum of sunlight through, prioritize ‘open-air’ capabilities of buildings.
In order to build a more vital environment, we must simplify, purify, and beautify. The cumulative effect of these changes will make a world of difference—both individually and socially. Until then, we can serve as examples. We can be the pillars of health that will one day hold up the eternal city—a city like soil, in which we will all grow.
“The people are the city.”
— William Shakespeare
Yours in Vitality,