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Cities - Elements of a city Part 1

A while ago just as we navigated the early days of the covid pandemic, I had a very strong impression about cities of the world and it gave me pause and cause to wonder how others percieved cities. I became curious to understand how the concept of the city evolved, its construction, it original purpose and constitution.

In my quest to understand, I have uncoverd elements associated with the city and came to understand it would be difficult to see a city shine without them. I presently challenge myself to foster these elements in my own city, that is, my life. None of them are entirely within our control but there are things we can do to cultivate them.


Decades ago Kevin Lynch, an american urban planner wrote about five elements of the "physical" city.


In this episode we will explore two of them within the context of the city of light.


1) Patterns - Proverbs 23: 7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.


Whether we realise it or not we have patterns which are created by our thought life. Whatever we are thinking on will eventually manifest itself in our lives, joy, fear, anger, you name it.


Research shows that our minds have the ability to have multi-perspectives so we can see things from different angles and we have ability to choose because we have been given free will. The more our mind identifies with a particular thought, the stronger that path becomes in our minds like a bull dozer blazing a trail that will be traveled over and over again for as long as we allow the thought to play over in our brains. Where thoughts are good and righteous it is to our benefits and the benefit of the world around us and where there are toxic well the result is a debilitating one.


If our light is to shine brighter and brighter, our choices need to improve over and over, reflective of the father of light.


Granted some of us have had awful experiences that have scarred us. I have not been immune and I have to make choices everyday to examine what I think of myself and of others, make sure it is true, it is noble, it is praiseworthy and excellent. This enables the cycle of renewal in our minds. Often we want to see new things happen in our lives in our world but we are still locked in the same old patterns that didn't enable what we want to happen or give the new things entrance. The bible says we should renew our minds and science proves that we have the ability to carry out surgery on our own brains by thinking the right kind of thoughts and as we do so that right thinking pattern gets stronger and stronger and so do our living habits.


According to the urban planner Lynch, pathways (akin to the patterns we create in our minds) were the streets, sidewalks, trails, and other channels in which people travel. One could observe the city while moving through these pathways. Evidently without these paths one could not move freely through the city nor would goods or services be efficiently transported from one place to another. These paths also provided a good vision of the city depending on where you were, in a car driving, on a sidewalk walking - it opened up the city before you. These paths determined direction and destination to a large extent for the one travelling on them.


Within this context, I am suggesting that pathways are synonymous with the thought patterns and living habits we create.


When we insist on keeping old thinking patterns which are deterimental to us they hinder our growth and development. This is enough basis for seeking a new thought pattern. A striving city creates new paths.


God is always doing something new and we need to make room in our minds to receive the new thing God is doing else we limit ourselves. Cities are innovative, they are always considering improvements, change, solutions, planning, investing to create new opportunities that give security.


Like the familiar paths of a city, we sometimes know where our thoughts lead because the patterns in ours minds have become familiar with predetermined conclusions even when they are wrong.What happens when we decide to go exploring or do some deep thinking to rationalise those paths again? I think there is potential to discover many new things when our mindset is not locked and unresponsive to changing seasons and landscapes of our lives.


The root of a thought is just as important as the beginning of a road. To truly identify whether a path is valid in our brains, we need to give sufficient thinking time or reflection time so unrequired thought patterns do not evolve.


Blaise Pascal said "Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves."


If we are to be the city of light God says we are, we must see Him in everything we do and that starts with our thinking!


When we have the right pathways, it enables the right connections for us to facilitate our personal development, growth and prosperity. Sometimes it is hard to imagine all of our propersity is down to some thing as simple as a thought! Yet it is!


2) Boundary lines - This is what God says in the book of Jeremiah "......If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant....."


There is the start and end to the sea, there is the time for the sun to rise and for it to set, there is the time for love and a time to refrain from loving and all these boundaries are so we can function properly and maintain a required rhythm. Boundaries are so important that often covenants are liable to be broken where these lines are crossed, disrupting the order of things.


When we disrupt the order of things we set ourselves up for dis - appointment. We delve into more detail on this subsequent epidsodes.


There is a heighten sense of activity or desire for activity concentrated around boundary lines. Activities are actually quite focussed and intended because of the boundary in existence. Sometimes the boundary is so clear and has been in existence so long there is no question as to what is expected and sometimes we have to create new boundaries to effect the change we desire.


Sometimes natural disasters may have shifted this boundaries causing some disorder. You might want to consider some of the experiences that have shifted boundaries in your life and how it has influenced the tracjectory of your life.


Some boundaries maybe specific to you and some more generic. This bears a parallel with our sense of organisation and extremely important for a city.


I am sure we can think of such instances, perhaps we were disobedient and did not respect the boundary lines. This goes back to the garden of eden, Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the tree of life but Eve thought it would be a pretty good idea and we wonder why the world is in the chaos its in. It might be easy to think that God is unkind or that He doesn't exist because of some of the horrible things that happen in the world The truth is, there was a boundary line crossed centuries ago, there was a covenant broken but God still cradles a true picture of us in His hands, He still has the walls of our city continually before Him. He has power to reinforce those boundaries even where they might have been damaged, including the upsets that were out of our control.


Edges are the second element of the city Lynch identified.


In his words, "these edge elements, although probably not as dominant as paths, are for many people important organizing features, particularly in the role of holding together generalized areas, as in the outline of a city by water or wall......maybe barriers (aspects of control or order)...."


I don't know about you but having just these two elements working in my life would make such a difference. There are others to explore and we'll do so in the next episode, part 2 of elements of a city!





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