A few years ago I was giving a major address at a large conference, and some old friends happen to be in the audience. Later they told me they were wagering on how many books or authors I’d mention in my hour-long talk. They figured they lose count with my name-dropping, book-citing, and author-quoting style.
I don’t know about that time, but in my recent op-ed piece in our local York Sunday News column, I cited three books and one on-line article. Not bad for 800 words. The piece was about suburban sprawl and the erosion of beauty. “How does a community steward the aesthetic dimension of life?” I asked, moving my rant from a local political matter to the data about concrete and the dangers of sprawl, to the less tangible questions of charm in urban design, architecture and a region’s natural and build environment.
There were other authors that I didn’t cite such as Calvin Seerveld that, had space permitted, would have upped my citation quotient. (Anybody betting should know I’ve got to talk books.) On the question of the way God’s world is structured and ordered with an aesthetic dimension “built-in”, (and a human response-ability hard-wired in as well) Seeveld’s Rainbows for the Fallen World is my favorite text. I wish I would have cited him in the paper as he calls us to attend to the allusive and suggestion-rich nature of human culture-forming. He shows how an opened up attentiveness to this can help us live more richly, as God intends.
I hope readers can see a multi-dimensional approach in my opinion piece in the paper, inviting regional planners and the citizenry to care about open spaces with scenic vistas, CO2 emissions, as well as the charm of our buildings; the beauty of local streams and the joys of roadside markets. Seerveld writes about aesthetics and the arts, but this call to attend to this dimension in everyday life comes directly from Rainbows. I hope you read my article. It is, after all, only 800 words. But I do cite a coupla books. Read it here.
The book I didn’t cite, but should have, and three great ones that I did:
Rainbows for the Fallen World Calvin Seerveld (Toronto Tuppence Press) $22
The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Man Landscape James Howard Kunstler (Touchstone) $15
Home From Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century James Howard Kunstler (Touchstone) $15
Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith Eric O. Jacobsen (Brazos) $18.99