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Country Virtues: What Non-Urban Life Can Teach Us

Country Virtues: What Non-Urban Life Can Teach Us

It’s no secret that there’s a divide between urban and rural communities in America right now. Whether it’s the proclamation of “white rural rage” or stereotypes of uneducated country dwellers, rural communities are often misunderstood.

But just like urban life has its ups and downs, country living has its own advantages, values, traditions, and lifestyles we can learn from.

In “Swords into Plowshares,” a chapter of co-authored book Angels in the Architecture, Douglas Jones points out various virtues of country life (as opposed to life in the city), emphasizing the ways in which a more rural setting can positively influence its people.

With that in mind, here are three admirable characteristics of rural living.

1. Necessary Humility

In Jones’ words, “It’s easier to be arrogant in the city than in the country.”

In the city, we are surrounded by countless displays of human prowess: factory machines, building-sized screens, air-conditioned homes, and story upon story of skyscrapers. The city “insulates” its people, protecting them from the realities of the often-harsh natural world.

“In and of themselves,” Jones clarifies, “[man-made conveniences] are great blessings, but to the unreflective, such constant insulation encourages fables of self-sufficiency. We start to believe that man can do it all through wires and smarts.”

In contrast, the country continuously forces us toward the imminent natural world. Nature is imminent, and its persistent presence testifies to the grandeur of everything that is not man or manmade. Viewed rightly, nature terrifies and stuns, humbling its viewer and bringing him closer to the reality of humans’ finitude.

2. Structured Silence

Not only can the country catalyze humility, it also consistently reinforces the value of silence. In contrast to the city—a veritable hubbub of traffic, appointments, and technology—the country abounds with expanses of people-less quiet. Mountains, forests, and prairies alike cultivate the necessary space to simply be—to contemplate the world without the pressure to use it.

And in a time overrun with the constant noise of technology and media, silence is a necessary but often neglected good. It can teach us to be thankful—to direct our attention toward the beautiful but often forgotten aspects of our lives. It can bring us needed reprieve—an opportunity to escape the clamorous ruckus of our modern world. Most importantly, perhaps, while silence can be frightening, it helps us be alone with our thoughts—to examine ourselves and our lives.

3. Clear Personality

“The city is notorious,” Jones writes, “for its impersonality. Thousands of humans press past each other, thousands of fascinating stories to tell, and yet each is a stranger to the other. There isn’t time to know the masses.”

With so many people living there, the city tends to clump people into pre-set groups and categories. There simply isn’t time to work any other way! It isn’t surprising, then, that—as Jones points out—racial conflict often begins in the city. Rather than allowing time to understand each person individually, efficiency demands stereotypes.

In the country, on the other hand, small communities win the time and space to work with others as they are: as humans, in all their individual humanity. Sure, this might mean some strange characters or unconventional personalities, but it also signals deep connection, rich understanding, and plenty of stories to tell.

To be clear, the key determiner of our lives is not where we live—it’s how we live. As Jones points out, the principles frequently cultivated in rural life can be transferred to the city, though it might take a little more conscious effort. Because wherever we are, we can pursue practices and principles that nurture a fully human and robust life.

Image credit: Unsplash

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