Day 2: The Developed World is Uglier than the Undeveloped One
This isn’t a hot take, but I realize it’s also not an objective stance.
We’re making the world uglier.
My entire adult life has been spent in the building sector. I studied Architectural Engineering in college (for some reason). I helped pay for that degree by roofing houses during the school year and pouring concrete during a couple of the summers. I’m a licensed professional engineer now (for some reason), spending five years in the design realm before moving over to a contracting firm.
If you’ve read much of the genesis writings on this website you’ll know that I realized a long time ago that engineering isn’t really my jam. I got into it because both my dad and step-dad are really technical guys, and I always thought that was really cool. I was a smart enough kid and was good at math and science, so I didn’t really give it a second thought when declaring a major. It’s not that I knew I shouldn’t do that and did anyway, it’s just that I didn’t think it through much at all.
I stuck with engineering school because it’s a great degree to have and a good fallback if I need it. I got my license because I’d already put enough years into it and I figured why not see it through for a few more.
We can discuss the wisdom of those decisions at another time. Regardless they add some substance to what follows.
Yesterday I was driving back toward my office in downtown Kansas City from a jobsite when a thought struck me:
Maybe I just hate buildings.
I was passing countless fast food restaurants, banks, strip malls, car washes, movie theaters, and of course billboards (not a building, but they’re there on the side of the road and they suck to look at). As I looked around from the highway (at safe intervals while keeping an eye on the road… I’m not out here living dangerously) it hit me how awful everything looks.
That’s not to say that ALL buildings suck. The Louvre, Sistine Chapel, and the city of Petra are undeniably beautiful. But the vast majority of man-made structures are grey blocks surrounded by fading asphalt lots lit by god-awful orange sodium lights. They’re terrible.
And then another thought hit me:
My chosen career makes more of this happen.
There are plenty of things that I love in this world, but aside from a few exceptions (like the ones listed above) buildings are not one of them.
I love the sighs and smells of nature. I love throwing surprise parties for friends who say they hate surprises but actually want nothing more than to be caught off-guard by the people they love showering them with excitement. I love eating fresh banana bread with too much butter on it.
I sent my wife a text yesterday that said “I’d like to make the world more green, not grey.”
After getting over the fact that I sounded like a pompous ass I’ve been thinking hard on the implications of that realization. I was referring mostly to the contrast between nature and the developed world, but I think that what I really meant is that I want to be someone who adds life to the world around me, not takes it away.
That’s what I see a lot of development doing. Again, not all of it. Some of the stuff getting built in downtown KC is cool as hell.
But, for the most part, what I do diminishes the life and energy from places. I put brick or concrete or wood boxes all over the country for people to work in. Most of those people don’t even enjoy being there. I mean it’s work, for God’s sake.
I’ve been processing this for about 24 hours a this point, so I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I need to do with it.
Onward and upward,