It sure is nice to have such smart friends. Hospitable ones, too.
Last night, I gratefully accepted the invitation of The Architect and Gospel Matt to attend a July 4th Eve party at their lovely manse, where we enjoyed burgers and fine beers on the roof deck, admired their view of the city, and engaged in lively conversation. Later in the evening, a few of us were chatting with a friend who is a professor of architecture about the way that buildings can help or hinder social interaction. It was fascinating to hear how he has his students engage with ‘the ology’s (psychology, sociology, theology, etc.) to design living spaces and gathering places that encourage connection between people. Which seems simple at first glance, but TA and my new friend pointed out that the many social spaces all around us– malls, markets, and the Metro, for example– are all designed to do exactly that, but without the intended results. They work in theory, but not in practice: individualism and isolation win over engagement, hands down. As an illustration, the prof will send his students to Union Station (an old and stately structure which contains a food court, many shops and restaurants, and several train stations, not to mention huge gathering spaces where people are meant to mingle and art is frequently on display) with this simple assignment: talk to someone.
I can only imagine the uncomfortable and probably disastrous results, and my teachers were smart enough to not suggest The Answer to the problem. So let me suggest several possible answers:
b.) I should stop worrying so much about how hard it is to actually engage with the people I encounter every day, and just treat them with dispassionate indifference.
c.) We can safely conclude that modern people can’t truly follow Jesus until the architects of the world solve the issue of social interaction.
d.) All of the above.