Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Greatness and Cities

Source: National Geographic

The King's College is nestled in New York City not only because we think we have something to bring to the city, but also because there is much that New York City has to give us. New York is a rich store of civilization and conversation and generally the human concourse on which thoughtful people reflect with great profit. You find these things in many cities, but in New York it is magnified and intensified. I have lived in Toronto, Boston and New York. I have lived in the cornfields of Iowa, the hills of western Pennsylvania and the the charming mill towns of central Massachusetts. It is cities, however, that provide a unique arena for those who are ambitious to expand the mind and exercise the soul.

Wilfred McClay, humanities professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, argues in a recent First Things On the Square column that conservatives should have a natural affinity for cities. ("Why Conservatives Should Care About Cities," November 14, 2007). In short, "the idea of conservatism, far from being anti-urban, has always been inextricably bound up in the history and experience of great cities."

As an aside, he once again pays tribute to the building that houses my college, "the most beautiful tall building in the world, the Empire State, a sight that still catches my breath." In A Student's Guide to U.S. History (ISI Books, 2000), he speaks at greater length on this marvelous fashioning of God's creation glory by the hands of men.

And infinitely more impressive than the elegant eclecticism of Jefferson's Monticello was the astounding tapering design of Manhattan's Empire State Building, a colossus raised up defiantly, against all odds, during the worst depths of the Great Depression, as a beacon of hope and a monument to American ambition. If there is an abiding American yearning to flee to rootless city for the rooted land, there is also an equal and opposite yearning, who finest aspect is captured in the stirring breath-catching sight of that one solitary building, rising with magnificent improbability above the lowlands of Thirty-fourth Street. (p.44)

No comments: