Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | August 26, 2010

Jason Through the Clouds

There comes a time when the human heart stops beating. Soon after, if not before, brain activity ceases. The body is dead.

Until this point, the body is alive. Comas and paralysis snuff most of the body’s function prior to death. But even a person paralyzed in all four limbs, can make eye contact and sometimes even form words. Despite this reduced state, the power to communicate as human to human remains in the subtle movements of the eye muscles. It is not the eye which communicates, but it is the function of the eye which allows the person to communicate from within.

I’ve given a little thought to Jason’s Schnarr’s battles with paranoid thinking, depression and bi-polar swings. I believe these conditions caused his perceptions to alternate between feelings of immense responsibility for everything wrong all around him and profound hopeless about his own state and ability to adequately respond. I don’t know the experiences in his head, but one can easily imagine how terrible this trap is. In one moment to be shown incredible, inhuman tasks with a sense of desperate urgency and in the next moment be confronted with a sense of personal impotence and depravity.

Those of us who knew him from the outside may wonder, what part of the Jason we interacted with was real? How much of our relationship was merely a relationship with his illness?

I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question but I like to keep a couple ideas in mind.

If Jason was physically paralyzed in all four limbs we could not have received a hug. We might not have even been able to hear his voice or consider his articulated thoughts. But, we would understand that we did have a relationship, facilitated through eye contact, and perhaps an occasional smile. The point this illustrates is that for much of his life, and even in his last weeks, Jason was still there. There were moments, at least, if not whole conversations and interactions, when the clouds were sufficiently parted in his mind to be in relationship as human to human.

Jason definitely had times of mental absence. He also had times when he was so agitated that he couldn’t stand still or interact with people in his life. I had conversations with Jason where whole sections seemed distorted by an untenable fear or suspicion. But I did have a relationship with Jason. I had a relationship which I consider to have been very important and powerful.

One of the reasons I know my relationship was real is by observing the impact he had on myself and others. At times Jason held the attention of a whole room by some quality in his soft-spoken, public tone. He frequently inspired and guided a friend with his insights in a private conversation. Other times Jason would light up a crowd with his intensely expressed music or warm the heart of one of his children as he brought his gentle attentiveness to bear.

For me this is proof that Jason was not entirely shrouded in a coma. People are not touched or deeply and positively moved by contact with madness. The work that Jason did inside himself, which he sometimes described as struggles, dark clouds or battles was not merely the warfare of madness. His look, his tone of voice, and his thoughtful mind would not have struck, challenged and encouraged the people around him if he was only experiencing a purposeless world of psychosis.

Who knows where the lines are between madness and lucidity? Thinking back on a couple conversations, I have no idea what to call disease and what to call Jason. And I suppose, this is true for everyone. When are you interacting with me rather than with my lust, food addiction, need to impress, depression, etc? It is hard to tell.

This is one, of many, specific things that I admire about Jason. Up until the end of his life, he fought, with much success, to keep track of the line between the content of paranoia he was experiencing and the actual, demonstrable facts and realities he could test and count on. This is difficult work, for anyone, let alone for a person who has a mind effected by disease.


Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | August 16, 2010

Protecting Children

I’ve been noticing recently how dramatically and quickly my fear levels shoot up when my son Kai is missing. And sometimes just when he is running away at a crowded event.

Yesterday I was at a large  and crowded Tim Hortons. Despite being large and crowded, it is still a reasonably small space. I was standing in a line probably 15 people deep and watched as a 3 year old girl dodged through the line and raced around the many tables, condiment bars and partitions. I watched her go and had time for a couple thoughts before her concerned, mildly frantic, mother rushed, less efficiently, after her.

My first thought was to catch the child, and I quickly ignored this impulse once I realized there were no open doors for her to escape through. My second thought was more of a feeling. It wasn’t a particularly violent feeling, but I had a strong sense of how quickly I would climb over or smash through all barriers to get to the child and protect her if it appeared as though she was in danger from some person or thing. So I kept watching with some sense of readiness.

No threat came, the mother caught the child and my coiled senses released and began once again to ignore the little family and focus instead on achieving the coffee and donuts I had set out for.

I relate this experience for a couple reasons. As a parent, I am pretty paranoid of most public settings and I sometimes  treat my son with a tight and controlling attitude.

On the one hand, I shared this mother’s concern for the child, quickly taking in the physical space and looking for dangers and exits. Presumably this is a useful function. But on the other hand, this woman could have remained much calmer had she known that other parents in the room were keeping an eye on the girl, even when she herself lost a line of sight. I sincerely doubt I was the only stranger, of a different race, who would have immediately risked my life for the child without a second thought.

Obviously there is no substitute for a parent’s direct supervision, but somehow I hope to grow in an appropriate trust of the people around me. For all the malicious, disturbed and vulnerable adults in the world who might offer harm to a child there are many multiples more who would come to the child’s aid.

Ah, but even writing this brings up feelings of concern and mistrust. Its a funny world.


Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | August 15, 2010

Love is Silly

This summer, on the little suburban blocks around our house we had a mild infestation of young love. Two kids, maybe age fourteen, wander along together, oblivious of the world around them. The girl is blonde, mournful and about three inches taller than her boy. He is slight, attentive and wears his hair and clothes like Justin Beiber. The pair sits on different street corners for hours at a time. Sometimes they migrate slowly to the next corner, holding hands as they go.

Last night the strip of grass along our curbside was blessed with their infatuated presence for about 20 minutes while we were eating dinner. Kai, Janine and I all peered out our window as we sat at the dinner table watching the spectacle. The endless sitting and talking was punctuated by a moment of action when the boy stood up and akwardly leaned over to offer a sideways hug of comfort. Finally, after more talking, the time to leave arrived. Again the boy stood, moved to her side and ungracefully offered a hand while trying to lift her to her feet with a his other hand under her arm. And then they shuffled off, hand in hand, down the street.

There was no moment of out loud laughter, but for the three spectators watching from the window, the whole scene was filled with mirth and interest. What could possibly be so enthralling to the two of them? The awkwardly offered hand-up for a fourteen year old girl who could have flipped to her feet reminded me of the times I’ve seen old men, noticibly less able than their elderly wives, hoble around a table to yank out a chair the lady could have more easily managed by herself.

Love is a silly thing.


Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | August 12, 2010

The Limits of Empathy

As near as I can tell the week of July 29th to August 5th was the worst week of my life.

The economy continued to stumble and more people joined the lists of unemployed in America. Over 100 people were injured and 36 killed in an explosion in Basra, Iraq. Mud and landslides crushed a town in north-western China and killed over 127 people and left 1,300 missing. Heat waves in Russia are seen as responsible for 5,000 deaths this week as well as starting massive wildfires which have choked up the city of Moscow.

But all of these disasters are eclipsed by the damage wrought by flooding in Pakistan. Millions of people had their land and homes destroyed. Experts estimated that 15 million have been negatively effected. 1,600 have lost their lives in these floods and many more are expected to follow as food and clean water shortages combine with the spread of diseases spread amongst the suddenly homeless. This is credited as the worst flooding in Pakistan’s history and thought to require multiple billions of dollars in aid for recovery.

I can barely begin to image what it would feel like to have one’s entire village wiped off the map along with most of one’s friends and family. Survivors of the worst hit areas had everything in their life destroyed.

It is astonishing to realize that a disaster of these proportions happens somewhere every couple years. Earthquakes in Haiti, tsunamis in South-East Asia, hurricanes in the gulf flattening Caribbean islands or battering the Southern coast of America. How can the human race sustain these levels of pain?


Apart from the rare individual like Job in the Bible, we are blessed with degrees of distance from most of the world’s hardship. We have a blessed lack of empathy which stems from degrees of separation.

I don’t personally know anyone from Pakistan. I met a Pakistani on an airplane once. I went to school with people who had distant relatives in Pakistan. I have associates who have associates who are involved in the health and aid work in Pakistan.

While floods were flattening whole towns in Pakistan, Jason Schnarr’s death rocked the community that surrounded him. The tragic passing of my friend Jason Schnarr is what ruined my week, not the constant hum of disaster and bad news from around the world. Jason meant a great deal to me personally. He impacted my life over a series of years. Jason played a significant role in my social life, in my thought life and in my spiritual life. The breadth and depth of connection with Jason makes the passing of this one person much more difficult for me to bear than the thousands dying in Pakistan’s floods.

I suppose this teaches me two things.

Each one of us has different distances from every person and event in this world. These ranges of closeness mean that we can better serve and be served in times of hardship. There is almost always someone hurt more, or at least as much as we, by a tragedy. We can offer these people support and love in whatever ways come to mind. There are also always people less effected, more removed from the situation who are able to put a hand on our back and keep us standing when times are hard. Sometimes there is so much distance between us and a tragedy that the best we can do is focus on keeping our part of the world ticking. In the midst of heartache it can be comforting to know that there are still babies being born, couples getting married and people going into the office for a day’s work.

The second realization that comes to mind is that since we move through time, we will all eventually find ourselves temporally distanced from tragic circumstances. Time heals all wounds because distance makes everything less painful.

These reflections leave me wondering about the effort of empathy. To what extent should I try to get in the shoes of those suffering around the world? Am I too blind to the poor and needy? On the other hand, does it make sense for me to spend my life in tears? There are certainly plenty of opportunities for weeping should I search them out. The same questions apply to our experience of passing time. How can I possibly forget my friend Jason? Is it some kind of betrayal to allow the worst week of my life to shift days, weeks, months and eventually years into the dim past? It would take sustained empathetic work to stay in touch with the loss I feel now, but perhaps it could be done. Perhaps it would honor Jason’s life if I can avoid forgetting the pain of his passing?

I would rather leave you with my questions, but I will offer the beginnings of my own answer.

I think empathy is an incredible tool which has been given to us. It allows us a type of relationship with others unparalleled throughout the animal kingdom. But to share feelings requires first that there be individuals. I have be a real person. I have to have my own feelings based on my own proximity to the people and events around me. This is what I can truly share.

I want to keep my eyes and heart open to interact with the people around me, giving and receiving support as the opportunity arises. I will trust that the Lord will touch my heart with the inspiration of love when the time is right. The Lord teaches about two steps in a process of empathy (see below). To look into or investigate a situation and then to respond to any authentic feelings of compassion which arise. When we are touched with compassion it is a gift and a call from the Lord, but we don’t have to set about manufacturing feelings where they don’t arise.

I think the same can be applied looking back on the past. I intend to keep investigating my friendship with Jason. When the Lord touches my heart with something genuine I will try to respond and learn from what I am being shown. I don’t need to force or hold onto any kinds of feelings simply because I think I should or because they were my first feelings.

And she opened it, and saw him, the child. That this signifies investigation of its quality, and a perception that it was truth from the Divine, is evident from the signification of “to open,” as being to investigate of what quality it was, for he who opens in order to see what and of what quality a thing is, investigates; and from the signification of “seeing” as being perception (see n. 6732); and from the representation of Moses, who is here “the child,” as being the law Divine or truth Divine (of which in what follows), thus truth from the Divine. (AC 6736)

And behold the boy wept. That this signifies sadness, is evident without explication. (AC 6736)

And she had compassion on him. That this signifies admonition from the Divine, is evident from the signification of “having compassion,” as being an influx of charity from the Lord; for when anyone from charity sees another in misery (as here Pharaoh’s daughter saw the child in the ark of rush and weeping), compassion arises; and as this is from the Lord, it is an admonition. Moreover, when they who are in perception feel compassion, they know that they are admonished by the Lord to give aid. (AC 6737)

Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 13, 2009

How Do you Sell An Apartment in a Vertical Village? (part 5)

Several schmucks have made comments about how this brilliant idea is not for them. (No insult intended- I just liked the sound of ‘several schmucks’).

The first thing to to affirm is that this isn’t for everyone. I only hope to slow the blanketing ugliness of suburbs. I want to offer an alternative for those people who do find value in this type of living.

5 land use. looking into VV courtard

Courtyard or town center between buildings. (We could do much better design work).

There are those people who love to build their own houses by hand and maintain them. There are people who are actually farmers. There are people who don’t want to have to see large open spaces and wildlife. All of these folks need to look elsewhere.

My target is the people who are living in suburbs because they have the money to do so but, when looking honestly, admit that they would prefer not to mark the seasons by mowing, raking, snow shoveling and repairing.

The sales target is a person who might be interested in any of the following:

  • Reduced time requirements of home ownership.
  • Saving opportunities in all directions.
  • Increased availability of amenities, such as people enjoy in the city.
  • Higher quality services (faster mail, more secure environment, excellent public transportation, access to large garden plots, golf courses, etc)
  • The opportunity to significantly improve our impact on land, water, wildlife, carbon emissions, consumption required and all natural systems.
  • The availability of locally grown, affordably priced food.
  • The ability to look from your window or walk 10 minutes from your house into a national park-like landscape.
  • Enjoy a marked increase in community building opportunities through carefully designed buildings, courtyards and town centers.
  • The opportunity for a sense of cohesion and “town pride” lost on many (but not all) sprawling suburbs.
  • Income generating possibilities on your parcel of land.*
5 land use. Garage space

Stick the car under ground and drop your second vehicle for public bus.

Personally, any one of these factors above would sell me on this manner of living. However, several people have raised valid concerns.

  • I don’t want to live up in the sky, it gives me a weird feeling.
  • I want my own space and privacy.
  • People don’t spontaneously walk outside, fewer children play on the streets, people don’t spontaneously meet the neighbors, people lead more sedentary life styles.
  • Ideological resistance because the “American Dream” includes owning your own house.
  • People partly move to the suburbs to manage their own property and have the opportunity to garden.

I grant that this would be a different way of living for those accustomed to the burbs. Several of these challenges can be answered by creative design, constructing the project (so that people can experience it) and re-teaching people’s expectations.

In existing condominium high rises, one finds that one’s own apartment does provide a quite adequate sense of privacy. The halls and outside “town centers” are certainly less private than a back yard. (Point for the burbs). There would be ample opportunity for gardening in private community garden plots as well as common spaces.

Except in the unusual case, I am picturing condominium’s which you buy and own. This, combined with your ownership of a parcel of farm/parkland/wilderness would have to replace the “American Dream” (nightmare) of suburban ownership.

By this point we have already whittled down our target market. To me the most challenging questions remain unanswered. Is the experience of living 12 stories in the sky intrinsically inferior to living on the ground?

I can’t speak to this from any direct experience. I find the American sedentary lifestyle arises from a number of factors working together and would not be solved by Vertical Villages. However, I do think that the combination of easy access to beautiful areas to walk and bike with the ability to walk to numerous retail stores rather than driving would balance out any negative impact on the couch potato problem.

Would fewer kids play outside? Would people venture outside more seldom? I can easily see either of these negative effects occurring.

Yet a community of 200 (5 buildings at 12-15 stories each) could easily employ a security guard and the residents would be able to recognize each other’s faces. There is the possibility that the local ball-field or skate park could be more safe than the suburban equivalent.

Also, though people might take fewer spontaneous trips to their backyard, they might make far more planned trips for a variety of outdoor activities. There could be more opportunities for activities within easy walking distance.

5. scene 1 trees colored

Typical sprawl.

5. scene 2 color

Opportunity Abounds.

In the end, living in the Vertical Villages of the future is not for everyone but I’m convinced that it has an important role to fill. Aside from the satisfaction of more sustainable development and the beautiful surroundings it seems to me that the greatest opportunity presented is the chance to rebuild village community.

Sharing stores, coffee shops, garden areas, parks, hallways, village centers, parking garages hiking trails, economic endeavors (land lease) and so much more with your neighbors would be a dramatic shift from the little island of isolation which is modern suburbia. You would lose some sense of personal space and privacy but you would be physically brought into community and connection in a way that could offer immense satisfaction. I’m not suggesting an externally imposed, commune-style utopia, I’m just suggesting the naturally occurring joys of learning to interact with other humans.

The final post will deal with the challenges of bringing the idea to market.


* If you chose to use public transportation and rent cars occasionally you could lease your underground parking space. You could also work with other residents who each own sections of the surrounding land to lease your land for farming, wind-power generation, golf courses, school field’s, or any other function which could not be achieved using half-acre, fenced, suburban backyards.

Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 13, 2009

Ethical Rebellion – Preface (part 2)

Ethical Rebellion

(When to Light the Torches)

If we start from the concept of rebellion, we find that there must be an established order against which we rebel. The act of breaking the established order brings about a state of chaos before a new order is settled.

I contend that a state of order is inherently “heavenly” while a state of disorder is inherently “hellish.” Certainly this is a semantic distinction, but since this is my “book” I will stick to my definitions and simply illustrate what I mean.

Is a pride of lions tearing down a zebra orderly or disorderly? The coordination of the lions is incredibly orderly. The balance of the ecosystem displays an incredible pattern, in which the lions feed themselves while also strengthening the zebra herd by removing the weak. Knocking over a zebra, ripping open its throat and shredding and consuming its flesh is disorderly. The vultures, jackals, hyenas and maggots which cleanup the carcass are part of an orderly process of recycling. Flies burying their eggs in rotting flesh so that their young can hatch and eat their way out is gross. Therefore, disorderly.

It is difficult to apply the good/evil dichotomy to this world of nature – again, a semantic endeavor.

Let’s try another example.

Funny looking short guy with a mustache leading thousands of Germans to wear strange badges, explode French homes and businesses and systematically destroy millions of Jews. Disorderly. Offering the German people inspiration, hope and direction in a time of despair. Orderly. The impoverished German economy turning around and leaping into productivity is orderly. Dropping and ignoring debt obligations to France, England and the USA is disorderly. Organizing the tactics and coordination which allowed the German army to blow through the Maginot line involves incredible order. A bullet smashing through Hitler’s skull and brain in a bunker somewhere is disorderly.

Every element in each of these examples could be dissected a hundred more times to reveal a mixture of order and disorder – pattern and chaos – creation and destruction.

 Hopefully a couple things become clear from these examples.

A) We cannot possibly hope to understand and analyze every level of every situation.
B) Any event or occurrence in this world involves a conglomeration of order and disorder. All the more so with any institution or establishment.

C) Our own view of the matter is colored by the lens through which we observe and by the material we focus on. (However, this does not lead me to conclude that every situation’s intrinsic quality is defined by the beholder and relative to the beholder).

As this constant, cycling process unfolds around us, we find ourselves faced with two opportunities:

A) We can make an evaluation of a given process or state of being.

B) We can intentionally seek to effect this process.

In the broadest sense we can evaluate the whole panorama. Do we think that everything unfolding is held within an inherently orderly process or an inherently chaotic one? Does it all lead to a good end or all toward entropical deadness?

This broad evaluation effects and guides the way we seek to contribute to the whole, and also how we contribute in specific cases.

I assume that all change involves a breaking of a given order. Change is destructive of a status quo and is therefore also painful and full of conflict. It is a rebellion. However, growth relies on change. Change is obviously a very necessary part of existence.

And yet, growth also depends on factors of stability. Somalia’s protracted civil war may ultimately be part of a necessary and useful growth. But at the moment the disorder or chaos of situation prevents most viable business and communities from establishing themselves.

I suggest that something can be labeled as “evil” if it involves an effort to dominate and control for some personal gain. This comes from my evaluation that everything moves within an over-arching order and that everything moves towards a good purpose (Divine Providence, if you will). Hence, to set oneself up to rule over others in opposition to this order is bad.

Rebellion is a rejection of existing order and thus a lack of acceptance of what Is. The rebellious attitude is dangerous because overthrowing an existing scenario easily turns to a rejection of the overarching process. The danger comes when one turns to self as the arbiter of good and evil – (like eating from a certain forbidden tree).

 And yet, I do believe that there are times and places for ethical rebellion.


 Perhaps the following quotation from Matthew is relevant:

“Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Matthew 18.7

Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 11, 2009

imaginary book – “Ethical Rebellion”

Ethical Rebellion

(When to Light the Torches)

This is the working title of my next book. It is inspired by extensive historical research and the last 14 years I spent as a war correspondent in the Congo.

The reality is that I often wonder about rebellion. When does it become appropriate? When does it become imperative? What extent of rebellion is called for? What means are acceptable to use in rebellion?

These are questions I regularly wonder about. In my experience, rebels without cause are far more rare than causes without rebels. It seems to me that any tyranny or inappropriate dominance and control presents a possible case for rebellion. I don’t simply mean state governments. I mean all cases at all level of our lives.

  • The passing comment made in a group which dismisses a person or their ideas.
  • Advertising or spin which uses lies to gain control over the consumer’s mind.
  • A charismatic or persuasive personality who leads a flock to serve his purposes.
  • An organized group which forcibly extracts wealth from a certain set of 300 million people which it uses, in part, to destroy and manipulate foreign nations.

In short, any place in which evil has established itself in some form, resistance to it can be called a rebellion. It is a rejection of a given status quo.

My imaginary book will deal with at least two major themes – and possibly a third one for fun.

A) Since rebellion is a rejection of established order it necessarily brings with it an element of disorder or chaos. We need to explore the nature of order and chaos. Inherently, orderly things are heavenly and disorderly one’s are hellish. Thus the tool of rebellion and the resulting chaos have something of hell in them. To enter rebellion with integrity, one must have a clear grasp of these issues and also be able to identify criteria which make rebellion the superior choice.

B) Closely related to the first issue but far more important is the effort to understand the rebel. If ethical rebellion is possible, it is likely one of the most difficult endeavors. Since rebellion deposes an existing order, it automatically presents itself as the new order. The immediate and dire danger is that one will simply replace the old tyrant with oneself. Avoiding this danger requires self discipline – cultivating this discipline is far more difficult than successfully deposing a tyrant. Fight “the man” from the same love of dominion which we ostensibly fight and our rebellion will contain the seeds of the next tyranny. If love of dominion rules within, we will have no success in defeating it without. I think a good place to begin is Conjugial Love 365 by Emanuel Swedenborg which teaches about the difference between how good and evil loves fight.

C) “Strategies for winning” will be the bonus, third section of the book. Rebellions are a specific subcategory of conflict and hence must have special strategies which make them most successful. Why not aim to win?

I have to end with the tag line of “Tu Ne Cede Malis sed contra audentior ito” (Do not yield to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it).


Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 5, 2009

pastoral visiting…

I recently had dinner with a couple who are shy of 80. They have a pretty good grasp of “old school.”

They told me, that as a pastor-to-be (or pastor-wanna-be) I should make a concerted effort to visit people. Connect with people.

“That’s how you can really serve people and it will promote/support any other work you’re hoping to do.”

Sounds like decent advice. I guess one of the reasons I got into this line of work is that I like people.

I already understand the desire and inclination to sit in my office and get stuff done rather than get out and hang-out.

I realize that I don’t really know what pastoral visiting means. Its getting to the point that taking Kai out in public reduces most situations to damage control. Some times, perhaps, we will be able to get a babysitter and Janine will be able to go with me on one of these semi-social visits. But what about the other times and occassions?

People upward of 70, especially those who have lost a spouse, often have flexible schedules and the desire to sit and chat. But everyone else seems pretty busy. I know some people don’t feel important enough to ask for the pastor’s time and need an invitation from the pastor. But other people have told me that it would be weird and a little intrusive if the pastor called up asking to chat.

Assuming I get an interview (over coffee, say) how much should I initiate a conversation about religion? Some people, I’m sure, have very few opportunities to talk openly about religion and would probably feel disappointed if the topic is missed. On the other hand, I feel like the title I carry is already in-your-face enough without me always pushing conversation toward spiritual life.

So I suppose I am wondering about the logistics of initiating regular, informal contact with parishioners and also about the tone. I welcome thoughts from pastors and laity reflecting your own experience in this area.


Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 3, 2009

Vertical Villages – some advantages…(part 4)

Here are several advantages to Vertical Villages (VV):


Vertical Village


Suburban Inefficiency

Who wins in a fight?








Savings: (materials, money, time, space)

– telephone wire


We could manage with far, far fewer telephone poles, sidewalks, curbs and hydrants.

– electric wire

– pipes

– pavement (roads and parking lots)

strip mall parking lots

Strip mall parking lots. Often sit unused.


Road is as wide as the front yard. Yard is half taken by the driveway.

– building materials

– gasoline

– rakes, ladders, snowblowers, lawn mowers, pool cleaning equipment,

mower and ladder

Mowing and mending. Unnecessary.

– yard maintenance and house maintenance – fertilizers and pesticides.

– time in traffic and/or driving

– 2nd car

– Retailers would have fewer locations to service and could reduce their distribution costs.

– With more open land next door to high density living areas, many more people could have access to locally produced food.

produce sign

Food from within 20 miles?

Sharing Possibilities:

– swimming pools

– Gym Equipment

– 2nd car (recreational, pickup truck, bus)

P - car collage

Take your pick of second car, but don't bother owning.

– laundry and drier machine

– boat

– Concierge

– sports fields

We are used to sharing pools and gyms but often the travel required prompts us to purchase our own gym equipment and pools in addition. Living in high density would allow for many more creative sharing opportunities. (Most likely, these services would be provided by a company and offered to the residence).

2 examples:

– Several rooms in each building could be maintained as guest rooms. This would allow people to rent out extra guest space for the 8 nights each year that they needed it right in their own building. This would allow the family to use significantly less floor space (and save money).

– “Zipcar” and similar services are beginning to pop up in high density urban areas. The idea is that people can rent time in a car for short periods of time without the massive time and money costs of owning or leasing. These services are not viable in the suburbs, but could be viable in VV. Now, you can rent an SUV, Audi, Pick up truck, boat and trailer for the few occasions you need one each year without all the hassle and costs of owernership.


– Public transport more viable and quicker.


Bus leaving condominium complex.

– Easy walking distance to most shopping. Amenities of the city with views and access to the countryside in your back yard. The benefits of the city without the ugliness and clutter. The beauty of the country without the loneliness and lack of amenities.


Many shared uses are already heavily subsidized by the government with your own property taxes. If (I know its a big “if”) government would be willing to reduce taxes and let communities cover their own needs we could have massive savings in: schools, school busing services, postal services, security, water, sewage treatment, fire protection and electric.

– School bussing – in a world of VV, kids could attend elementary school one of the buildings in their vertical village. They could attend high school at a neighboring VV and could simply use the regular public busses without the ridiculous cost of special bussing services.

– Security guards could provide greater safety at much lower costs than police patrolling suburbs. They could get anywhere in the complex in 2 minutes, there could be a perimeter fence if necessary. They wouldn’t need multiple vehicles and they could easily keep 800 people in 5 buildings safe.

– Postmen could collect and distribute mail much more quickly at less financial cost and far less start-stop gasoline usage around the suburbs. (Assuming any physical mail is sent for much longer).


Improved Postal Possibilities.

– Many communities could generate their own electricity locally with windmills. This could dramatically increase efficiency (I believe) because DC could be used instead of the AC required to move electricity over greater distances.


More exercise because you can walk to get groceries, socks, a spatula and a laté rather than needing to drive to the nearest strip mall.

Less ground covered with houses and pavement means better drainage, better soil preservation and natural water purification and space for greater numbers and varieties of wildlife.

There are likely many more advantages…feel free to add anything you think of. Also, feel free to raise objections.


Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | November 2, 2009

Vertical Villages – Painting the picture. (part 3).

Picture living in one of these Vertical Villages* (VV).

Your office is 40 miles away and on the days you don’t telecommute it is cheaper and faster to take the bus.  Sometimes for fun or when you have a client to see you’ll rent time on one of the Porsches but usually the bus can’t be beat. Even with its 5 stops at other VV’s it by-passes the usual traffic thanks to its designated high-speed bus lane. You come home the same way.

On your way up to your floor you grab your mail, stop in at the Giant for some groceries and ask the concierge to book you several 4 wheelers for 8pm. Then chat to your “five-floors-down neighbor” on your way up the elevator. You get to talking and decide to stop with him at the 6th floor Starbucks. You part company after a laté and quickly drop off your groceries so that you can get a little time in at the gym and pool before getting dressed up for dinner.

Since you’re in a good mood you drop down two floors to buy some flowers for your wife. Since she works in the neighboring building in the play school she has no real commute time and has been home for a while, sitting in your “inside porch” talking with one of the next door neighbors in a common lounge space.

After a brief hello you head inside to get ready for dinner and say hi to the boys. This evening you’ve planned to go to dinner at the family’s favorite Tai place on the roof of the fifth building over in celebration of your younger son’s birthday. Following this you plan to take the whole family out to see the sunset on the top of the mountain.

It was worth paying the little extra for a vertical village spot so close to a mountain. Your family loves the atv ride out past the ball field, beyond the community gardens to the base of the mountain. Tonight however, you plan to take a detour past the new windmill fields, pleased to be enjoying the income from your share of the leased land. Then on up through the forest trails to the mountain lookout. What a wonderful place to live! Cheaper, cleaner, prettier, more amenities, fewer maintenance headaches, better community opportunities. Life after Toll Brothers is so much better!


* see earlier posts.

Older Posts »