City’s destination is our evolving purposes

 

At the beginning of December 2012, I began exploring the role of purpose and destination as we organize our cities with this question: is our destination alive or adrift?  In Focus, learn and choose, I share a personal reflection on the role of purpose as I was struggling with the increased darkness as we approach the winter solstice; when things are feeling adrift, I sense a higher purpose that connects me to my work.

As a species, our work shapes what we emerge into yet the very purpose of evolution is evolving. What is constant, however, is our quest for survival and improvement; humans, and the settlements we create, share this quest. I came across 100 urban trends that highlight the emerging destination of our cities. While this list of highlights are not definitive, they do elucidate a trajectory in our cities’ development. They demonstrate that there is direction in destination.

Just as I may feel adrift in my personal work, so too can our cities. Teasing out the direction in which we wish to go is as important as a specific destination. These are two different scales of purpose, perhaps, where destination is specific and in the short term, while direction is more difficult to latch onto an essential element in our quest to improve. Understanding what constitutes improvement points us in a direction. And as we move in a direction, the purposes that show up as specific destinations along the way evolve.

As the purpose of evolution is evolving, so to are the purposes of our cities. I see a nest of purposes for the city (Figure A) that manifest at various scales, from the self, to family/clan, group/tribe, neighbourhood/organization, city, and eco-region (Figure B).

Figure A: Nest of city purposes
Figure B: Hamilton’s nested hierarchy of city systems

Each scale of individuals and collectives, are reaching, as interested and able, into expanded purposes (Figure C). A range of purposes are alive at every scale, from the individual to the city, to the planet and universe; even purposes we can not yet contemplate and imagine. Each purpose is in response to context and circumstances and are therefore always in flux. As life conditions change, we are pulled down the Spiral to ensure survival, and we are pulled up the Spiral as we aim to improve.

Figure C: Spiral of purposes

This all takes place as a dance between our individual and collective lives, and especially in the co-creative dance where we built our physical, social and economic habitats together: the city.

A city’s destination is to serve the evolution of our evolving purposes.

What purposes are alive in you? In your city?

What purposes are you and your city expanding into?

 

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This post forms part of Chapter 5 – Destination Alive or Adrift, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

The Spiral is based on the work of Clare Graves, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan: Spiral Dynamics.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “City’s destination is our evolving purposes”

    1. Thanks for the connection to your blog, Mack. I will go check it out.

      The cool thing about the spiral for me is the up and down (improvement up, survival down) as well as back and forth. The values on the left are rooted in the individual while the values on the right are rooted in the collective.

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