Thursday, September 14, 2006

Higher Purposes in Cities

The Augustine reading begins with a comparison between the earthly and heavenly cities, saying the earthly city "seeks glory from men" and "the other finds its highest glory in God" (632). The first example that sprung to mind on reading this was the marked difference between Leonia and Andria. Leonia most reminds me of a location striving only for earthly goods, since its focus from day to day is on waste and lack of consideration for other entities around it. The "opulence" and "respectful silence" (Calvino 114) that surrounds such an abhorrent waste of completely useful items is quite a departure from the goodness that Augustine calls the reader to share with all humans he encounters (640).
In the case of Andria, the desire to be in synch with the sky could be a direct reference to the benefit of a religious influence in a city. Indeed, the motivations of Andrians are completely selfless, as Calvino writes, "the city's life flows calmly like the motion of the celestial bodies and it acquires the inevitability of phenomena not subject to human caprice" (150). This reference to the sacredness of the celestial bodies could be a direct reference to heaven. The Heavenly City also seems to forgo human wisdom in favor of a higher wisdom. Although Augustine refers to that wisdom being God, the similarity, in believing in a higher good than human beings are able to manufacture on their own, is striking.
Although Augustine does ameliorate his criticism of earthly cities later in the text, when he allows that earthly cities may actually be pursuing heavenly justice at times (639), it is clear Augustine feels this to be a rarer occurrence. For Augustine says, "But the earthly city will not be everlasting; for when it is condemned to that punishment which is its end, it will no longer be a city" (638). This prediction of ruin echoes with the destruction or downfall of many of Calvino's cities. Perhaps Andria is Calvino's model for living with a higher purpose and avoiding such ruin. Andria's consideration of the skies above as well as their consideration "for the city and for all worlds" (151) are signs of operating with a higher purpose.