Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hope and the city

There seem to be many instances of comparison between the cities that Italo Calvino describes in Invisible Cities, and the two cities that Augustine describes in "The City of God". There is the obvious connection between the two based on the question of what makes up a city. Both agree that the people within the city have a major part in this. Both also go to great lengths to describe their cities well, using beautiful descriptions and powerful text to help the reader understand the city that the author is describing. However, in reading these two pieces, there seems to be a very core difference between the two. And that is the idea of hope.

In Augustine's essay, he seems to be very clear that there are two cities and one is almost always seeking to please itself, and the other city is almost always seeking to please God. Although Augustine concedes at points that there are some men within the pilgrim city and there are some pilgrims within the city of men, he is very harsh in his convictions that "one consists of those who live according to man and the other of those who live according to God." (p. 634). There is very little hope of redemption for the men in the city of men, for they will always be fighting with each other. The men of the city of God, however, are always striving to become better people and therefore will obviously be granted eternal rewards. Augustine declares that there is a clear, obvious and unchanging good which will be rewarded by God.

Calvino, on the other hand, does not take this approach. He only describes each city in detail, saying exactly what is there and how it works. He goes to several cities that is similar to the two cities in "The City of God", such as Beersheba, and although explains the feelings of the city's inhabitants towards the other side of the city ("They also believe, these inhabitants that another Beersheba exists underground, the receptacle of everything base and unworthy..." (p. 111)), he himself does not explicitly make a judgment on this. Calvino only seeks to find those within each city who are not part of the "inferno". This could be most comparable to Augustine's description of the inhabitants of the City of God. He states, "Seek to learn who and what in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give the space."(p. 163). This passage gives hope to all citizens of all cities, stating that evil may exist but it is possible to overcome it. It is a much hopeful and, in my opinion, realistic message. For there is good and evil in every city, and the true goal is to find the good in each individual person and grow from that, becoming not a member of a city, but an individual person of God.