Urban Density

If one requires further evidence that we human beings are, at the end of the day, animals — or beasts, or savages in clothes, or however one prefers his locution –turn to our planet’s major cities. (One can look also to our obvious obsession with mating and eating, also.) There, in our teeming metropolises, we appear slightly more advanced than a hive of bees, buzzing around in frenzy, scurrying here and there with purpose sown upon our brow and determination pursed in our lips. We’re looking for things to eat, or conquer, or own, or kill (figuratively and sometimes literally), and no amount of style or cultivation can disguise our baser impulses.

The sheer density of some of our world’s most populous cities recalls an ant farm with tall buildings. Streets clogged with thousands of human animals trying to get to another place; everyone’s quest at cross-purposes to everyone else’s; the frenetic rush to go, to travel — we seem at times little more evolved than a swarm of insects, albeit ones with opposable thumbs capable of operating a cell phone.

Difficult as it is to fully grasp, our species, like the 99% of life forms that have lived on Earth and are now extinct, will one day perish. We will be like the mastodons and brontosaurs: museum fodder, a subject for bright young beetles — or whatever eventually rules the planet — to study and ponder. Perhaps we will extinguish ourselves; indeed, probably we’ll extinguish ourselves. Or something interstellar will do the trick. Our great cities, with their street layouts and sewer systems and architectural marvels, will likely remain in some form. I imagine a future race of intelligent life excavating Mexico City, or Manhattan, or Manila, and thinking, “This was a highly organized society with way too many individuals crammed into one place.”

Future life will look on in wonder at our skyscrapers, and they’ll comment on the ingenuity of our design for living. But someone, or -thing, will see the flaw. He’ll realize that all those animals ensconced in cocoons high above the ground must, at some point, come to the street, where, like the ants, we must crawl over or around each other to survive.

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