The people who built Vancouver, when confronted with the shimmering Pacific Ocean to the west, a beautiful mountain range to the north, and a dark and luscious forest in between, seem to have asked themselves a series of wonderfully thought-out questions in response. Questions like: what if we don’t cut down all the trees? And what if we construct the exteriors of our buildings out of glass instead of concrete, so that they might reflect the beauty around them? What might happen then? The result is undisputedly one of the most beautiful cities ever devised by mankind. You don’t have to take my word for it; all sorts of well-respected people have written about it in all sorts of well-respected magazines. It’s not exactly rocket science, devising a beautiful city. The trick is to simply have your creation not look so much like destruction.
Vancouver is a real city. Its downtown core squirms with life at all hours as people from all over the world trudge and slosh through the inexhaustible puddles supplied by the coastal climate. Money in this place is generated not from the toils of grease-covered hands or from byproducts of the towering smoke stacks of industry, but from the heated exchanging of ideas in coffee shops and restaurants. Everyone here seems on the verge of closing another deal. Forever closing deals.
I lived in this bustling and beautiful place for over a year. When I left, I never wanted to come back. I dismissed the place as being overly concerned with its appearance, and panned the lifestyle of the people as being equally vain and dishonest. What I now realize I saw when I looked at Vancouver through such an unfair and judgemental lens was a reflection of my fear, anxiety, and lack of confidence in my own identity. I was afraid of being swallowed up and drowned by the noise of the city, afraid I could never hope to stand out in a place so exceptional. These are very real fears for many people, I’m sure. I find them ridiculous now, but I forgive myself for having had them. The ego is such a charming nemesis.
What keeps me away from Vancouver now, and why I might never live here again, or at least not until much later, is that I find its beauty utterly uninspiring. To step outside on to the front porch and be assaulted with what seems to be the absolute best effort put forth by both God and humanity, it seems easy to question what one could ever hope to create that could possibly compare on any level. Why not simply dust your sterile hands off and say “well, my work HERE is done!” and set about deciding what to have for dinner? Further: it seems almost presumptuous to say that anything you might create could be seen as beautiful or worthy in the face of such perfection.
I prefer to stay where the buildings are ugly and brutal and the land is flat and bare, because I think these things have their own honest beauty about them. Perhaps it’s a cop-out. If so, I humbly and graciously accept and delight in any teasing that may come my way.
Regardless, it feels good to be back in this dark, dreary, shimmering jewel of a city. I’m proud to know this place like the good neighbour it is. But I’ll have no trouble leaving again once my work here is done.
Editing This Wind with Aerlan is going exceedingly well. It’s going to be a nice movie. I really think so.
Until next time.
Dylan – North Vancouver, BC