Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The more you know, the less you need

Saw the above on a bumpersticker s'morning. A quick search doesn't find a clear source -- just "aboriginal saying." Later the phrase came back to mind sideways, as "The less you fear, the less you need." Maybe better that way.

When people have the power to choose their homes, how much do they base their choices on fear, and what kind of fear? Which matters more, autonomy or safety? Is a house an economic asset or a liability? What's more dangerous, urban crime or a daily highway commute from a suburb? Do condo towers insulate or isolate? Is a "need" for storage really a fear of deciding what to give up? What does it take to sleep well at ground level with open unbarred windows?

Harper's Magazine ran a great article in 2006 about cars and fear: "High Mobility: In my brother's Hummer," by Colin McAdam. Unfortunately the text isn't public. Subscribers can log in and read it here. The writer, as sidekick to the brother in the title, attended a wilderness rally for owners of Humvee sport vehicles. He discovered that, among people who loved their Humvees enough to attend an enthusiasts' rally, an unusual number had suffered catastrophic, random tragedies personally or in their immediate families -- events like rare, sudden illnesses -- kinds of things that armor can't prevent.

How much of a house is really for housing, and how much of it is for something else?

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