A view from an apartment on First Hill, a neighborhood Crosscut believes is being ruined by urban planners.
A view from an apartment on First Hill, a neighborhood one Crosscut writer believes is being ruined by urban planners. Charles Mudede

What I find most disturbing in the pro-car and anti-public-space post on Crosscut "Unreal city planning is hurting a real Seattle neighborhood," is the author's lack of existential sympathy with a class of people who spend much of the day and night high or drunk or both.

Don Glickstein, the author of the post, says he lives on First Hill in a condo, does not say what color he is, and is worried about developments that do not provide parking for residents (though such a provision makes housing unaffordable for many, because underground parking increases construction costs). According to his editorial, he is also not keen on experiments that aim to improve his neighborhood's walkablility (though the health benefits of walking are obvious to all), and he hates bike lanes because they inconvenience motorists (though improving the driving experience only encourages people to drive rather than use other modes of transportation).

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But the most embarrassing thing is Glickstein's bad feeling toward transients and junkies, not so much because it shows an insensitivity to others who are less fortunate (standard Christian sympathy) but because it exposes a disconnection with the true transience of things, with the vibrations of a void that can make nonsense of any certainty at any moment (existential sympathy).

All that is solid melts into air. This is the wisdom of a junkie wasted in the alley or a drunk blasted in the park. In my view, Glickstein's existentially unjustified pride in his way of life, which must mean being sober and a functional member of the community, has made him too stupid to appreciate this kind of wisdom. Judging from the way he writes, he is the sort who shows up to work on time, pleases his boss, earns his pay, settles his bills, and may even save a little on the side, or, when the time is just right, splurge a little. That sounds like him. They type who believes that being is supported by the ground and not hanging on a string. As for those who leave needles in bushes or cans on benches, they are unreliable, could never hold a job, and are only good at making things worse.

But how can you totally miss the virtue of checking out of society and being utterly useless to employers and the whole market order? How can you look down on these idle people when being functional often has as much meaning as a circus animal performing tricks for treats and claps? One should always try to find room in the soul for some sadness and even shame at being so reliable and productive. When we see the drunks in the park or junkies in orphaned spaces, a part of us must not dismiss their dissipation. They are closer to the void, to the nothingness that we spend so much of our energy ignoring and avoiding.