Sunday, February 28, 2010


The wife and I went to New Castle for a day this weekend. My dad was preaching at a small church, and at one point in the service people brought up concerns and prayer requests. Two people mentioned loved ones who had to be rushed to Pittsburgh for medical treatment. It's amazing for me to think of this city like that, as a faraway place where the sick and dying must go to be kept alive, but for so many people, a trip to Pittsburgh means a loved one is hurting.

I've been seeing a lot of people bringing up a lot of evidence that the United States is an empire in decline. Some think it is due to the fact that we got away from our Constitution or our old way of life. Some say it is because we are too gluttonous and greedy. Still others say that the reason doesn't matter--that empires eventually and inevitably decline.

People relate to life in two ways, I think. The first is how you see yourself as an individual person. This view incorporates those with whom you interact and their influence on you. The second is how you see yourself as a human being in the long-term sense of humanity. A good example is an old person you love. You want your great grandfather to live forever, but if he does, future children will miss out on all the resources he consumed in his long life.

For me, Pittsburgh, with all its potholes and crappy politicians, is home. For others, it is a last chance. The city has done well at adapting to progress, moving from a primarily steel based economy to one set in education and medicine. There's a certain dignity and clarity involved in seeing yourself as just a small cog in a much larger machine. Imagine what the state of the city would be if it had refused to abandon its coal-fired roots. Pittsburgh no longer shapes the world as it did in its heyday, yet it's doing pretty well. Perhaps we're better off forgetting about the way things used to be and just looking forward. We all share one thing in common: no matter what we do now we are all in the end just future history.