The Seed of Love

Reframing the Human Experience

Stephen Bau
Oct 19, 2018 · 7 min read

I recently received a request from a local Christian school to participate in a survey. So, I participated.

What’s in my backyard?

  1. How satisfied are you with the location of your home?
  2. Are you aware of what the land used to look where your home currently stands?
  3. Are you aware of the pending housing developments in your area?
  4. Do you feel it is important that we build more houses in Abbotsford?
  5. Building new housing comes at a cost to the Environment. How important is it that we stay aware of any damage we may cause?
  6. What do you like about Abbotsford’s recent and continuing growth?
  7. What don’t you like about Abbotsford’s recent and continuing growth?
  8. Abbotsford has diverse ecosystems full of many different species. Should we be concerned about the loss of these if we continue building in new areas?
  9. The amount of forested areas in Abbotsford seem to be quickly taken down for housing in our area (McKee District). How do you think Abbotsford could handle the increase of people and need for housing without removing more forested habitats?
  10. Please select one of the 5 options for where you live so that we can use your answers accordingly. Thank you for taking our survey!

What do you like about Abbotsford’s recent and continuing growth?

There is a focus on creating a pedestrian community that connects the university with the central city, the downtown core and residential areas. I appreciate the effort to accommodate more bicycle traffic and to encourage a more livable, walkable city.

What don’t you like about Abbotsford’s recent and continuing growth?

Auguston was planned as a pedestrian community.

Auguston

The Abbotsford School District made a decision to switch to a middle school system in 2004. The unintended consequence of this decision was to shelve the plans for at least two more schools in the Auguston master plan. The effect of the change was to destroy the intended plans for the development of the area, which included an elementary school and a high school, a recreation centre, a firehall, a church, and a business centre which included a mix of commercial spaces and residential units. As a result, the area is dependent on automobiles to connect with other areas of the city for activities outside of the Auguston area, increasing the cost of living, decreasing the time families spend together beyond the time required to travel, and diminishing the quality of a community designed to be focused on walking and spending time with neighbours. The Traditional elementary school was forced to switch from K-7 to K-5. The children were bused half an hour across the city to Simpson to continue in the Traditional School system. The city displayed its lack of commitment to families, to the environment and to livable pedestrian communities with a single decision with implications that are being felt to this day.

This complex problem highlights the disadvantages of making decisions in silos, without consultation across disciplines and administrative domains. It is not possible to consider the larger picture and the interconnected systems that enforce a way of life that contributes to global warming and the breakdown of social connections by geographically distributing people in auto-dependent suburbs. Poor urban planning and the rising costs of real estate, due to speculation and the economic forces that favour affluent neighbourhoods limit diversity and inclusion. These conditions force people to live greater distances from work, contributing to a decrease in time well spent, and an increase in social fragmentation and compartmentalization. With a decrease in affordable living spaces and easy transportation and access to education and work, the consequence is an increase in unemployment, mental health problems and homelessness.

To create a livable community, we need public spaces where people can come together to try to solve our problems through creative collaboration. To leave this work to the leaders of governments, corporations and religious organizations would be folly. By their very nature, hierarchical structures are designed for institutional self-preservation, not for innovation and social change.

We need a generation who realizes that we are no longer designing physical artifacts but that we are designing the human experience, and it is work that demands the best from each and every one of us.

Why do our schools and churches not look like this?

3rd Floor North — Multi-Disciplinary Design — University of Utah

Abbotsford has diverse ecosystems full of many different species. Should we be concerned about the loss of these if we continue building in new areas?

The continued growth does little to recognize that we live on the unceded territory of First Nations people. If we are serious about our role in the truth and reconciliation process, we need to understand that we live on land that was stolen from the people who had lived here for thousands of years before European settlement.

Urban sprawl reduces the amount of arable land, reserved for agriculture, and encroaches on the vegetation and wildlife inhabiting the surrounding area, throwing off the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

The amount of forested areas in Abbotsford seem to be quickly taken down for housing in our area (McKee District). How do you think Abbotsford could handle the increase of people and need for housing without removing more forested habitats?

This is not an easy question to answer, because it involves a process. According to one sacred text, it started in a garden, and it ends in a garden.

Auguston has built close to 600 units. There are plans for an additional 2,000 units. The rest of the land in the Auguston subdivision that has yet to be developed is owned by investors in Hong Kong. I have heard that they have been in conversation with Avoid Obvious Architects, exploring the possibilities of building for density and integration with local ecosystems.

However, the people who live here should be involved in the design process, using human-centred design to find inspiration, to engage in ideation, and to participate in the implementation of plans to build a living system in harmony with its environment.

Ekklesia

One strategy of the church has been to become an island to itself, building parallel institutions to avoid integrating with secular society. However, that is the same mistake that the Jews made, thinking that God lived in a house made by human hands (Acts 7), like a “Christian School.”

However, the ekklesia was the popular assembly of a democratic society, including all who were contributing members of the citizenry. Is that not what it means to be the church? One new humanity (Ephesians 2).

Love your enemies (Luke 6). Overcome evil with good (Romans 12). Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8). Living stones, a spiritual house (1 Peter 2).

When humans create tools and technologies, these designs always have unintended consequences. For example, a church or a Christian school serves the purpose of unifying people according to a particular social identity. However, they also serve as walls to keep other people out. In effect, it is a way of creating another dividing wall of hostility to add to Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. Christian or non-Christian is a false dichotomy.

One

The good news is that we are all one. We are all God’s children. One new humanity. The seed of the woman. The seed is Earth. A tiny spec of life in what might otherwise be a lifeless universe.

Earth is the womb, bringing to life a new creation (Romans 8), through the word (Genesis 1, John 1), a technology of creating audible sounds that are symbols for ideas that can be shared through vibrations that travel through the air and are decoded by a physical and organic apparatus that relays messages across nerves and synapses to be interpreted through an electrochemical process that results in thoughts within a human brain.

These thoughts are then processed into the technology of the alphabet and relayed through physical synapses, a digital network called the internet to land in an email inbox, to be read by a student to a classroom of students in order to inspire them to love their neighbours through creative collaboration to restore creation.

That is how humans have been tasked with the responsibility to take care of the garden.

Stephen Bau

Written by

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design. https://stephenbau.com

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