September 20, 2017 at 7:22 am, by Carl

“Human nature cannot be studied in cities except at a disadvantage–a village is the place.  There you can know your man inside and out–in a city you but know his crust; and his crust is usually a lie.”


As someone raised in a village, but has lived the last 24 years in a city, I think I know what Twain means here.  Its possible that today, with over 60% of US citizens living in cities (but only taking up about 4% of the available land in the nation), Twain’s point might still work out that we can learn deeply about each other.  In fact, since 80% of the nation lives in urban areas, we need to hope his truth can be shifted somehow.


He is suggesting that in highly dense population areas, it is easier to wear a mask.  The opportunity for more intimate interaction drops with the more people one lives with.  It’s easier to hide, to show only a shell (what he calls “crust”) of yourself.  You rarely see the same people at the grocery store (employee or shopper); at the mall you are just a moving piece of flotsam in a sea of people.  You might get to know the mechanic or your insurance agent, but even there you might just as easily pop into a setting that has a revolving door of workers.  Even our churches rarely have any community connection, replacing the shared life together idea for more of the “Christian Mall” concept.


Thus, I am rarely known nor do I know another.   But in a village….well, there you “can know [your neighbor] inside and out.”  I know we are not going to just randomly leave the cities and return to the rural landscape of America.  Heck, people in those places may not let someone like me move back.  But I think we can take steps to recover the intimacy of the village; we simply have to decide to invest in the lives of those around us.