Boulevard trees, planted lawns, planned parks and gardens and other such things aren’t nature, which is to say the closest that the city dweller gets to nature isn’t very close at all. He need not view a flower as anything much different from a vase or mirror or a fountain – it’s just another piece of decor. Nature is simply something to be looked at – it doesn’t provide or threaten or manifest to us any life of its own. Vegetables have no dirt on them, meat has no blood. And no one can see the stars. It’s hard to forget just how completely we can isolate ourselves from every experiencing nature and live within a world of our own art: nature’s lights don’t rule our lives, the portions it provides for us aren’t a limit on what we can eat, its vastness and spontaneity don’t terrify us or delight us or keep us on guard, etc.
None of this tells us much of anything about the absolute value of cities or city life, but it’s something we city dwellers should be aware of. Why does it matter? One reason is because, even if he experiences nothing but artifacts in his environment, man himself is not an artifact but a natural being. The utter tone-deafness we contemporary people can show about natural law – what could nature tell us about how to live, and why would we listen to anything it could tell us? – arises simply from our never experiencing nature first hand.