Background image: a 4-way blinking stop light in the off state, hanging over a west Toronto intersection.

Of someone given completely over to their base urges and short-term desires, we say they lack humanity.

Background image: same, but the light has turned on.

But of a bureaucrat who reads and writes all day, always does the needful, and never goes outside—who interacts only with artifice—would we not say the same?

Background image: same, but the light has turned off.

The phrase “in public” has changed its meaning. It once meant a space where citizens were both responsible to and vulnerable to each other, but now it's the space where good manners consist in ignoring each other, which our new artifices enable us to do. Now we are all bureaucrats, doing the needful, never going outside our heads.

Background image: same, but the light has turned on.

We speak a language, but no longer know where it came from.

Background image: same, but the light has turned off.

If both attitudes lack humanity, the human must lie somewhere between. Language must be pruned and the clippings plowed back into the soil, so that our artifices exist not for themselves, but grow perenially fresh out of the wild earth that first gave us need of them.