I spent much of my childhood outside of cities and now, as an adult, I live in a big one and only occasionally get away. I'm sure this is true of many in big cities: this is why we have cottages, go camping, go on road trips to unknown places.
But sitting on a deck, overlooking water, newly budded trees all around and all filling with excited birds, frogs peeping at the water's edge, I was aware how I was NOT in the city. And later, emerging from the trip home, bag in hand on a busy street; surrounded by people and concrete and bricks, where I was that morning felt a lifetime away. I was aware of not wanting to breathe, of wanting to shut my ears and generally dull my senses.
This sounds extreme, and it's true that I am a sensitive person, but I think it speaks to the cost of living an urban existence. It's not so much that in the city it's hard to understand that we are a part of something larger, although that is true. It's more that as a part of something, I can truly understand that something, by being a part of it. The understanding leads, I hope, to the thought that I must not impose my will on it, take it for granted or generally muck it up.
Cities are here to stay and they're likely only to get bigger. But I think we should at least recognize at what cost. The illusion of separateness seems alluring, but if I walk down the street and feel I can't actually breathe safely, that I can't contemplate something without interruption, that someone always wants to communicate with me in some disembodied way, it's easy to feel lost and part of nothing. There are many costs of course, but this one I think doesn't get enough attention.