|The mail is supposed to go in right where it says 'Closed / Fermé'.|
Take your business elsewhere.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
A healthy old tree demonstrates just what it is to be of a place. Its every twig perfectly tuned to its context, resources and constraints.
Our communities deserve that level of attention.
Making a city worth caring about is a worthy challenge that demands we fully develop the culture of the place where we live.
A lofty goal, to be sure, because it requires remembering how to listen to the quiet whispers of the place; a withered skill in the age of cheap energy and instant-on-distractions.
As a nation of immigrants, maybe we never really learned to listen to the quiet voices of this place. We brought a culture suited to where we were from rather than developing a culture that suits where we are.
The answers are in the land and the local community, foods, materials, skills that surround you. Focusing on the local resources will lead you to a land use, an architecture, and a community that reflects the spirit of the place.
The status quo is powerful, but you don't exactly hear of people making pilgrimages to Mississauga. Row after row of suburban houses doesn't make for the kind of community that is interested in itself, let alone the kind that would emerge as a beacon to others.
Athens. Rome. London. Kyoto. Venice. All places committed to being what they are as best they can. Being ancient helps. They've had time to figure it out, and that shouldn't stop us from striving to figure out what it means to be where we are.
By importing our culture we've taken shortcuts that kept our cities from developing into places where we can thrive. Like native plants, cultures thrive in harmony with the place where they emerged, and can become invasive when taken out of their proper context.
The choice is between the overconsumptive blandness that is the suburbs and the emergent harmony built from the stones, seeds, and souls that make a place alive.
When you boil it down, this is the civic analogue to 'be yourself'. Honour the place where you live. Everywhere else is taken. As your community develops, do what's right where you are. Listen to the quiet forces that surround you. Develop the culture that emerges from the place and you won't go too far wrong. What's built will belong.
Like growing a tree, it takes time and careful attention to bring this about, and slowly, deliberately, let's create places worth living in.
"It is for want of self-culture that the superstition of Travelling, whose idols are Italy, England, Egypt, retains its fascination for all educated Americans. They who made England, Italy, or Greece venerable in the imagination did so by sticking fast where they were, like an axis of the earth."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance.
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Saturday, June 4, 2011
Watch out, this defies conventional wisdom: If you're about to decide about something complex, you will do better if you don't exhaustively research it.
In this case better means both objectively better results and more happiness for less effort.
There's an overwhelming amount of information out there. For simple things, it's possible to think through the decision completely, but complex decisions will certainly tempt you to doing extensive analysis in order to do the best you can.
Whether that analysis is warranted depends on your objectives. The assumption here is that you want to meet your needs and be happy with the result.
If you'd rather not be happy with the result, feel free to analyze it to death, but be aware that diminishing and sometimes even negative returns kick in on the analysis, and you are ruining your chance to be happy with the outcome.
It's a waste of time to try to process it all. Trying to figure it all out is certainly time consuming.
Functional MRI studies show that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that makes good decisions, shuts down when problems get too complex. If you try to juggle too many factors your frustration and anxiety will rule and you'll make worse decisions, or fail to decide at all.
In terms of your happiness, the more thought you put into it may get you a better result (subject to the frustration and anxiety we've already talked about) but you also get to know about all the ways you might have been able to do better.
For more info on this, refer to Sharon Begley's article "I Can't Think" in Newsweek, March 7, 2011, and the TED talks from Dan Gilbert: "Why are we happy? Why aren't we happy?" and "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz.
You'll be happier with your jeans, your movie selection, or the house you buy if you consider only a few than if you try to look at all the options and then drive yourself nuts thinking about what you didn't get.
You did want to be happy, right?
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