Listening to NPR this morning I noticed a quote that struck me as important. Usually, I fade in and out when I’m listening to the radio, but the show, “On Being,” always catches me by surprise and reels me in. Today, Krista Trippett interviewed psychologist Ellen Langer who had this story to share:
“Many years ago I had a major fire that destroyed 80% of what I own. And when I called the insurance company and they came over the next day. The insurance agent had said to me that this was the first call that he’d ever had that the damage was worse than the call. You know, and I thought of it and I thought well gee, it’s already taken my stuff, whatever that means, why give it my soul?
Why pay twice?”
The whole piece is worthwhile and I recommend it if you’re looking for a little perspective and a chance to hear thoughts on loss from someone who cares. Not a bad way to start the day.
As I flew out of Richmond last week, I got a rare glimpse of the city at dusk:
I just stared at that settlement on the banks of the James River and wondered what the next 400 years might bring. In the city of Richmond, there is the past, the present and the future. That makes us fortunate and it makes us complicated.
To move forward, we will have to make some sense of ourselves and our story.
In the past few months I’ve travelled all over the country: from Philadelphia to Dallas, to San Francisco. With each trip I’ve found new perspective on this current phase of the development of the city of Richmond. I’ve also found some clarity for myself and settled into four areas of focus for my writing:
1. Current events in context: If I ever write about current events, it will be to analyze and contextualize the story. I spent three years studying the debates in Richmond regarding the construction of the Richmond Petersburg Turnpike. That work left me particularly interested in economic development strategies and plans for improving the American city.
2. Drawings for the future: Like many of us, I’m constantly imagining new uses for old spaces and I’ve decided I’m finally going to get these on paper. I’m actually planning to draw them out. It will probably be pretty ugly at first, but I’m hoping to read a little on technique and improve over time.
3. The psychology of the city: I’ve been noticing for years that the city of Richmond has a certain personality. This personality comes out in furious debates as well as mundane daily life. Since college I’ve also entered the world of cognitive psychology, therapy, management, and organizational behavior. I’ve read books, met with academics, and watched every video I find. Insight from these fields will be my lens for understanding what’s going on in this crazy place.
4. The history of the history: There are so many stories being told about Richmond. I want to take those stories and study them to understand the different ways that we describe ourselves. I’m obsessed with historiography and excited to dive back into that field for a series of posts about the different ways we talk about our past. This is connected to the psychological perspective as well: how we talk about Richmond says a lot about how we think of ourselves.
I want a future for this city that is unique and authentic. I want Richmond to develop a maturity as a place that takes all of it’s qualities and integrates them into a coherent whole. As with personal development, this will require a lot of work. In a way, collective therapy. And all because we believe there is a best possible future for this city and that future must include a coherent, honest, and accepting understanding of the past and present.
As always, more to come.
Posted in Creativity, Learning, Visons
Tagged American city, Current events, Drawing, future, historiography, History, Integrity, James River, management, Maps, organizational behavior, Plans, Psychology, Richmond, Richmond Petersburg Turnpike, RVA, therapy, Visions
“At some point, having owned the issues, people need to let go of debts, feel sadness about the past and losses they can’t change, and receive forgiveness for what they have contributed. This is often a sign that they are well on the road to resolving a particular issue, as grief means they now have enough love inside them to tolerate letting go of someone or something they have lost.”
This book is for people who want to grow and for people who facilitate growth in others. It’s also from both the perspective of Christian doctrine and psychological research which I appreciated. I think I was a little ahead of myself reading it, but it will definitely be on my shelf for future reference. There are so many amazing takeaways from this book that I can’t list them all, but one of the biggest lessons for me was that it all starts with acceptance.
Here’s to truth and growth and life.
*Quote from p. 360, How People Grow