An Old New Year

by Mark Zaugg 1. January 2012 23:37

A new year blows in.

It is a time for reflections, for setting goals, for renewal of your inner strengths and resolves.

I ought to be looking forward to the new year.  I ought to be loathing the old year.  I am not.  2011 was not all I wished it was.  2012 will surely come with it's own share of joys and disappointments.

As the calendar makes it's arbitrary flip, I see both change and continuance ahead.  What I value from the year gone by is the strength in my resolve to change and grow, coupled with the strength of my resolve to remain true to myself and my cornerstones.  Something happened this past year, something I don't fully understand.  I've been dragged under, beat up, hung out, let down.  I saw no options before me and fought another battle against the blackness of reckless uncaring of bureaucratic might.  But this time, I faced reason and acceptance, not the blundering stupidity of a department run on self-certitude and armed with a brush of tar a gender wide.

In what felt like my darkest of days, I rediscovered my actual darkest of days.  I reconnected the lessons I needed to survive.  I rediscovered the art of listening to the stories around me to discern the tidbits I needed to hear.  The tidbits that mean nothing to most people, but everything to me.  Loading the truck.  Skating on both sides of the ice.  Little bomb, big bomb.  The tidbits that have rebuilt and reformulated my soul.  Lessons I sometimes forget at my own peril.

One of the tidbits is "talking in your mother tongue."  One's language is primal.  When in stress or crisis or passion, one returns to one's mother tongue.  I once was assigned to watch a crumbled retaining wall through the night, to ensure no one entered the area and that it retained its structure until morning.  A woman from Quebec lived in a nearby building and brought me the tastiest coffee I've had in my life.  She was sweet, needlessly worried, and a joy to talk with to idle the time away.  I learned the lesson when I discovered she could not add in English.  She needed to see the numbers written down and then added in French.

"Talking in your mother tongue" means returning to your most primal actions.  Your visceral reactions.  When your mother tongue is to react with anger it will be the first response you turn to when you are reacting emotionally.  It will always be the first thing.  To change your primary reaction takes infinite practice and long-standing effort.

Change.  Focussed, directed change.

I don't know if a secondary language can ever become as dominant as a mother tongue.  However I know that I want a better reaction from myself than visceral anger or sullen withdrawal.  I know to be a positive force I have to keep myself in a positive place.

My new year started a while ago.  My change is continual for a while.  My continuance is to keep being a better self.  May 2012 bring along all the good bits of 2011 and build from there.

Happy Old Year.

Yeah, okay, I'm arrogant.

by Mark Zaugg 28. December 2011 23:35

"I kinda figured that I'd just plant myself here for the next five to ten years and not have to change."

"I enjoy that you thought you could plan that."


This somewhat paraphrased and ill conceived (at least on my behalf) conversation is directly referring to my reluctance to change.  Ah, to be set in my ways, to have all the answers predefined, to have preplanned all the possibilities in advance and to have enumerated the probabilities of each of them occurring.

This post brought to you by the letter H -- maker of fine words such as Hubris and Haughtiness.


Long ago I listened to Jane Jacobs speak on ideas.  It was likely the Massey Lectures, I know that Jane is well associated with them.  Jane was simply brilliant, strong in speaking and scintillating in mind to hear.  An hour vanished in mere minutes and I was rapt in the listening.  Perhaps I'll try to find them again, but not tonight.  I have too many other important tasks to do.

One of the things I intended to do over Christmas was to begin Jane's book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities."  Christmas Day I was caught up in other tasks and yesterday, the other day I had no preset plans, I went for coffee with a friend instead.  So tonight, while waiting for one task to complete, I jumped in the tub, book in hand, and began reading.

The book is the 50th Anniversary edition and has two introductions.  The first is by James Epstein, Jane's publisher and friend over the years and spelled out a great deal of context that I simply did not know or understand.  Interestingly, by the time I finished James's introduction, I sincerely felt that Jane was a kindred spirit and a friend to me as well as Mr. Epstein.

Jane's introduction was utterly captivating.  She wrote it in 1992, about 30 years after Death and Life was first published.  She immediately spoke of the conflicts between what she called "foot people" and "car people" and their perspectives on city planning.  Conflicts which, to me here and now, seem silly and insignificant.  Jane's ideas seem clear and self-evident to me, not particularly insightful and I don't always agree the details, but they are apparent and well reasoned.

Towards the end, Jane dispelled the notion that her book helped stop urban renewal programs and slum-clearing.  She avers that urban renewal and the slum clearing essentially collapsed under their own weight.  They never respected the ecology of a city - our ecology as human beings.  The recycling of a city's resources into a reshaped entity that serves it's inhabitants.  She had my complete attention, I understand ecology well.

Diversity is needed to have a strong ecosystem.  What we, in our human arrogance, perceive as complexity is a fundamental necessity for forming the webs we rely upon to strengthen and enhance our entire environment and well being.

  "... when their processes are working well, ecosystems appear stable.  But in a profound sense, the stability is an illusion.  As a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, observed long ago, everything in the natural world is in flux.  We we suppose we see static situations, we actually see processes of beginning and processes of ending occurring simultaneously.  Nothing is static."


Nothing is static.  Change is a constant and inevitable process.

Apparently I'm in a period of life where I am accepting change, acknowledging its influence upon me, and eagerly hoping to tackle change on my own terms.

My mother and my daughter together taught me a lesson over Christmas:

What is the difference between anxiety and excitement?  Anxiety is when you look upon the unknown with negativity and a fearful outlook.  Excitement is when you look upon the same unknown with positive thoughts and hope for the changes which will come.

I'm excited about the change to come.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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