Yeah, okay, I'm arrogant.

“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.