TITLE: Humility and Aspiration AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 17, 2010 7:50 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Time to blog has been scarce, with the beginning of an unusual semester. I am teaching two courses instead of one, and administrative surprises seem to be arriving daily, both inside the department and out. Teaching gives me energy, but most days I leave for home feeling a little humbler than I started -- or a little less satisfied with state of affairs. Perhaps this is why a particular passage from an entry on urban planning policy at The Urbanophile keeps coming to mind. It offers a lesson for urban policy based on the author's reading of Dietrich Dörner's The Logic of Failure (a new addition to my must-read list):
The first [lesson] is simply to approach urban policy and urban planning with humility and rich understanding of the limits of what we can accomplish. This I think is desperately needed. There are so many policies out there that are promoted with almost messianic zeal by their advocates.
One person's messianic zeal, unfettered from reality, is a dangerous force. It can wear out even a resolute team; when coupled with normal human frailty, the results can destroy opportunities for progress. Another passage from the same blog has had a more personal hold on me of late:
People with talent, with big dreams and ambitions, want to live in a place where the civic aspiration matches their personal aspirations.
Sense of place and sense of self are hard to separate. This is true for cities -- the great ones capitalize on the coalescence of individual and communal aspiration -- and for academic departments. -----