(This is one of my favorite Jenny Holzer truisms.)
Ambivalence is uncomfortable. We often long for more passion and romance in our lives for exactly that reason: romantic passion is not ambivalent. It opens the door to possibilities, and is the energy that makes those possibilities a reality.
Ambivalence, on the other hand, is undecided, and prevents progress.
I started out this week saying that our relationships matter; that romance can be a powerful force in all our relationships, including our relationship with our cities/regions.
My hope is that I’ve inspired you this week to consider how romance (and a romantic approach) can be used to transform our cities and regions. And that you’ll consider the possibility of kindling (or rekindling) your romantic relationship with Detroit.
Courtship and kindling romance run hand-in-hand. Here are some (fairly standard) tips for fanning the flames:
We can incorporate these ideas in our ongoing courtship of Detroit.
- Give compliments; be expressive regarding what you respect and admire about your partner
- Spend the day together
- Share a romantic meal
- Do something different together
- Reminisce about the days of your early courtship
- Care for your partner, especially when they need some extra support
- Perform a "random act of kindness"
- Share your dreams for the future
- Do a project together
- Write love notes
- Celebrate together (anniversaries, accomplishments and milestones)
- Remember that “love” is a verb
Celebrating Detroit can include acknowledging and attending significant events (like the recent Book-Cadillac grand re-opening, as one example).
We can get involved in projects and with organizations who are working to make our dreams for Detroit's future a reality.
On a recent romantic do-something-different venture of my own, I stole away to downtown Plymouth for a few wonderful hours spent exploring shops and cafes I’d never been to - amid the colorful autumn leaves.
Tomorrow: Ambivalence kills romance
Relationship experts cite some of the following as signs that your relationship could be in trouble:
· You spend less time together
· You stop doing nice things for each other
· You spend longer hours away from each other
· You need distractions in order to spend time together
· Communication becomes minimal and often negative (focused on what isn’t going right)
· Criticism becomes more common than compliments
· Differences are criticized rather than enjoyed
· Conflict leads to resentment, not resolution
· Humor is at the other’s expense
· The relationship lacks the clarity and passion you once gave it
· You resist stepping up and following-through on promises
· There is an increased focus on instant gratification (rather than long-term happiness)
Each of these points offers insight into what can be given back to the relationship, to turn it around.
Can we apply this knowledge to our relationships with our city?
Tomorrow: Courting Detroit (some tips for kindling your civic romance)
My 93-year-old grandmother, Lottie Kulpa, likes to tell the story of how when I was little, each time I heard the song lyrics, "When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, everything your heart desires will come to you…" I would turn to her and say (in a very serious voice - while shaking my head), "Oh, Grandma. That is not true."
Wishing on a star doesn't cut it.
We often long for a sense of adventure and romance in our lives. From a civic perspective, it’s easy to just sit back and "wish," or to focus negatively on what our city lacks or how it isn’t providing enough excitement for us.
That kind of thinking is problematic. Romance isn’t something from the outside that descends upon us; we must each do our part to cultivate it-- to activate the people and places in our environments.
On Thursday, Andy Schor commented in reply to my first post here. He said that in addition to spreading the word about Detroit we also need enough stuff to do here, to attract people. I completely agree. To that end, I think a romantic approach not only promotes our city, it is the energy that drives creativity and development, thus creating more to be excited about. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
A perfect example of this: My friend Gregg Newsom expressed to me the other day that his intense mythology about Detroit fuels everything he and his wife, Angela Kasmala, are doing at the Detroit Evolution Lab. Their spirited belief drives their business model. It’s also creating positive change and new things to do in our city.
I’ll leave you today with what I read this morning off the side of my Starbucks cup:
"The most important thing in life is to stop saying 'I wish' and start saying 'I will'. Consider nothing impossible, then treat the possibilities as probabilities."
Tomorrow: Is your relationship with your city in trouble? How can you tell?
Yesterday I mentioned that I think our relationships matter, and that romance can be powerful force in all our relationships, including our relationship with our cities/regions.
We’ve been so inundated with the notion that the idea of "romance" is exclusive to the realm of courting and dating one special singled-out person. In my opinion, that’s limited and fragmented thinking when it comes to the nature of human emotions and the ability we have to harness our creative power, to create and transform our realities, to influence and inspire one another, and to make a difference in our communities.
Consider romance in the context of the personal one-on-one romantic love relationship, as a point of comparison. It’s heralded by some as one of the most mystical and powerful of human relationships and experiences.
(I know, Freud would probably say that from an evolutionary perspective, this is what ensured the continued existence of our species. Good point. Whatever.)
Throughout the ages, humans have had a lot to say regarding the experience of falling or being:"in love". People in this state report feeling a heightened sense of connection and meaning. Courage elevates, fear diminishes. Boundaries and differences dissolve. There is an endless supply of hope, but it’s more than just hope. A distinct sense of possibility emerges that did not exist before. People “in love” report connecting more deeply with this sense of possibility, and of purpose; they are willing to take risks and make things happen, despite of the criticism of naysayers. Limited thinking becomes overshadowed by a suddenly crystal clear vision of all the adventurous possibilities. People who are “in love” become very focused and see no other reasonable option than to move full-steam ahead – even with highly impractical plans.
Two weeks ago, I heard Bill Strickland speak at The Creative Cities Summit. Bill’s been transforming lives, and building community programs and urban amenities for the past 30 years.
While I listened to Strickland speak, and then later began reading his book Make the Impossible Possible, I heard and read the words of a man who is passionately and yes, even romantically, in love and on a mission – a man connected with this mission, and open to the endless possibilities and the adventure of it all.
Strickland describes his story as "...the pursuit of one unrealistic, impractical, outrageous dream after another". Of his success in realizing so many of his dreams, he says it's happened because he has "...refused to be limited by what conventional wisdom, or other people, or the cautious little voice we all have in our heads told me I couldn’t do… I left the door open to possibility and, more often than not, opportunity showed its face.”
Strickland harnessed something far greater than "courage", "vision" or "follow-through"; he was able to cultivate a more romantic spirit that we can use to transform our relationships with our cities/regions.
Did you see the episode of Sex and The City where Carrie proclaims her love for New York and basks in her glorious romantic relationship with her city (Season 5, "Anchors Away")?
I’m not a big fan of the SATC series overall, but I loved that episode. I’m fascinated by our personal and collective relationships with our cities and regions.
We all have a relationship with our cities/regions. The question becomes: what is that relationship all about for you? How do you feel?
Are you infatuated, underwhelmed, thrilled, disgusted? In love? Indifferent? Whipsawed by confusion?
I think that our relationships matter; that romance can be a powerful force in all our relationships, including our relationship with our cities/regions.
My aim this week is to kindle/rekindle that romantic approach.
It might seem like a stretch at first – from "romance" to economic and regional development. But as I’m writing this week about romance, I want to liberate the automatic and limited association between "romance" and the specific context of intimacy between two people. I’ll draw on that association as a point of reference.
Romance can be applied as a lens or perspective. Or is, at its best, a powerful component in a way of living. We can harness it and use it in all our creative endeavors – and in our mission to transform our cities and regions.
I hope you'll come back tomorrow. Feel free to comment!