Daniel Kahneman writes about understanding human irrationality in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, and teaches us that people do not perceive stand-alone objects, rather differences away from an anchor point. He teaches us about perspective and that things are not always the way they seem, that there are biases at play that can influence our perspective. Lately, I have had to think a lot about perspective, and if I am carrying the right one with me. If I am seeing a group dynamic through the correct lenses… If I am placing certain people on a pedestal and looking at them through rose-colored glasses… And even if I am irrationally hoping that everyone, literally everyone I encounter, thinks the world of me (that is a lot of pressure!).
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to travel to Eugene, Oregon to visit the amazing friends I made over the Summer 2017 when I first started this blog. I made friends with these people during one of the most vulnerable times in recent years for me, as I had just exited my job of the last four years prior to boarding the plane to Europe and having no concrete plans moving forward. I owe a lot of the good things happening in my life to them. You better believe I was excited to see all of them again!
I was able to cycle around the City and experience some of the best bicycle infrastructure in the United States. The entire Saturday of that weekend, Gilly and I cycled around the City enjoying the sunny, warm fall day that Oregon was experiencing. We stopped at the farmer’s market along the way, we rode through the Whit and enjoyed a couple of beers, and then we gave ourselves a bit of a workout riding to the top of Skinner’s Butte that overlooks Eugene and Springfield on one side, and the Willamette River on the other. It was a beautiful and fun day that felt a lot like most of the days we experienced in Europe over the summer.
The next day, I was cycling along a beautiful cycle track with my former teacher, Professor Marc Schlossberg, and his daughter to breakfast. Marc asked me what I thought about the bicycle infrastructure in town and my immediate answer was that it was “lovely, that I loved every bit of it and felt so comfortable cycling around from block to block, from local street to busy street.” He told me that it was the answer that he expected, but that he didn’t agree with me. That things should be better for the residents of Eugene, that things should be safer. My response came in a slightly shocked form, as I told Marc that Eugene had some of the best bicycle infrastructure in the country. I said that the people of Eugene were lucky to have all of this infrastructure and that if we had the same in Atlanta, it would be an entirely different (and lovelier) place. Then Marc gave me a quick lesson on Perspective. He said that I needed to remember how great things were in Europe and how good things have the potential of being. He said that I needed to expect more of our Nation’s infrastructure and that we deserve better. With little need for further consideration, I agreed.
Tonight, after having a pretty rough day on the social side of my life, my roommate Ryan profoundly asked me, “If a genie asked you to pick anyone in the world to fall in love with you, would you do it?” My first thought was, of course, I just want to be loved man… But then I thought about it more. My answer to Ryan was “no.” He told me that it was the right answer, because could you really live with yourself and that someone that is in “love” with you when that love grew from an inorganic process that was forced upon them? I couldn’t.
Here’s another perspective, albeit a nerdy one (#planningnerd) from my good friend Marc Alex Morrison, “Jane Jacobs’ concept of catastrophic money… when you have a bunch of money coming into a community either as physical infrastructure or through a lump-sum economic development approach, you end up causing displacement of residents in one way or another. Whereas, if you use a participatory city model by micro-targeting individuals, they can work on projects and are able to gain the skills that will ultimately lead to more upward mobility and social cohesion within the community.”
And finally, when I just look back on the couple of years I have had, it can be easy to simply consider the negatives. The projects gone wrong, the relationships I have moved on from whether it was choice or not, the jobs of the past, the struggles of balancing everything happening internally and externally each day, the challenges of being someone with zero intent of failing, the heartbreak of being one who gives those he loves his all… But then there are the positives to be focused on. The projects gone right, the relationships that thrive more and more with every additional day, the opportunities that keep coming my way, the avoidance of how boring life would be without the struggle because the struggle is just freakin’ real, the results from my own passion and drive, the fulfillment gained from giving all the love possible, hell, even the opportunity of talking to someone all the way in Florence, Italy at ease. Oh, how life would be boring without an anchor point to measure the negatives AND the positives.
How’s that for Perspective?