WALKING EPIPHANY in [name of your neighborhood/city]

In Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, author Bobby Gross reminds us that the liturgical season of Epiphany brings the themes of light to a culmination.  In Advent we cry out with Isaiah for the pople who walk in darkenss to see the promised light.  In Christmas we celebrate the coming of that Light in the birth of Jesus.  In Epiphany we recognize that the gift of Light is for the whole world as illustrated by the arrival of Magi from the East to the Jewish home of Mary and Joseph.  

Throughout the daily readings in the Epiphany lectionary, we follow the early life and ministry of Jesus as He is revealed as the Son of God, appearing as light to a dark world.  He is the very God shining forth, manifesting the glory of God.  Oftentimes the accounts are private affairs (Transfiguration), other times public (Wedding at Cana, Baptism).  All of them take place, though, in the places Jesus lived and worked, within the context of his relationships of family, friends, and followers -- the sick, possessed, poor, celebrating, drinking, seeking, religious, fearful, apathetic, discouraged neighbors.  

Jesus often follows these revelations (or “epiphanies”) with the command to “Go and tell”.  

“The one who shows himself to us asks us to make him known to others. The one who declaires, ‘I am the light o fhte world,’ says to us, ‘You are the light of the world.’ (Bobby Gross)

Lastly, two cultural practices I’m wanting to re-create for this blog series:  the Blessing of the Home and the Beating of the Bounds.  They are not universally practiced, but intrigue me in our own attempts to live the visible life of Jesus-followers in our own neighborhood.

Prompt 1: Local ground

The likeliest path to the ultimate ground leads through my local ground. I mean the land itself, with its creeks and rivers, its weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, and all the plants and animals that share it. I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place.

Scott Russell Sanders

Staying Put

If I walked around the block in your neighborhood, what would I see (hear, smell, etc.)? Show us some of the "creeks and rivers, weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, plants and animals" that share your neighborhood. Put another way:  If you were asked to coordinate a walking or biking tour of your neighborhood, what would you include in the tour?  Also, how would the season of the year affect your itinerary?

Prompt 2: God's household

Life, breath, food, companionship -- every good thing is a gift from the abundant providence of God. The kingdom of God, this great economy, is embodied in the world when God's people respond to God's provision with gratitude, sharing God's gifts generously with others. The word economy reminds us again that creation is God's household; we are tasked with sustaining it and keeping it in the order God intended. It should be a place where all humans and all creatures are loved and honored and where generosity is commonplace.

C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison

Slow Church

What are some ways your neighborhood is generous to each other?  Put another way, what are some of ways your neighborhood naturally loves and honors others?

Prompt 3: To suffer with

To be an American is to move on, as if we could outrun change. To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it, and to suffer with it.

Kathleen Norris

The Cloister Walk

What are some common things you and your neighbor suffer because of where you live?

Prompt 4: Homegrown economy

Losing local businesses to national chains stores is by no means inevitable. Indeed, the growth of chain stores has been aided in no small part by public policy. Land use rules have all too often ignored the needs of communities and undermined the stability of existing business districts. Development incentives frequently favor national corporations over locally owned businesses. Increasing numbers of communities are rewriting the rules around a different set of priorities that encourage a homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses.... Active decision making at the local level and a creative approach to zoning can provide a powerful arsenal for defending community.

Stacy Mitchell

The Home Town Advantage

Are there are any signs of a "homegrown economy of humanly scaled, diverse, neighborhood-serving businesses" in your neighborhood?  If so, tell us about them.

Prompt 5: Salt and light

The way of being salt and light is a role (a part and position) that Christians are called to in the world.  It is a role that requires us to take up a place in our world, at work, at school, and in the neighborhood.  Christians are called to imagine another world, and to do so by living amid the divisiveness, alienation, suffering, and violence, as well as the good things, the loves and hopes of where we live now.... However, we are called to make a home that is not established on our own authority and perfection, but instead is set on the foundation of repentance, forgiveness, mutual care and correction, and reconciliation.

David Matzko McCarthy

The Good Life

In what ways have you been or do you hope to be salt and light in your neighborhood?

Prompt 6: Practice resurrection

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

Are there any cultural practices in place so that your neighbors are able to get to know each other?  (associations, community centers, annual block parties, newsletters)  

OR

Do you live in a neighborhood where neighbors naturally get to know each other?  If so, what are some of the things they do to make that happen?

Prompt 7: Life on foot

Walking is the beginning, the starting point. Man was created to walk, and all of life's events large and small develop when we walk among other people. Life in all its diversity unfolds before us when we are on foot. In lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities, the prerequisite for city life is good walking opportunities. However, the wider perspective is that a multitude of valuable social and recreational opportunities naturally emerge when you reinforce life on foot.

Jan Gehl

Cities for People

What are some different methods of transportation your neighbors use?  What would be needed for more people to be able to enjoy your neighborhood on foot?

Prompt 8: We need art

We need art, in the arrangements of cities as well as in the other realms of life, to help explain life to us, to show us meanings, to illuminate the relationship between the life that each of us embodies and the life outside us. We need art most, perhaps, to reassure us of our own humanity.

Jane Jacobs

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Does your neighborhood boast any community artwork (maybe even monuments or historical markers)?  What's the story it tells?  

OR

How about any artfully imaginative houses, yards or places of business in your neighborhood?

Prompt 9: Dim light and shadow

How much more mysterious and inviting is the street of an old town with its alternating realms of darkness and light than are the brightly and evenly lit streets of today! The imagination and daydreaming are stimulated by dim light and shadow. In order to think clearly, the sharpness of vision has to be suppressed, for thoughts travel with an absent-minded and unfocused gaze. Homogenous bright light paralyses the imagination in the same way that homogenisation of space weakens the experience of being, and wipes away the sense of place. The human eye is most perfectly tuned for twilight rather than bright daylight. Mist and twilight awaken the imagination by making visual images unclear and ambiguous.

Juhani Pallasmaa

The Eyes of the Skin

What does light look like at different times of the day in your neighborhood?

Prompt 10: Place

Place is space that has historical meanings, where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken that have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued. Place is indeed a protest against the unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.

Walter Brueggemann

The Land

What historical meanings -- stories that have "established identity, defined vocation and envisioned destiny" -- are told about the place where live?  

OR

What sort of declarations are made in your neighborhood as a "protest against the unpromising pursuit of space"?

Prompt 11: What is important

The availability of places where we are invited to stop and enjoy our rest provides a tacit reminder of what is important. If these places invite us to stay because we are consumers or producers, we will learn to see ourselves as valuable only insofar as we contribute to the economy. If our public spaces are ugly or inconvenient, we learn tacitly that our value as human beings is minimal.

Eric Jacobsen

The Space Between

What sort of public "rest stops" are available in your neighborhood?  Are they used well or barely noticed?

Prompt 12: Imaginative act

What I see behind my eyes changes what I see in front of them; my imagination shapes my perception so that I must look not once but twice at the world to see it whole. Walking down the street, I see a wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library. His gray hair is matted. His dense beard covers the slogan on his grimy T-shirt. His small darting eyes are as volatile as a hawk's. I look once and think "drifter." I look twice and think "John the Baptist," and in that imaginative act my relationship to the man is changed.

Barbara Brown Taylor

The Preaching Life

Give us a tour of your neighborhood as an "imaginative act" the way Barbara Brown Taylor describes her encounter with the wild-looking character sitting on the steps of the library in the quotation above.

OR

How has your place shaped your imagination about what's possible for your life?  What possibilities has it opened up?  What limitations has it created?

Prompt 13: Worthy of our affection

We don't have to scatter building blocks of our civic life all over the countryside, impoverishing our towns and ruining farmland. We can put the shopping and the offices and the movie theaters and the library all within walking distance of each other. And we can live within walking distance of all these things. We can build our schools close to where our children live, and the school buildings don't have to look like fertilizer plants. We can insist that commercial buildings be more than one-story high, and allow people to live in decent apartments over the stores. We can build Main Street and Elm Street and still park our cars. It is within our power to create places worthy of our affection.

James Howard Kunstler

Home From Nowhere

What "building blocks of our civic life" are located within walking distance of your home?

Prompt 14: Hometown

Well, no cannonballs did fly, no rifles cut us down

No bombs fell from the sky, no blood soaked the ground

No powder flash blinded the eye, no deathly thunder sounded

But just as sure as the hand of God, they brought death to my hometown

They brought death to my hometown, boys

They destroyed our families’ factories and they took our homes

They left our bodies on the plains

The vultures picked our bones

So listen up, my sonny boy

be ready for when they come

For they'll be returning sure as the rising sun

Now get yourself a song to sing and sing it 'til you're done

Yeah, sing it hard and sing it well

Send the robber barons straight to hell

The greedy thieves who came around

And ate the flesh of everything they found

Whose crimes have gone unpunished now

Who walk the streets as free men now

Bruce Springsteen

"Death to My Hometown" from Wrecking Ball 

What institutions or events are perceived to be at blame for bringing death to your hometown?  

Prompt 15:  Subversive Christianity

Build houses in a culture of homelessness. Plant gardens in polluted and contested soil. Get married in a culture of sexual consumerism. Make commitments in a world where we want to always keep our options open. Multiply in a world of debt. Have children at the end of history. Seek shalom in a violent world of geo-political conflict and economic disparity. This is Jeremiah's word to the exiles. This is Jeremiah's subversive word to us. And in this vision we just might see, with Jeremiah, "a future with hope" (Jer. 29:11). This is what it means to work and wait for a miracle. This remains at the heart of a subversive Christianity.

Brian Walsh

Subversive Christianity

Where do your neighbors hang out when they are not inside their homes?  Front porches?  Backyards?  Town parks?  

Prompt 16: Foreigners As Neighbors

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Pope Francis

from "Pope Francis' Address to Congress" on Sep. 24, 2015

How does your neighborhood embrace foreigners? Are there organizations set up specifically for that purpose?  What other signs of “immigrant” culture can you find in your neighborhood?

Prompt 17: Try to Find Something

The general purpose of the present economy is to exploit, not to foster or conserve. Look carefully, if you doubt me, at the centers of the larger towns in virtually every part of our country. You will find that they are economically dead or dying. Good buildings that used to house needful, useful, locally owned small businesses of all kinds are now empty or have evolved into junk stores or antique shops. But look at the houses, the churches, the commercial buildings, the courthouse, and you will see that more often than not they are comely and well made. And then go look at the corporate outskirts: the chain stores, the fast-food joints, the food-and-fuel stores that no longer can be called service stations, the motels. Try to find something comely or well made there.

Wendell Berry

"Compromise, Hell!" from Orion Magazine

What have the old, “good buildings” become in your town? What buildings still reflect “comely and well made” origins?  What do the “corporate outskirts” look like in your neighborhood? Can you find something “comely or well made” among the outskirts?  

Prompt 18: Take action

As rapid urbanization continues, one thing is clear: Human, economic, and natural resources will only become more strained as we continue to grapple with global climate change and the diminishing returns of globalism. We have to do more with less -- doing being the operative word.... Ultimately we challenge you to take action where it might matter to you most: in front of your house, on your street, or in your neighborhood. After all, if we can't work collectively -- fellow citizens, government leaders, or both -- to make these places better, we'll certainly have a hard time doing so at any larger scale.

Mike Lydon & Anthony Garcia

Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change

In what ways are your neighbors doing more with less in order to grapple with global climate change? How are you, your street or your neighborhood taking action to alleviate the straing on human, economic and natural resources? How about your local government?

Prompt 19: Houses become homes

Houses become homes when they embody the stories of the people who have made these spaces into places of significance, meaning, and memory. Home is fundamentally a place of connection, of relationships that are life-giving and foundational. And that connectivity includes the past, for homes are shaped by memories of important transitions, events, and experiences. Once these stories are forgotten, there is no home to return to because there is no place, or even potential place, that could be shaped by those stories.

Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh

Beyond Homelessness

How does your neighborhood make spaces of significance, meaning and memory?  How does your neighborhood preserve and embody it’s own story?

Prompt 20: Liked so much as this place

Ma hummed softly to herself while the iron smoothed all the wrinkles out of the little dresses. All around them, to the very edge of the world, there was nothing but grasses waving in the wind. Far overhead, a few white puffs of cloud sailed in the thin blue air.  Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers' rasping quivered up from all the immense prairie.  A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie

In your own neighborhood, when do you have the sence that you’ve “never seen a place you liked as much as this place”?  What does it sound and look like in those moments?  Where are you walking when you feel this way?

To be somewhere

We are immersed in it and could not do without it. To be at all -- to exist in any way -- is to be somewhere, and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place. Place is as requisite as the air we breathe, the ground on which we stand, the bodies we have. We are surrounded by places. We walk over them and through them. We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced.

Edward Casey

Getting Back into Place

It shapes us

Cities are the defining artifacts of civilization. All the achievements and failings of humanity are here. Civic buildings, monuments, archives and institutions are the touchstones by which our cultural heritage is passed from one generation to the next. We shape the city, then it shapes us.

John Reader

Cities

Worthy of our affection

We don't have to scatter building blocks of our civic life all over the countryside, impoverishing our towns and ruining farmland. We can put the shopping and the offices and the movie theaters and the library all within walking distance of each other. And we can live within walking distance of all these things. We can build our schools close to where our children live, and the school buildings don't have to look like fertilizer plants. We can insist that commercial buildings be more than one-story high, and allow people to live in decent apartments over the stores. We can build Main Street and Elm Street and still park our cars. It is within our power to create places worthy of our affection.

James Howard Kunstler

Home From Nowhere

Local businesses

Local businesses enrich the civic fabric. Small merchants care about their communities more because they are part of those communities. The taxes they pay provide services, like schools and police and parks, that they and their families use. Small merchants give to community causes more than their big competitors. Their purchases and profits tend to circulate within and strengthen the local economy rather than flowing to distant suppliers or corporate headquarters.

Stacy Mitchell

The Home Town Advantage

Place

Place is space that has historical meanings, where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations. Place is space in which important words have been spoken that have established identity, defined vocation, and envisioned destiny. Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued. Place is indeed a protest against the unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.

Walter Brueggemann

The Land

We are not gods

The practice of paying attention really does take time. Most of us move so quickly that our surroundings become no more than the blurred scenery we fly past on our way to somewhere else. We pay attention to the speedometer, the wristwatch, the cell phone, the list of things to do, all of which feed our illusion that life is manageable. Meanwhile, none of them meets the first criteria for reverence, which is to remind us that we are not gods. If anything these devices sustain the illusion that we might yet be gods -- if only we could find some way to do more faster.

Barbara Brown Taylor

An Altar in the World

Proper scale

If the human economy is to be fitted into the natural economy in such a way that both may thrive, the human economy must be built to proper scale. It is possible to talk at great length about the difference between proper and improper scale. It may be enough to say here that that difference is suggested by the difference between amplified and unamplified music in the countryside, or the difference between the sound of a motorboat and the sound of oarlocks. A proper human sound, we may say, is one that allows other sounds to be heard. A properly scaled human economy or technology allows a diversity of other creatures to thrive.

Wendell Berry

"Getting Along with Nature" in Home Economics

Endless books

I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.

C. S. Lewis

Surprised by Joy

Erosion of cities

Erosion of cities by automobiles entails so familiar a series of events that these hardly need describing. The erosion proceeds as a kind of nibbling, small nibbles at first, but eventually hefty bites. Because of vehicular congestion, a street is widened here, another is straightened there, a wide avenue is converted to one-way flow, staggered-signal systems are installed for faster movement, a bridge is double-decked as its capacity is reached, an expressway is cut through yonder, and finally whole webs of expressways. More and more land goes into parking, to accommodate the ever increasing numbers of vehicles while they are idle. No one step in this process is, in itself, crucial. But cumulatively the effect is enormous.

Jane Jacobs

The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

Transformation

There can be no transformation without art.  Art in the form of theatre, poetry, music, dance, literature, painting, and sculpture.  Communities by and large know this and invest heavily in the arts.  Those who want to heal the wounds of a fragmented community initiate hundreds of art projects for those living on the margin.  Art brings these voices into the mainstream.  Most communities are proud of their arts tradition and rightly so.

Peter Block

Community: The Structure of Belonging

When I walk

In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;

But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.

Wallace Stevens

from "Of the Surface of Things" in Harmonium

To suffer with

To be an American is to move on, as if we could outrun change. To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it, and to suffer with it.

Kathleen Norris

The Cloister Walk

We need art

We need art, in the arrangements of cities as well as in the other realms of life, to help explain life to us, to show us meanings, to illuminate the relationship between the life that each of us embodies and the life outside us. We need art most, perhaps, to reassure us of our own humanity.

Jane Jacobs

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Cultural flourishing

As we eat and drink and breathe we visibly demonstrate, even if we do not always honor, our attachments to and dependence on the land. If we take care of the land and preserve the integrity of the soil base and watershed, we will at the same time insure the life contexts that are indispensable for cultural flourishing. If nothing else, we will at least demonstrate that we believe the future of our grandchildren is worth protecting.

Norman Wirzba

"Why Agrariansism Matters -- Even to Urbanites" in The Essential Agrarian Reader

No place like home

If our contemporary culture does not readily acknowledge how perpetual motion can dumb down our souls, we do maintain at least the memory that a faithful journey will always lead us back to where we started from, opening our eyes to the potential of a place that we were not able to see before we left it. It takes a trip to Oz for Dorothy to say and say again, "There's no place like home." Even when it is reduced to sentimental nostalgia, the sentiment has power because our longings point us homeward.... Christian wisdom about stability points us toward the true peace that is possible when our spirits are stilled and our feet are planted in a place we know to be holy ground. When we get this stability of heart deep down inside of us, real growth begins to happen.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

The Wisdom of Stability

A friendly emptiness

Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.  It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation of good books, good stories, and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that the words can find roots and bear ample fruit.... The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness -- not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.

Henri Nouwen

Reaching Out

Borrow, recycle, reinvent

You may not be able to turn your government into a coral reef, but you can create comparable environments on the scale of everyday life: in the workplaces you inhabit; in the way you consume media; in the way you augment your memory. The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank.

Steven Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come From

Take action

As rapid urbanization continues, one thing is clear: Human, economic, and natural resources will only become more strained as we continue to grapple with global climate change and the diminishing returns of globalism. We have to do more with less -- doing being the operative word.... Ultimately we challenge you to take action where it might matter to you most: in front of your house, on your street, or in your neighborhood. After all, if we can't work collectively -- fellow citizens, government leaders, or both -- to make these places better, we'll certainly have a hard time doing so at any larger scale.

Mike Lydon & Anthony Garcia

Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change

Urban imagination

If you woke up this morning and decided to try a completely different method of getting to work, could you do it? Could you walk there? Ride a bicycle? Or catch a bus or a train that would get you there in the time it took to read the paper? Could you mix and match your modes? Now take it further. Does getting to a grocery store or a doctor's office or a restaurant without a car seem like a pretty big chore? Can your children walk or cycle to school safely on their own? If you think these are unreasonable questions, then chances are, real choice has been designed out of your city. You may still benefit from the tremendous utility of your automobile, but the system is impoverishing you and your family and friends in ways you may never have imagined. How do we build systems that truly make us free in cities? Sometimes it takes a radical shift in the urban imagination to point the way.

Charles Montgomery

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

Stick it out

One of the key problems in American society now, it seems to me, is people's lack of commitment to any given place -- which, again, is totally unnatural and outside of history. Neighborhoods are allowed to deteriorate, landscapes are allowed to be strip-mined, because there is nobody who will live there and take responsibility; they'll just move on. The reconstruction of a people and of a life in the United States depends in part on people, neighborhood by neighborhood, county by county, deciding to stick it out and make it work where they are, rather than flee.

Gary Snyder

The Real Work

Common concern

The future is named development by the businesses and gentrification by the activists.... Reconciliation will occur through a new conversation where the developers talk about the compassion they hold for those on the margin. The new conversation for the social activists is to acknowledge that without some wealth coming into their neighborhoods, they will continue to depopulate and deteriorate. The way into a future is to build relatedness between these groups. Beneath their positions is a common concern for the well-being of the city. A perpetually wounded city serves no one's concerns. There are many examples where these groups have come together. It is all possible when people decide to work something out rather than trying to win and being right. It is the shift in conversation and a care for the whole that makes the difference.

Peter Block

Community: The Structure of Belonging

Inexhaustible

My own experience has shown me that it is possible to live in and attentively study the same small place decade after decade, and find that it ceaselessly evades and exceeds comprehension. There is nothing that it can be reduced to, because "it" is always, and not predictably, changing. It is never the same two days running, and the better one pays attention the more aware one becomes of these differences. Living and working in the place day by day, one is continuously revising one's knowledge of it, continuously being surprised by it and in error about it. And even if the place stayed the same, one would be getting older and growing in memory and experience, and would need for that reason alone to work from revision to revision. One knows one's place, that is to say, only within limits, and the limits are in one's mind, not in the place. This is a description of life in time in the world. A place, apart form our now always possible destruction of it, is inexhaustible. It cannot be altogether known, seen, understood, or appreciated.

Wendell Berry

Life is a Miracle

Who we become

The places where we spend our time affect the people we are and who we become. The relationship with the places we know ... is a close bond ... a continuum with all we are.

Tony Hiss

qtd. in The Economics of Place

Our problems

When we live in a neighborhood, the problems of the people in that community are no longer their problems; they become our problems too. This type of solidarity is one reason the ministry of Jesus was so powerful. He was not afraid to enter into the suffering and pain of those he encountered. Before Jesus died for people's sins, he listened and touched and empathized with their anguish and their pain. We must do no less.

Noel Castellanos

Making Neighborhoods Whole

All these things

It is very difficult to know people and I don't think one can ever really know any but one's own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they are born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives' tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are, and these are the things that you can't come to know by hearsay, you can only know them if you have lived them.

W. Somerset Maugham

The Razor's Edge

Houses become homes

Houses become homes when they embody the stories of the people who have made these spaces into places of significance, meaning, and memory. Home is fundamentally a place of connection, of relationships that are life-giving and foundational. And that connectivity includes the past, for homes are shaped by memories of important transitions, events, and experiences. Once these stories are forgotten, there is no home to return to because there is no place, or even potential place, that could be shaped by those stories.

Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh

Beyond Homelessness

Within, between, and across

As much of the urban sociology literature argues, the neighborhood is a critically important place for marginalized groups. Concepts such as place attachment and sense of community help us understand how impoverished and minority residents feel about their place, what uses they have developed for it, and what meanings they assign to them.... In many cases, working-class and minority neighborhoods are much more than what the media describe as urban ghettos scarred by violence and poverty. The close-knit families who live there value community life, social ties, and their roots in the neighborhood. Residents come to rely on each other and build bonds of mutual support within, between, and across neighborhood spaces.

Isabelle Anguelovski

Neighborhood as Refuge: Community Reconstruction, Place Remaking, and Environmental Justice in the City

Physical manifestations

Cities, it occurred to me, are physical manifestations of our deepest beliefs and our often unconscious thoughts, not so much as individuals, but as the social animals we are. A cognitive scientist need only look at what we have made--the hives we have created--to know what we think and what we believe to be important, as well as how we structure those thoughts and beliefs. It's all there, in plain view, right out in the open; you don't need CAT scans and cultural anthropologists to show you what's going on inside the human mind; its inner workings are manifested in three dimensions, all around us. Our values and hopes are sometimes awfully embarrassingly easy to read. They're right there--in the storefronts, museums, temples, shops, and office buildings and in how these structures interrelate, or sometimes don't. They say, in their unique visual language, "This is what we think matters, this is how we live and how we play."

David Byrne

Bicycle Diaries

Try to find something

The general purpose of the present economy is to exploit, not to foster or conserve. Look carefully, if you doubt me, at the centers of the larger towns in virtually every part of our country. You will find that they are economically dead or dying. Good buildings that used to house needful, useful, locally owned small businesses of all kinds are now empty or have evolved into junk stores or antique shops. But look at the houses, the churches, the commercial buildings, the courthouse, and you will see that more often than not they are comely and well made. And then go look at the corporate outskirts: the chain stores, the fast-food joints, the food-and-fuel stores that no longer can be called service stations, the motels. Try to find something comely or well made there.

Wendell Berry

"Compromise, Hell!" from Orion Magazine

Downtown

The downtown is the only part of the city that belongs to everybody. It doesn't matter where you may find your home; the downtown is yours, too. Investing in the downtown of a city is the only place-based way to benefit all of its citizens at once. And there's more. Every relocation decision, be it a college graduate's or a corporation's, is made with an image of place in mind. That image is palpable and it is powerful. It is resolutely physical: a picture of buildings, streets, squares, cafes, and the social life that those places engender. Whether good or bad, that image is hard to shake. And, with rare exception, that image is downtown. Each city's reputation therefore rests in large part on its downtown's physical attributes. If the downtown doesn't look good, the city doesn't look good. People won't want to move there, and it will be much harder for citizens to feel good about the place where they have chosen to live. A beautiful and vibrant downtown, in contrast, can be the rising tide that lifts all ships…. A little bit of great downtown can help push a whole city into the great category. That is the place to begin.

Jeff Speck

Walkable City

Broad spectrum of human activities

When outdoor areas are of poor quality, only strictly necessary activities occur. When outdoor areas are of high quality, necessary activities take place with approximately the same frequency—though they clearly tend to take a longer time, because the physical conditions are better. In addition, however, a wide range of optional activities also occur because place and situation now invite people to stop, sit, eat, play, and so on. In streets and city spaces of poor quality, only the bare minimum of activity takes place. People hurry home. In a good environment, a completely different, broad spectrum of human activities is possible.

Jan Gehl

Life Between Buildings

Designed around easy parking

Even the way we organize car parking can have a social effect. Transportation planner and Brookings Institution fellow Lawrence Frank found that people in cities are actually less likely to know their neighbors if the shops in their area have parking lots in front of them. The dynamic at play is obvious: those parking lots shift the balance of shoppers from local people toward people just passing through. You can't blame a business for wanting to extend its reach. But when an entire city is designed around easy parking, then everyone shops farther from home, and the chance of bumping into people you might actually see again dwindles.

Charles Montgomery

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

Pedestrian scale

Pedestrian scale can be a precise science for those involved in planning and building. But it doesn't have to be. Almost anyone can easily tell the difference between a place where they enjoy the experience of walking and a place where they simply choose to take their car to cover the same distance. The value that we, as a culture, place upon walking bears a complementary relationship to the pedestrian scale of the places that we inhabit. The more we value the practice of walking, the more we will demand pedestrian scale in our built environment. And the more areas we build with a sense of pedestrian scale, the more we will find people choosing to walk to their destinations.

Eric Jacobsen

Sidewalks in the Kingdom

Act Neighborly

Thomas Jefferson, Tod points out, presumed on the basis of colonial experience that farming and democracy are intimately connected. Cultivation of land meets the needs of the farmer, the neighbors, and the community, and keeps people independent from domineering centralized powers. "In Jefferson's time," he says, "that was the king. In ours, it's multinational corporations." Tod didn't think he needed to rewrite the Declaration of Independence, just a good business plan. He found investors and opened the Farmers Diner, whose slogan is "Think Locally, Act Neighborly." For a dreamer, he's a practical guy. "Thinking globally is an abstraction. What the world needs now isn't love sweet love—that's a slogan." What the world needs now, he maintains, is more compassionate local actions: "Shopping at the hardware store owned by a family living in town. Buying locally raised tomatoes in the summer, and locally baked bread. Cooking meals at home. Those are all acts of love for a place."

Barbara Kingsolver quoting Tod Murphy

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Jobs are going

Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores

Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more

They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks

Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back

To your hometown

Your hometown

Your hometown

Your hometown

Bruce Springsteen

"My Hometown" from Born in the USA

Neighborly citizenship

What holds people together long enough to discover their power as citizens is their common inhabiting of a single place.... Before they become citizens, then, these people are neighbors; this is a neighborly citizenship. But by that I do no mean simply that it is folksy or friendly. The word neighbor, in its Old English rendition, meant something like "near dweller." Neighbors are essentially people who find themselves attached to the same (or nearly adjoining) places. Because each of them is attached to the place, they are brought into relationship with each other.

Daniel Kemmis

Community and the Politics of Place

Neighborhood expression of care

We've got to have more of this neighborhood expression of care.... I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health. I think that it's much more dramatic that two men could be working out their feelings of anger—much more dramatic than showing something of gunfire. I'm constantly concerned about what our children are seeing, and for 15 years I have tried in this country and Canada, to present what I feel is a meaningful expression of care.

Fred Rogers

Senate Statement of Public Television (May 1, 1969)