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I could recommend TED Talks all day long and someday I might. For the time being I will recommend a new 2009 TED Talk by writer Elizabeth Gilbert. Their synopsis is perfect: “Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses – and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person ‘being’ a genius, all of us ‘have’ a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.”

Essentially, this is an excellent perspective on the creative process that I appreciated, especially for its recognition of the divine and the role of something bigger, better and brighter beyond us that wants us to create, that tickles us, that runs us over, that loves us – but is not us.

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It has been a number of years since I read Parker J. Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. A fantastic guide for delving into vocation (and thus facing yourself down) that I highly recommend.

I was happy to discover that Mr.Palmer was on Bill Moyer’s Journal this evening. He speaks with great wisdom about where we are as a country, where we are as a people, what we do when darkness falls – and how we can crawl out of this together.

Parker agrees with Moyers’ assertion that this is a heartbreaking moment in American history: “Part of the heartbreak is around having to give up illusions that we’ve carried for far too long. And it’s good that that’s happening, too…We have to learn a new set of habits of the heart. And I think that can happen.”

I highly recommend reading through the transcript (here in the second half, after the interview with Robert Kaiser). He is ruthlessly straightforward and hopeful. Please give it a read. Better yet, listen to it in podcast form at iTunes.

(photo by David Gonzales, New York Times)

After my last post I went surfing (swimming?) around to learn more about pools, New York City and big community ideas. It led me to yet another example of looking to the past for inspiration, finding multiple uses for a single space, bringing people together for recreation and camraderie, and, yes, heavy doses of creativity and persistence.

Case in point: the floating pool. Based on the floating pools of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that were moored in the East and Hudson rivers in New York, the 21st Century version came to life last year.

It promotes community (free recreation for New York City neighborhood residents). It’s shell and framework is an old barge (sustainable reuse). It encourages use of public space and our park system (it is part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy). It solves land use limits (Real estate for public use too expensive or non-existent? Create “land” on the water!). The innovations of this approach go on and on.

Come on in! The creative water’s fine.

9721_10-1-1936_highbridge-poo

I saw this Treehugger post recently and thought it was a fine example of creativity meeting sustainability and a truly third way – head on in a perfect blend.

Much of what the Works Progress Administration (WPA) did in the 1930’s involved building and renovating new parks and public pools. For many years I benefited from some of those programs every time I hiked through Devil’s Den State Park in Northwest Arkansas. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of the efforts of the WPA, built Devil’s Den (just as they did for so many other parks at that time) and each time anyone steps on the trails or sleeps in the cabins in the park they are enjoying the work of the CCC – over 70 years after those paths were cleared and those stones were set.

The idea that caught my attention in the recent Treehugger piece involved pools. Specifically the massive public pools built during the Depression. The people who designed the pools clearly thought about how those public spaces could be enjoyed all the time, not just during the summer months when it was warm enough to swim, wade and sun bathe with neighbors (or your whole neighborhood – simultaneously, in fact – by the look of these huge facilities).

The architects developed designs that allowed the pools to transform when drained. The empty pools became fall and winter spaces for paddle tennis, shuffleboard, volleyball, basketball, and handball – even roller skating rinks. The indoor locker rooms and changing areas for the pools were adapted for boxing instruction and evening dance halls for teens. Mind you, this was before skateboards, or they might have turned them into off-season skate parks.

Space and resources were not wasted. Year-round community-building was encouraged. A sense of having created something worthwhile and versatile was instilled.

Our country has just passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It is very much like the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 that funded the Works Progress Administration. This time around will we use our resources wisely? Will we come up with flexible solutions that work for our citizens in all seasons – and for decades to come? Will we invest in projects that build community and culture in innovative, practical ways?

I hope so because that’s the kind of stimulus we need.