Sunday, March 7, 2010

Musing: Chopin, sustainable transport and sustainable lives

All of us who show up here, well most of us anyway, have come to understand that we can't simply cut matters of "transport" with one snip away from the rest of the fabric of our daily lives. Which is why we continually keep repeating phrases like "sustainable cities and sustainable lives" (perhaps much to your annoyance, eh?). Which brings us on this early and cold Sunday morning in Paris to the perhaps surprising link between World Streets and Frédéric Chopin. That's right, Frédéric Chopin.

Is this too much of a weekend stretch? You tell me.

For starters, Chopin and World Streets were born on the same day but one, March 1st for the great composer, March 2nd for your favorite (and the planet's only) sustainable transport daily. One day and one hundred ninety nine years, that is.

Still too much of a stretch? Admitted. So let's try this. But first, let me invite you to listen to this Nocturne (Opus 15, No. 1, in F) while I give this my last late Sunday morning try.

Chopin reminds us -- you can hear it right here, can't you? -- of the importance of quiet and reflection in our daily lives. Quiet and reflection yes but with plenty of ideas, drive and passion -- not at all a "sit back and wait for it to happen to you" life.

Here in this spirit are three quiet and to me really quite thrilling moments in the life of sustainable ways of getting around (which of course and exactly is why we are all here and what I want for you and all our children).

- On any day in any city in the world, being able to walk quietly and safely on an ordinary street holding the hand of someone you love

- On a visit to Ludwigsburg in southern Germany, on a chilly autumn afternoon as school is just getting out, hearing a distant flutter of almost bird like noises which soon materialize into a gaggle of chaotically peddling schoolchildren, girls and boys, large and small, chatting and laughing as they safely and joyfully make their way home on a reserved bike path. (Shouldn't those be your children?)

- Warmly ensconced in a seat on a clean train getting where we wish to go while comfortably reading a big fat book as the wheels turn beneath us.
Then, and finally for this end of a long week musing, there is the concept of shared space, so important to the composer, writer, painter, playwright and film maker – the vital shared space they seek and create by means of our eyes, ears and minds. No one can listen to Chopin, or Chekov or Molière or or . . . without being drawn into the special space they first create and then draw us in.

We now know this. This concept of shared space is critical for us as well. It's an indisputable fact. There can be no sustainable development, no sustainable cities, nor real well-being for all without deeper and wiser sharing. We have a lot to learn about this.

Yes, the young Pole was telling us something very important, so we really need to listen and learn. And then do.

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