I am struck by the similarities we face when we look at land and cityscapes. Patterns, connections, things that do many things at once, that mean this as well as that. You have to hold a few ideas simultaneously in your head to get the best out of land. To see it in different lights. To see potential for more than one thing. To see meanings in multiples. To see the shapes and patterns and connections and shifting relationships. Contingent. Conditional.
This is how water shifts. This is where stock move; where they sit at night, how they graze along the ridges and spurs, and then the bottomlands, leaving the south faces until last. This is how the pasture composition changes, and where the woody plants appear as the forest tries to come back. This is where it is mostly wet, or mostly dry. This is where the trees do well and the grass does poorly, or where the grass does well and the animals keep returning. Pattern laid on pattern, connection on connection; soil, moisture, climate, a type of animal, grazing, pasture composition, woody vegetation. Functioning dominates. Flow. This is not a flat factory of a mere few variables.
Bring them all together and you get the rich warp and weft of potential. Do we – honestly, *do* we? – make a habit of seeing this potential? Or are we too wrapped up in the myopia and analysis of things through a narrow lens many see as superior – as more ‘objective’, as more ‘factual’? Objectifying people and place; *dys*connecting, *dys*functioning; narrowing meaning to some branch of technology and industry. Make it all the same. Look through one lens of grass production, or traffic volume, or drainage rates.
The world cannot be known by that approach, nor the potential realised. This place is where people could sit all day and listen to the hum of insects and the morning call of blackbirds. This is a place where in order to understand it, you have to be in it; to belong, to connect. This is where the space is cold and windy in the easterly, or hot beyond tolerance in the Northwest. This is a place where you could sit and watch the world go by, stretch out on the grass with a coffee and a book, a place to play music in the shade. This is where you can find your muse, and a poem. This place, created this way, could make this city come alive, or this farm sing far far more than a single note.
I am struck by why it is we give such importance to the technocratic view, the quantitative view, when there are so many questions and ideas the analytical mind cannot begin to imagine. Can we please bring the artists back into our lives before we devolve into the Borg Collective?
We need the artists to see, we need those who can keep many opposing views in their mind at once; this is a stream, and an ecosystem, and a playground, and a place to learn, and a swimming hole, and a beautiful thing if we add this here and hang a rope from that tree there – and, yes, it is also (but never only) a drain. What would the technocrat see?
We need the artist to see the vision of future possibilities, new solutions to old problems, to raise questions that the administrator could never imagine. Because without asking the right questions, the answers are meaningless.
We need those who can pause, and find a thing, and shift their gaze to another position because they know, somehow, that this position will reveal something new, something beautiful.
If we want to realise the potential in our forests and farms and our cityscapes we need the minds of artists to see the vision, see the potential, and ask the questions. Technocrats have a role in realising that potential – but we ought not have the person who sees only a drain, or a milk factory, or a traffic flow, or an expenditure account, ever determine our direction in life.
They will not realise our potential.
Bundy, Peter P. 1999 Finding the Forest. Excerpt