About the site
The concept of ordinary virtues goes back to Plato and Socrates, through time to Montaigne and Primo Levi and probably more contemporary philosophers I haven’t yet read. Ordinary virtue is simple civility. Respect. Courtesy. Gratitude. Attentiveness. Dialogue. Perspective. Responsibility. I think that a person or place can have ordinary virtues. Thoughtful, well-designed public spaces matter, and can facilitate ordinary virtues.
The focus of the blog will generally be on community. In a physical community, planning and development decisions are made to move cars or segregate residences from industrial parks or, as is now in vogue, to attract skilled or talented workers and the economic benefits they bring. Planning for this group has become known as placemaking (formerly known as new urbanism, sense of place, cool cities, and a few other tags). Sometimes the blog will be about the physical attributes that contribute to placemaking – which is really just creating the infrastructure that makes a desirable place to live.
Where I think placemaking falls short is that physical assets alone don’t make a desirable place. People are the heart and soul of a community. The physical assets can be created with civility, or without (for example, architecture that isn’t intimidating, or streets that are safe for pedestrians). Either way, they need people to be functional. The physical assets are made possible by acts and decisions guided (or not) by human civility, the ordinary virtues of people. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "The person who's in love with their version of community will destroy community. But the person who loves the people around them will create community everywhere they go." Like volunteers who open the doors at the museum or clear brush from the trails. Parents and other adults who help children learn kindness and develop curiosity. Residents who treat each other with courtesy and respect. Collaboration and partnerships. So sometimes the blog will be about the human side, our ordinary virtues that contribute to a community.
And sometimes there may just be cat videos.
The subheading “small but significant” comes from this 2003 speech by Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cole said, “Citizenship is a quiet patriotism; it is the habit of ordinary virtues -- the small but significant, the unheralded but heroic acts of service done without fanfare or headlines or pats on the back.”
To subscribe to blog posts, please scroll to the bottom of any page and sign up with your email address. #ordinaryvirtues
My name is Susan Wenzlick. I have worked for over 25 years in community development, brownfield redevelopment, financial incentives, policy, and communications. My undergraduate degrees are in political philosophy and community policy; my masters is in museum studies. I am a grant writer, grant reviewer, exhibit and programming planner, writer, and I manage social media for a lighthouse. I live in northern Michigan. I have near-religious devotion to the Oxford comma. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#ordinaryvirtues #placemaking #newurbanism #senseofplace #coolcities