Ordinary Virtues?

The concept of ordinary virtues goes back to Plato and Socrates, through time to Primo Levi and probably more contemporary philosophers I haven’t yet read.  Ordinary has a bad rep in our culture.  How many would proudly proclaim our ordinaryness? For me, ordinary virtue is simple civility. Respect.  Courtesy.  Gratitude.  Attentiveness.  Dialogue.  Perspective.  Responsibility.  Ordinary virtues build civilized communities.  And I will take that kind of ordinary every day of the week.

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 are believed to contribute to placemaking – which is really just creating the infrastructure that makes a location a desirable place to live.

Where I think placemaking falls short is that physical assets alone, no matter how people-friendly the design, 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, sidewalks are people oriented, but as above, design sometime trumps common sense).  Either way, places 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.  Volunteers who open the doors at the museum or clear brush from the trails.  Educators who help children develop ordinary virtues.  Government officials and developers who put people ahead of cars. 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. :-)