Public Good: It starts with seeing the big picture in small things

There is a stone in the forest across the waters, the Straight of Juan de Fuca, from where I live. Its a small stone. I haven’t seen it, though apparently, when I locate it, I will hear what ‘quiet’ sounds like. The quiet results from the interaction of many connected things, extending far from that single stone and public place. Here’s a picture of that stone.

Gordon Hempton placing stone symbolizing one square inch of silence

Gordon Hempton placing the “One Square Inch” stone. Photo: Ken Lambert, Seattle Times.

One Square Inch of Silence

One Square Inch of Silence is a story that does just that; see the big picture in small things, and then some. In this story about “one man’s search for natural silence in a noisy world’,  we follow ecologist Gordon Hempton’s journey to create a quiet place (the quietist in the U.S.), free of jets and other man-made noisemakers. The place, demarcated and symbolized by a single stone, and for which 20 miles of auditory relief is sought, is located in the Hoh Rain Forest, in Olympic National Park, Washington State. Needless to say, diverting three jet paths and overcoming regulatory hurdles is no small challenge. Read, listen, watch more, here.

To me, the concept of tackling a big problem (lack of quiet places) through one square inch is  brilliant. And, to think that I drove past the Hoh Rain Forest, and the trail to One Square Inch, only a few months ago, without stopping. Next time.

It starts with something small

Piggy-backing on Hempton’s One Square Inch concept, here are three parallel examples, that lead to something bigger.

  1. From conflict to resolution: when in conflict, acting on a small cue in a conversation can lead to questioning (check out Cinnie Noble’s new book on this front), which promotes engagement and dialogue; the beginnings to insight, options, choices, and resolution.
  2. From community to innovation: regular potlucks in a co-working space enable collisions between workers. From those collisions, connections and relationships can be formed, and maybe: collaboration, partnership and innovation?  Collaboration and chance are a dynamic duo.
  3. From soil to health: In the The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, one of America’s top chefs, Dan Barber articulates the relationship between soil and our health. “When we taste something truly delicious, something that is ‘persistent’, it most likely originated from well-mineralized, biologically rich soils. As it turns out, our taste buds may be far more sensitive than any chemist’s tools.” Translation: if we looked after our soil better, we could forego the chemicals, and end up with tastier food. With naturally tastier food, we could reduce the quantity of processed food, and the overeating it brings on; not too mention health crisis…  PS. Barber seems to have a knack for food and relationships, as I’ve highlighted before.

Systems thinking through small things

Everything is connected. Though the path from A to Z is often obscure, the path to great things, most importantly public good, flows from giving intention and love to small things. We know this. Still, it takes courage to live it.

Have you  an example in mind, analogous with One Square Inch?

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