"Just think, they never sleep!’‘And why not?’ ‘Because they never get tired.’ ‘And why not?’ ‘Because they’re fools.’ ‘Don’t fools get tired?’ ‘How could fools get tired!’ –“Children on a Country Road," Franz Kafka
I have had an interesting jumble of jobs and education during my life so far: ranging from art student to art model to art teacher, farmhand to gardening assistant to environmental policy advocate, English lit major to journalist to researcher. Since I graduated with my master's degree in landscape architecture from Cornell in 2010, I've been working as a consultant in green infrastructure and community planning. Now I'm gearing up to apply for UC Berkeley's doctoral program in City and Regional Planning at the end of this year.
I now have less than thirty days before I depart for three months' work in Israel, to work with the Reut Institute, a nonprofit, non-partisan policy group that advises the Israeli government, advocating for non-violence and social justice. I'll be working on several projects in the ancient town of Safed, in the northern Galilee. The town will be a case study of techniques for inclusive economic growth through sustainable neighborhood planning, historic preservation, and integrative urban design.
I've become involved recently in Occupy Wall Street. I was in New York City in mid-November, and was there for the NYPD raid on Zuccotti Park, and the march over the Brooklyn Bridge a few days later. I took pictures and shared my experience over Twitter, where the BBC found and contacted me for several broadcast interviews. I then went to Occupy Congress in D.C. in January, and have been variously involved in Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco. This involvement was a big factor in my work for Reut in Israel, which is extremely interested in the Occupy movement, and in addressing Israel's own problems with poverty and income gap. Being part of OWS was an incredible, life-changing experience. I've never been an activist before, never experienced that kind of immediate sense of community before, never felt so sensitive to the intellectual and emotional tides of a crowd before. Being part of OWS expanded my identity, taught me more about individual power, and gave me a whole new perspective on the systems of our society and our different systems of authority in the United States. I both lost and found faith in people, and in myself. I hope to be able to effectively apply what I learned from OWS to my upcoming work in one of the most complicated countries in the world.
My thoughts about the state of Israel are likewise complex, and I'll talk about that more in a different post. Right now I'm learning as much as I can about the situation and history of the country I'll be working in. Israel contains religious and secular Jews from around the world, Palestinian Muslims and Christians, Bedouins, and a dramatically increasing number of immigrants, including Sudanese and Vietnamese refugees, Gypsies, and many others. There are some parts of Israeli history and the policies and practices of the Israeli government that I find objectionable. That's all right. I do believe that change comes both from without and from within; you cannot change a system that you refuse to become involved in, and you also cannot truly effect change without the perspective of venturing outside of mainstream society, where creative thinking bends the rules every day and where revolutionary thought, a nebula of destructive and generative force, forges new constellations of human progress.
An Atlas is both a series of maps and a Greek God, hoodwinked into supporting the sky on his shoulders for all eternity. I am a mapmaker by profession, showing cities as they are, as they were, as they might be, and I am an admirer of the god Atlas, who knows as well as I do how very heavy the world can be.