Imagine the power of entire teams of people who know who they are and bring their whole selves into collaborative relationships. Imagine communities filled with people who reach out to other people they respect and whose work they love enough to amplify without drama, score-keeping, or the hope of extra credit. Relationships win the race!
“These are counter-cultural priorities, yes. But they yield innovative, financial, and relational results that are far better long-term than living small-hearted, grasping, isolated, and suspicious.” —Me, in June
I’m preparing to move a few states north (details soon, I promise). So I spent several hours this weekend walking around my next work city, reviewing housing options, and learning more than I ever expected about urban apartments.
I also had thoughts how this culture structures itself around plenty, but in so doing, often produces wastefulness.
The first all-you-can-eat buffet I went to in this country was a chain diner in Texas. For so many dollars per meal, one could have as many entrees as one had fingers, and as many different kinds of food as one had toes.
That first time, I piled plates as high as I wanted, and it seemed cost effective until I realized that my wide eyes weren’t soundly judging my actual hunger. The structure of the restaurant made it easy to overestimate how much fuel I could spoon into my body and how much value an all-I-could-eat meal ticket could reasonably give me. I eventually grew disgusted about the meal scraps that restaurant staffers later threw away.
I thought of that diner recently while exploring a 60 year old high-rise with a mandatory heating plan. The building’s management company administers the heat. Residents automatically receive central heat, but can’t customize or modulate it. So, physics being what it is, the top of the building swelters, only the mid-level floors get reasonable temperatures, and no one can opt out.
This sort of plan is attractive to people trying to save cash: how sweet not to have to worry about heat. But I balked quite hard when our tour guide recommended opening windows to let excess heat out. It assumes that waste is normal. Energy conservation, apparently, is not.
Focusing on the micro picture, i.e. how an apartment’s chosen approach allows individuals to rebalance their budget, can sometimes undermine the macro picture: that we are where we are because of both individual and collective choices, that we can stand to be more careful with each other, that we can be more conscious of how whatever works for some of us might nevertheless impact others of us downstream.
“I’m having a really strong reaction to this heat,” I said, sweating.
But the macro picture of collective wastefulness remains whatever I do or don’t do. There’s a structure operating in this and other complex scenarios that is much greater than my own scruples. That structure doesn’t bend because of individual components. We have to learn to deal well anyway.