Thought For The Day #4509 April 2015
Broadcast 9th of April 2015 on BBC Radio Bristol
On the wall of the derelict building in Stokes Croft, where controversial plans to build modern flats have been made, there’s a quote by the Austrian artist and architect Friendensreich Hundertwasser. It simply says, “The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity”.
To me it’s clear that this expresses the local feeling that Stokes Croft is not part of the “straight lines” of Bristol. That it is in fact very much a cradle for nurturing the curved lines of the city. And I think this is something to be proud of. In a world where we’re constantly being reminded of climate change and massive wealth inequality, we need more communities experimenting with lines that don’t follow the straight and narrow.
I’m not against straight lines and I think there is a need in every city for modern housing. Even Stokes Croft benefits from the straight and boring lines of roads, water pipes and traffic lights. But we all need squiggly and swirly lines in our lives too. They’re unpredictable and refreshing, they help us get new perspectives on the world.
When my life gets busy and stressful, I’m less likely to take the long, meandering way home. Instead I go straight for the familiar routes, like I’m holding onto the bannisters on the stairs. What if that’s what we’re doing with civilisation right now? Things have gotten difficult and we’re scared to let go of the safe, straight lines of the past. It reminds me of an old proverb that echoes Hundertwasser’s quote, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth”.