Street Wisdom is a social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth. It’s a form of 'walking-based problem solving' – ask a question, walk the streets, unlock fresh thinking and see what answers present themselves.
With positive memories of my debut Street Wisdom experience this time last year, I willingly signed up again for another joint exploration of Dublin’s streets and the web of thoughts in my head.
Before we embarked on our street quest, we did a number of 10-minute walks, each requiring us to focus on something different:
- be drawn to what attracts you
- slow right down
- observe connections between the things you notice
- see the beauty in everything
According to the Street Wisdom website, some of the most common questions people ask:
- I am in a personal/professional cul-de-sac – how do I find my way out?
- I need to make a decision and there are just too many options. Which is best?
- I’m stuck on a treadmill with too few options. How do I break free?
- I’m trapped in everyday detail. I need to see the bigger picture. What does that look like?
- I have reached a crossroads in life/work. Which way to turn?
In my case, I chose a question that was more about arriving at something better rather than seeking a way out of something difficult.
My question: “What kind of projects and habits can I undertake this year that will fulfil and expand my creative self?”
While I generally do everything in life at speed, I relish the instruction to slow my pace for street wisdom. To stroll, dawdle, linger and stop is a treat I rarely permit myself to do. It was interesting to note that when I’m observing, I stop thinking. This might be explained by the fact that I’m a very poor multi-tasker – I struggle to focus on two things at the same time. Or maybe it’s the result of being fully present.
Either way, while my attention was absorbed by all the visuals in my city, there wasn’t a thought in my head. A very pleasant, liberating feeling. As soon as I pulled my attention back to the question I was seeking an answer to, I lost awareness of my environment. That was less fun, so I parked the question and returned to the uncomplicated joy of discovering new things.
For this street wisdom expedition, my eye was drawn less to architecture or people or nature but more to the transient and anonymous expressions of creativity that dot the streetscape – not screaming for attention but quietly rewarding the observer with a message or a piece of art that adds meaning and colour to a grey urban environment.
On reflection, I was drawn to anything with colour – small stickers on lampposts, graffiti on doors and walls, coloured lights, patterns revealed by urban decay, painted shopfronts and bicycles.
Cities tend to accommodate a beautiful mish-mash of old and new, clutter and space, tradition and trends, symmetry and irregularity, bustle and silence. It’s incredible to think how different an experience the streets provide, depending on a person’s mindset, focus, interests, route and destination.
Despite the cold greyness of the January sky, there was artistry and creativity to be found wherever I looked. Even objects eroded by natural elements had a certain kind of beauty.
And let’s not overlook the tiled patterns that I rarely notice on the ground outside entrances to buildings. There’s also a beauty in history holding its own within a modern city.
It was only when I put my camera away 10 minutes before we were due to reconvene at a nearby café, that I picked up my pace to get there on time. It was only then that new ideas popped into my head in answer to my question that hadn’t occurred to me before. No wonder SW refers to cities as rich sources of untapped wisdom. An “invisible university”.
Swapping stories and sharing insights with everyone else in the group is an inspiring and enlightening experience in itself. Everyone is relaxed, present and open as a result of walking. It’s always so interesting to hear what others have observed that may have passed you by and also get a flavour of the different questions, ideas and answers uncovered by the city.
As SW says “you don’t need to go away to get away”. All the answers to your troubles are on your doorstep – go and wander those magical streets in your city.
For more information, go to https://www.streetwisdom.org/