Dear Richard Saul Wurman:

{ Monday, May 5, 2008 }

I want to say something sophisticated here and all I come up with is oh WOW sir you're so cool. How did I never hear about you before today? How glad am I that I heard of you now?

You inspire me, sir, to pursue a project-based life with greater vigor. (Indeed, to pursue vigor with greater vigor.) I believe we're meant to lead lives mapped through our projects rather than inertly rolling through days of roles or routines. I don't know how happiness comes from a role or a routine. But this is a thought growing in my head, and I didn't know who to point to, to say, "Look. Like that."

And there you are: a man who writes books to help sort out things that confound us and leave us tired and more helpless than we would like. Things like diagnostic medical tests and anxiety.

And you write about cities! Sir! One of my urban planning professors once quashed an idea of researching and writing about how the human dynamics of a particular Italian city centro had changed over the centuries by sneering: "That is not planning. That is tourism."

I don't care! There you are! Writing about cities. Guidebooks, yes, which help people, and more -- I'm agog, I'm a screaming teenybopper, I am thrilled by the 19.20.21 project. My brain goes all fizzy like pop rocks. You know! You see it! To help us understand cities, really pin data to the way humans see their cities, to grasp in our bones how people make cities live! What a difference this information will make to people who want to help each other live less painful lives!

And there you are, organizing the TED conferences, working groups of the talented working minds of our time -- because you were bored, you say. Yes, well. You could have gone sailing.

You seem so glad of life, so not wearing yourself like a suit! You merit and I think you will not mind the exclamation marks! Look! You link from your web site to your family's projects! Are those your three kids you link to? Their work is cool too! Look what they learned to do!

If I had $4000 discretionary dollars, I wouldn't attend the EG conference you put together. But sir, oh sir, I would find and send a person who is smart, quick, trustworthy, and understanding.

Which as you know does not mean soft. To understand is to see the hard and soft for what they are, the gentle, the cruel, and the apathetic, and to make your way amongst the facts that can kill you if you don't see them truly. Thank you for the work you do to render facts visible, tangible, maneuverable.

What I wish for you tonight is what I wish for the person I would send you. I wish that you and Bill Bryson and my husband could build something together -- birdhouses, say. And then have a lovely cold beer.

And I wish for you, sir, your five senses sharply operable all your life long.


Ann Elizabeth

Richard Saul Wurman Links

The Wurman web site - go nuts. Click everything.
The 19.20.21 project - a massive project to understand human life in the world's large cities.
Understanding USA - um. I'm speechless. And I need a bigger monitor.
The Info Design interview - "My definition of learning is to remember what you are interested in."

1 comment:

John L said...

"project-based life" - nice idea. thank you.

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