Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy Birthday, Lewis Mumford

John Clark (the longtime WDAV general manager and local arts leader who decamped in 2007 to Asheville but recently returned to Charlotte) sends along this reminder that Oct. 19 is the birthdate of Lewis Mumford, the New York-based writer on cities, born 1895, died in 1990.

Here are some of Mumford's observations:

• A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.

• Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.

• It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless.

• The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind.

• Without fullness of experience, length of days is nothing. When fullness of life has been achieved, shortness of days is nothing. That is perhaps why the young have usually so little fear of death; they live by intensities that the elderly have forgotten.

• A man of courage never needs weapons, but he may need bail.