Channels of communication

2012

In 2009, an overhead rail track in Manhattan that had been disused for decades was transformed into an overhead garden. To walk the High Line – as this elongated oasis is known – has become a major high light for New Yorkers and tourists alike. …. But how did this transformation come about?

As the old tracks lay abandoned, native seeds growing up unhindered between them sprouted and eventually became so dense and tall that they became visible from the streets below.

The potential for the greening of a totally urban scene, rather than the disjunctive dismantling of the old track as was planned, was an idea that occurred to passers-by from all walks of life. Enough of them spoke up for their vision, joined forces, put their money, time and effort where their mouths were: and the rest - as they say - is history.

New perspectives on familiar things have always added unexpected animation to people's vocabulary. Novelty in a mundane setting evokes unexpectedly strong emotions that encourage people to propound their wonder. This emotional response adds new colour and life to everyday narratives releasing surges of energy that enable people to revise hardened attitudes and alter seemingly unalterable opinions and actions.

That people see the world differently even if they share the same perspective, is common knowledge. But coming unexpectedly on that same perspective from another viewpoint can cause all but the most obsessive personality to understand that other people's ideas – which until that moment had always seemed obtuse – did have validity.

As any of you who have been on canal trips will know, No channel is exactly the same if travelled in both directions. In fact turning round and going back the same way provides completely different experiences and offers completely different sights from the ones on the way out.

The High Line offers that same linear experience but also adds the possibility of seeing familiar scenes from above.

It would help us all to retain interest in persistent problems and everyday situations and add to our vocabulary whenever we are stuck for ideas if we went back and forth, over and under and looked up and down at our findings and then shared them with others facing backwards or forwards on the same track - as well as people entering or leaving at various stop off points who could not have the whole picture.

Almost always the seeds of rejuvenation have been sprouting unnoticed and are set to bloom. Once we have become aware of what is there we can intervene. We can fertilise the ground so that weedy specimens grow to be strong and healthy plants, introduce exotic species, add trees and paved areas, provide drinking fountains and coffee stops, take our laptops, sit on benches and simply by looking at familiar things from different perspectives learn to communicate our ideas in newly fruitful ways.

The next time you notice an opportunity for change that will add value, or something that could be fixed in a different way than originally planned - no matter how long that plan has been in place – speak up about it. Point it out to others. If it is a good idea they will push with you to get it put forward and then work alongside you to get it accomplished.

Finding ways to make the everyday world more interesting is catching. The latest one in Manhattan is to take a disused underground area - the size of a couple of football pitches and create a garden with plants that will thrive in artificial light.

Organisations that allow employees space to breathe-in, speak-out and co-operate will find the possibilities for creating many a High Line growing in their own back yard.

But someone has to be the instigator. Think about it. Talk about it. That someone could be you!

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.