Empathy in a Time of Isolation

Recently, I received an email from David Rubin at Land Collective and it struck a chord with me during these strange times. Over the past few years, I feel as though the tensions between interest groups have increased due to the political indifference from politicians and that there is a push to pick a side and thus a need to defend “our” position and we have lost the ability to empathise with others and seek out why others feel so passionately about their position. This has somewhat increased recently with social distancing and living vicariously through social media, however at the same time I feel that there is also connectedness and solidarity that we are going through this together. It is a dichotomy that has been troubling me and I think that David’s email provides some answers on how we can empathise through the lens of landscape and landscape architecture. I hope you enjoy reading the following letter as much as I did.

Damian Holmes, Editor – WLA
Image © DAVID RUBIN Land Collective 2020

Empathy in a Time of Isolation
Social distancing is a new term I loathe. Yes, be physically distant for safety in a time of COVID-19, but let’s never, ever be socially distant. Now more than ever. Our practice focuses on empathy as a driving force for good, and we here at Land Collective hope you – our clients, collaborators, and friends – will join us in taking this time to reconnect and reinforce all of those wonderful relationships that may have, heretofore, been taken for granted or lost to a fast-paced world. Empathy – thinking beyond oneself and embracing the feelings of others – can inspire us to act, to reach out, to listen, to help. It is the remedy to isolation. We’d love to hear from you here at LC! How are you during these disruptive times? What are your greatest challenges right now? What are you doing that makes you feel better? I welcome hearing from you at [email protected] or through our studio website: DAVID RUBIN Land Collective.

Landscape is one of the most equitable of the design disciplines that, in its best iterations, establishes and reinforces social connection, physically and emotionally. Landscape reflects how we describe ourselves as a society. It is our identifier. And in our efforts here at Land Collective, we have given voice to our clients and their constituents in the work that we do, actively listening, finding connections, and reinforcing community. We can’t wait to get back to these in-person events.

What To Do In The Meantime?
So while we are not meeting in public gatherings at present, what can we do to stay connected on a virtual common ground? Unlike plagues of the past, we are living in a time that allows us to take advantage of technologies that, when misused, led us towards inwardness, myopia, and separation. Now, that same technology can be even more powerful in making connections intra-family, across cities, and around the world. We’re truly in this one together. We are trying to take the opportunity to reach out and act on behalf of others. Selflessness in troubling times can actually relieve stress and anxiety, finding commonalities in experience. Now’s the time to give greater meaning to “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one.

Image by Hadley Fruits © DAVID RUBIN Land Collective 2020

Taking Action
Here are some of the things we’ve been doing:

  1. In addition to our weekly staff and project meetings, which are now virtual, we’re checking in at themed happy hours, if just to see how everyone is doing, talk about the best place to get groceries, and enjoy each other’s company.
  2. Our Old City Philadelphia studio is part of a tight knit community of small shops, galleries, and local businesses. We’re all watching out for each other, collecting each other’s mail and packages, and keeping an eye on things, while supporting the few places still allowed to remain open.
  3. Where we can, we’re supporting our local small businesses, local grocery stores and restaurants, tipping as much as we can, and donating to those institutions that we love and that make city-life so worthwhile (the library, the local Y, our museums).
  4. Land Collective has grown a lot in the past two years and our staff are taking this time to fine tune how we collaborate as a studio. We are beta-testing new protocols, so that we come back from this pandemic even stronger.
  5. We’re reaching out to our community to check in and see what we can do to help.
Image © DAVID RUBIN Land Collective 2020

Wellness in Beauty, Humor, and Music
And so, in the spirit of sharing what’s been making us feel better, we offer some virtual sites that you might enjoy and pass along to others. For those that want that “Moment of Zen” before stepping from your actual bed to your virtual office, perhaps follow these Instagram sites that focus on some of England’s great landscapes (they’re up six-hours earlier, so have a head start on finding beauty): @colin_awg for stunning walks in Somerset; @greatdixterofficial for images of one of the most lovely English manor houses; and @roushamgardens for verdant and floriferous views of an important political construct. For those seeking humor and reflection on our everyday humanity, try @nickheathsport – this guy is hysterical! And for those that want to get their jam on, try @dnice who spins virtually. His scheduled Club Quarantine venue attracts the likes of Michelle Obama. Hope to see you all on the flip side very soon. Stay connected!

Text | David Rubin – Land Collective

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