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Vulnerability, prospect & refuge

I walked the streets, enjoying the cool air and the feeling of enclosure that the city and the darkness brought, after the exposure of the day.

I read this line yesterday in The Old Ways. Robert Macfarlane writes brilliantly about journeys he has taken by foot in many parts of the world. This particular quote expresses how he felt arriving back in Ramallah after a long walk in the West Bank.

It's a wonderful read. And this bit caught my eye because it relates back to one of the main themes in a manuscript I wrote during the first season of covid - using the concept of prospect-refuge to better understand the emotional experiences of learning and vulnerability.

I thought it might help me to write more deeply and carefully about these ideas, to get them more clear in my own mind and hopefully then better able to express them to others (you).

In the manuscript, I write about three principles that I borrow from architecture and design and apply to learning: prospect-refuge, framing, and friction. The one that I think is most accessible - and most directly resonant with our feelings of vulnerability - is prospect-refuge.

The principle of prospect-refuge reflects a dynamic tension between our needs for vista and for sanctuary.

There are times when we desire a broad view out into the world. We want to explore, discover opportunities in what surrounds us, risk what we have for what we may find.

At other times, we crave safety and comfort. We want protection from both known and unknown challenges and threats.

And importantly, we want to be able to move from one state to the other, from prospect to refuge and back again, depending on how we feel and what we want in the moment. It’s elemental: leave the cave to hunt, gather, and explore, and return for shelter from the elements and predators.

That's the gist. Among other things, I want to use these posts to explore this idea, this relationship between vulnerability and prospect-refuge, with you.

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