If I was a “Successories” inspirational quote poster kind of guy, if I could see just the quote and it’s essential meaning without all of the cliche baggage and “footprints in the sand” images and frilly pedantic fonts, I would say that I have been noticing that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” applies beautifully to our work here at NoLi, to the myriad initiatives and concentric and nested tasks that are all aimed at one goal – to better the North Side. But then again, I never met Lao-tzu, he certainly had never heard of Lexington, and I’ve heard this particular quote cited so many times that it is approaching meaninglessness, ringing hollow in the space carved out by its vacuous popularity. I did, however, have the opportunity to work alongside a young Pemon man named Manuel who I had the great fortune to work beside some years ago in rural Venezuela. He was very quiet but always listened with an exuberant intensity, and when I would talk excitedly and somewhat overwhelmedly about everything that we had to do on this or that project, he would look at me with a measured yet youthful gaze and say simply “poco a poco,” motioning with his hands down toward the dry packed red earth, palms down, as if to slow my pace, to assuage my growing anxiety through this simple motion, this simple phrase. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about that, about Manuel’s saying, because it is so simple and yet so empowering. Bit by bit. Little by little. That is how we make all big things, from the bevy of small things all stitched together by purpose, by vision, by many hands and feet and minds all come together. I find that much more compelling (no offense to Lao-tzu) for its simplicity as well as the inherent possibilities. Lao-tzu would seem to imply that there is but one arc. But to recite “poco a poco” to yourself is to remind yourself of all of the arcs that you are a part of, not just on one journey, but as a part of many and disparate paths, going in all directions at once, all being traversed and progressed and built and developed concurrently, by one, and one, and one, become many.
Poco a poco.