Will David Byrne’s ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ Save the World?

 

 

No matter how bad things get – Google G7-Trump-climate-meeting – there are a few of our most beloved cultural idealists on whom we can always rely to still stir up a bit of hope (against hope?).

Hardly a surprise, David Byrne is one of them. And his latest project is the most defiantly titled Reasons to be Cheerful, an online publication (and titular homage to the Ian Dury classic), that seeks to, you know…solve the world’s many and sundry serious problems. It’s surely the final frontier for the post-punk generation’s one true Renaissance man, who, from what we can tell, has literally and successfully attempted everything else.

The thoughtfully realized but nobly ideological magazine – like so many other grand artistic gestures – actually began as a kind of therapy for the Talking Heads legend (whose American Utopia arrives on Broadway October 20). But soon he was pulling his wide-ranging circle/curiosity into the project, and it quickly evolved into a cautiously optimistic collection of essays on health, culture, economics, science/technology, climate/energy, urban issues and civic engagement.

 

 

“It often seems as if the world is going straight to hell,” Byrne admits. “I wake up in the morning, I look at the paper, and I’m depressed for half the day. [But] I realized this isn’t helping, nothing changes when you’re numb. So I started collecting good news. Not schmaltzy, feel-good news, but stuff that reminded me, ‘People are solving problems and it’s making a difference.'”

And in this ominously post-truth era, a commitment to evidence and facts seems exceedingly commendable. Especially when it’s all aimed at rousing us out of our worrying contemporary state of torpor and despondency.

“We’re telling stories that reveal that there are, in fact, a surprising number of reasons to feel cheerful,” he enthuses, “that provide a more optimistic and, we believe, more accurate depiction of the world. We hope to balance out some of the amplified negativity.”

And so for instance Karen Wong, the Deputy Director of the New Museum and cofounder of IdeasCity, writes about a biennial in Amsterdam that focuses on bicycling infrastructure all around the globe. While Bernardo Baranda Sepúlveda, the Latin American Director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, faces down the problem of urban sprawl in Mexico City.

Exhibiting impressive ambition, and nodding to the 21st Century media zeitgeist, podcasts, original video and an experiential programs are all in the works. But most importantly, Byrne wants Reasons to be Cheerful to be a place anyone can come back to for a quick and necessary dose of hopefulness.

Or as he puts it, “Stop by whenever you need a reminder that things might not be as bad as we think.”

 

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