David Byrne Launches the “Reasons to Be Cheerful” Web Site: A Compendium of News Meant to Remind Us That the World Isn’t Actually Falling Apart

What­ev­er your ide­o­log­i­cal per­sua­sion, our time has no doubt giv­en you more than a few rea­sons to fear for the future of civ­i­liza­tion, not least because bad news sells. Musi­cian, artist, and for­mer Talk­ing Heads front­man David Byrne has cer­tain­ly felt the effects: “It seems like the world is going to Hell. I wake up in the morn­ing, look at the paper, and go, ‘Oh no!’,” he writes. “Often I’m depressed for half the day.” But he writes that on the front page of his new project Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful, which began as a qua­si-ther­a­peu­tic col­lec­tion of pieces of “good news that remind­ed me, ‘Hey, there’s actu­al­ly some pos­i­tive stuff going on!’ ” and has grown into an online obser­va­to­ry of world improve­ment.

What kind of pos­i­tive stuff has Byrne found? He iden­ti­fies cer­tain com­mon qual­i­ties among the sto­ries that have caught his eye: “Almost all of these ini­tia­tives are local, they come from cities or small regions who have tak­en it upon them­selves to try some­thing that might offer a bet­ter alter­na­tive than what exists.” These adjust­ments to the human con­di­tion tend to devel­op in a “bot­tom up, com­mu­ni­ty and indi­vid­u­al­ly dri­ven” man­ner, they hap­pen all over the world but could poten­tial­ly work in any cul­ture, all “have been tried and proven to be suc­cess­ful” and “can be copied and scaled up” with­out the sin­gu­lar efforts of “one amaz­ing teacher, doc­tor, musi­cian or activist.”

The sto­ries col­lect­ed so far on Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful fall into sev­er­al dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. In Civic Engage­ment, for exam­ple, he’s found a vari­ety of effec­tive exam­ples of that prac­tice in his trav­els back and forth across the Unit­ed States. In Health, he writes about efforts to end the war on drugs in places like Van­cou­ver, Col­orado, and Por­tu­gal. As any­one who’s fol­lowed Byrne’s writ­ing and speak­ing about cycling and the infra­struc­ture that sup­ports it might imag­ine, this side also includes a sec­tion called Urban/Transportation, whose first post deals with the glob­al influ­ence of bike share sys­tems like Paris’ Velib and bike-only street-clo­sure days like Bogotá’s Ciclovia.

In Cul­ture, Byrne writes about the rise of a form of music called AfroReg­gae that offers an alter­na­tive to a life of crime for the youth of Brazil’s fave­las, the dis­tinc­tive libraries estab­lished at the end of Bogotá’s rapid bus lines and in poor parts of Medel­lín, and even some of his own work relat­ed to the record­ing and tour design of his own upcom­ing album Amer­i­can UtopiaAmer­i­can Utopia in the year 2018? That might sound awful­ly opti­mistic, but remem­ber that David Byrne is the man who once went on an artis­tic speak­ing tour about his love of Pow­er­point. If he can see the good in that, he can see the good in any­thing.

Vis­it Byrne’s Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful site here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Byrne’s Grad­u­a­tion Speech Offers Trou­bling and Encour­ag­ing Advice for Stu­dents in the Arts

David Byrne: From Talk­ing Heads Front­man to Lead­ing Urban Cyclist

The Phi­los­o­phy of “Opti­mistic Nihilism,” Or How to Find Pur­pose in a Mean­ing­less Uni­verse

The Pow­er of Pes­simism: Sci­ence Reveals the Hid­den Virtues in Neg­a­tive Think­ing

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Deborah McCoy says:

    Just the delight of find­ing reasons.….….always always look­ing! & leave it to David Byrne to bring that to light! THANK YOU. We have need­ed this more than ever. I, too, have been going some­what deep­er to find the FABULOUS things that are going on in this coun­try! Park­land stu­dents come to mind first & fore­most right now. Young mid­dle-school­ers & lots of young women study­ing sci­ence. Let’s save this beau­ti­ful gar­den called EARTH. David Byrne.…KISS KISS.

  • Steve Covello says:

    Sum­mer, Bud­dy Hol­ly, the work­ing fol­ly, Good Gol­ly Miss Mol­ly, and boats.
    Ham­mer­smith Palais, the Bol­shoi Bal­let, Jump back in the alley, and nan­ny goats.

    OK, if you don’t get that, just Google it. :-)

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