BUILDING WITH THE BREATH OF LIFE - Tom Bender - revised draft text 8 Jan.1999


We can begin to see now how totally a chi-centered world changes every facet of our surroundings and our lives. Those changes run deep inside us and our world, and are already in motion. Many things are likely to be as striking in their absence as in their presence. What would we find visiting a community based on sustainability and energetics of place a few decades from now? Would we find a familiar place or something strikingly different?

Sustainability calls for the design principles of energetics of place. It is up to us to integrate them as a touchstone and core to our design arts to give them the wholeness and depth needed to express and manifest these new visions and values.

Being hypnotized by mobility and its ubiquitous freeways, automobiles, and ceaseless aircraft takeoffs and landings will be a thing of the past. This is in part because of the depletion of cheap fossil fuels which underlie current mobility. But more importantly, it will be a response to a realization that mobility makes all places alike, destroying its own value. We will find comfortable and convenient public transit, high-speed trains, and a great variety of neighborhood-based rental vehicles to meet the true mobility needs which remain.

Instead of being segregated as today, we will find an intimate interweaving of work place, living place, leisure and learning - eliminating much of today's demand for daily mobility. Restoration of the beauty and power of communities and natural places will be actively sought, as people work to restore the soul of where they live rather than needing to escape to "recreate" in better places. We will still find people moving, living, and traveling around the world. But they will be on slower pilgrimages more deeply involved in learning from and sharing with others instead of numerous wrenchingly short vacation trips.

Urban skylines of towering office buildings will similarly become less common as sedentary and unrewarding office work is replaced by more active involvement with local production of needed goods and services. Billboards and advertising will virtually vanish as such goads to consumption are seen as the waste they are. We will experience an interest in quality and meaning, instead of quantity and "appearances".

The twenty-first century community will likely be smaller, with long-time residents. This will occur as the importance of intimacy and meaningful interaction with people and place becomes felt and as the higher effectiveness of local production for local needs becomes vital. There will be a quiet, unhurried air to the patterns of life, as the walls between work and leisure are removed and the immense costs in time and production needed for today's growth are eliminated. We will find people on the street connecting with us, interested in us, and interesting to us in turn. We will find few remnants of the large-scale institutions such as the prisons, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, power stations, and airports that have today been substituted for direct dealing with our needs.

Radio, TV, sports, music, and other cultural media will be transformed, as we rediscover that doing is far more rewarding than passively watching experts perform. Paradoxically, the interest in and attention to professional performances will be more intense and involved as more people are observing out of their own competence rather than as just couch potatoes.

What we may most surprisingly find, if we do successfully make this transition to sustainability, is that these apparently isolated communities are even more deeply and intensively interconnected in global and interest communities as well. We would be pleased to find that the level of well-being, satisfaction, security, physical, spiritual and emotional health far exceed those of today.

These profound changes in the what and where and nature of our activities will likely be equaled by the changes in architecture, landscape, interior, and urban design. While new building activity will dramatically lessen as our population stabilizes, the modification, replacement, and upgrading of existing facilities will result in an architecture and communities with distinctive regional character. Local materials, local climate responses, daylighting, solar heating, night cooling, and native landscaping will produce remarkable character changes from one region to another.

Today's cities (communities seem seldom to exist) rarely reflect our loves and passions. They don't reflect a love of festival and ceremony. They don't reflect joy, love, or giving. They are not filled with the spires of churches, temples or mosques celebrating the glory of Creation. They are not filled with gardens, forests, other life, or the growing of food. The values and emotions most reflected in their surroundings are fear, exhibitionism, and envy.

The reworking of our existing urban fabric from a new value base will transform this, and imbue our communities with positive characteristics virtually absent in today's cities. One focus will be on improving the "chi" already existing in natural and built places and creating places with healthy "chi" for all people and all life. The reworking of our cities will create places that evoke community intimacy. It will create places with the powerful in-breath of silence. It will provide places to nurture the soul as well as shelter the body, and which will contain meaningful ritual and celebration that deeply moves our hearts rather than commercialized, promotional events. Their residents will have a clear sense of being valued, having a voice in the life of the community, and of meaning in their lives.

Our communities will both accommodate and represent real work that enhances our skills and connects us with the sacred, while producing the goods and services needed for a healthy existence. They will reflect the values of giving, caring, equity, durability, and respect for all creation, and will hold all of that creation sacred. They will create space so the spirits of our land and rivers may breathe and flow free again. And most of all they will express the gift of love going into the making of places, and the passion of that uninhibited giving of love. [Coast redwoods]

The use of chi has been and is world-wide, in virtually every culture. It is a vision proven through 100,000 years of continuous culture, yet one that has to be reborn and transformed in each moment in each of us. Collectively, the dimensions of energetics leave us with a grasp of immense new possibilities. It is a missing dimension of connectedness, wisdom, and meaning for which our souls and our planet have ached. It makes possible a fullness and abundance in our lives which can, at last, bring peace to our hearts.

Human health and healing have been the first dimensions of our own culture to develop sophistication and clarity approaching that of traditional cultures in the use of chi, li, and other energetic concepts. Faith healing in Christian Pentecostal churches, use of chi in meditation and health, and hands-on energetic healing in many contemporary spiritual traditions have all developed similar vision and effectiveness. That clarity can now be brought to bear on extending our understanding of energetic interplay with our surroundings.

We have discovered already that this new operative vision does produce a new architecture, a new landscape, and new communities. It does produce places with souls, ones that can move our hearts, and ones that honor and accommodate all of Creation. And it does this while enriching rather than destroying our planet and our souls in the process. With that in our hearts, a wonderful healing and a new era of our world can begin.

38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© 8 Jan. 1999

1 One of the most exquisite projections of contemporary community based on energetics is Starhawk's wonderful THE FIFTH SACRED THING, Bantam, 1993.