BUILDING WITH THE
BREATH OF LIFE - Tom Bender - revised
draft text 8 Jan.1999
. THE THREE "I"S:
CORE ELEMENTS OF ENERGETIC DESIGN
From the dawn of time, human societies on our planet have held that all of Creation is alive and intimately interconnected, that holiness resides in all things, and that our lives need to be kept in harmony with all of this vast and wonderful Creation. As Ernest Eitel said regarding feng-shui, "
"They see a golden chain of spiritual life running through every form of existence and binding together, as in one living body, everything that subsists in heaven above or earth below."1
He is echoed across the centuries and the miles by Jim Swan, in his SACRED PLACES:
"Skeptical scientists comment that one cannot say the Earth is alive, for if it is, it must have a communication system, and everyone knows the Earth cannot talk. But it can talk. This is precisely what the research on sacred places shows. People go out to certain places and engage in interactions with nature in which information is exchanged. The Earth may not speak in English, but if we allow our minds to perceive through dreams, intuitions, animal messages, and voices that speak to us in the silence, the Earth is talking to us in words that are strong and clear."2
Throughout history also, society after society
has acknowledged the existence of subtle energy underlying and connecting
all material existence. Again and again they have acknowledged the existence
of deities within all things and all places. Again and again they have affirmed
the continuing existence of ancestors, and made connection with them a purposeful
part of their actions. And again and again, they have honored their natural
surroundings and created their built surroundings in ways to align with
the meaning and power they found in this living universe.
The three most important elements of energetics of place can be thought of as "The Three "I"s. They are CHI or life-force energy, LI or intention, and TUMMI or paying attention to our own tummies - our personal gut-level intuition about what is right for us.
CHI - SUBTLE ENERGY
An operative definition of chi - in general and particularly in regards to placemaking - is easier to come by at this time than a precise "scientific" one, as our sciences are yet to study this phenomena seriously.3 Chi in the body has most generally been called "subtle energy" or "life force energy" 4. Chi is the energy source and medium which constitutes the auric fields underlying material existence, around which our material bodies coalesce. In the cultures which have acknowledged chi, it is considered both the energetic connection with non-material dimensions of existence and the primary energy source for the material body.
Western scientists are only now slowly beginning to consider the conventional electromagnetic energy aspect of our bodies. Researchers such as Robert Becker and others are opening explorations into more esoteric "energy" dimensions of bodily functions.5
It has been demonstrated via MRI scans with radioactive isotopes that some form of energy is transported in our bodies along traditional acupuncture meridians, rather than through blood, lymph or any other known circulatory systems. This has been independently documented by French medical researchers Jean-Claude Darras and Pierre de Vernejoul at the nuclear medicine section of Necker Hospital in Paris6 and by Korean professor, Kim Bong Han. 7Though it has been clearly shown that movement occurs along these meridians, there has been no evidence to date of any associated biophysical mechanism in the body!
Whether chi is a form of electromagnetic energy, some "unknown" type of energy, or some sensory expression of other more mundane bodily processes is neither clear nor of immediate concern in terms of our consideration for design. Like acupuncture, gravity, or the common cold, lack of a technical understanding of the process is not necessary for a broad acknowledgment and acceptance that it does happen, and even some refinement in dealing with it. And, like acupuncture, it probably will be some time before clear understanding of the underlying science develops, and with it, a welcome refinement of application.
William Tiller at Stanford University outlines some of the characteristics of this energy:
"1. From experiments on telepathy, psychokinesis (PK), manual healers, etc., we seem to be dealing with energy fields completely different from those known to conventional science.
2. From a large variety of experiments, we find indications for a level of substance in nature that exhibits
(a) characteristics that are predominantly magnetic, as distinct from electric, in nature;
(b) an organizing rather than a disorganizing tendency as the temperature increases in seeming violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics for the physical universe);
(c) a radiation pattern or hologram of energy that acts as a force envelope for the organization of substance at the physical level.
3. From experiments on plants, animals and humans, evidence is mounting that there is an interconnection at some level of substance between all things in the universe."8
In any case, actual personal experience of chi
is the critical factor in moving it from an intellectual question to an
operative principal based on personal knowledge. In this area, recent developments
in bodywork and deep tissue therapy9
have probably done more than generations of yoga and meditation instructors
to achieve replicable success.
CHI IN OUR SURROUNDINGS
Chi in our bodies, its connection with our emotions and those of others, and their combined roles in our health and well-being are now comfortable concepts to a growing number of people. What then about chi in our surroundings? When we are dealing with chi in a ghetto of Los Angeles, what are we talking about, and how do we deal with it?
Chi is the fuel, intention the blueprint, of energetics of place. Combined with intention, chi forms the subtle energy template upon which our material world takes shape in its many wonderful variations. Health and disease, change and constancy, manifest from the realm of chi into the realm of matter. Chi is vital to supporting our physical as well as emotional and spiritual health. It forms the glue which keeps a community healthy. It is blocked by emotional barriers, artificial building materials, intensive use of electromagnetic devices, and cultural practices based on taking from others.
As we use and shape places from our hearts, with love, they transform our surroundings into ones which fill our hearts with joy, rightness, and meaning. They reach out and make us again at home in a wonderful world of which we are an integral part.
Chi, in Chinese literature, seems to have a variety of meanings. Earth energy, in the European traditions, has a similarly confusing ambiguity of meaning. This may well be because we are talking about a number of different but related things that occupy the same realm, and for which we lack proper vocabulary. At times, chi is energy - almost like an electric outlet. At other times it would better be called information - perhaps on the same carrier waves. Sometimes it's broken into good and bad energy - or perhaps just out of phase energy.
It is clear from the breadth of the picture of energetics that is emerging today that it is a complex and multidimensional realm. Until we can clarify our understanding and terminology, we will have to live with the confusion and vagueness of a single term.
People in many cultures have knowingly sought and experienced special energy in places that coincides fully with our modern sense of chi. A late third century classic work of Chinese geomancy by Kuo-p'u states:
"At a true [geomantic] Cave there is a touch of magic light. How so, magic? It can be understood intuitively, but not conveyed in words. The hills are fair, the waters fine, the sun handsome, the breeze mild; and the sky has another light; another world. Amid confusion, peace; amid peace, a festive air. Upon coming into its presence, one's eyes are opened; if one sits or lies, one's heart is joyful. Here the chi gathers, and the essence collects. Light shines in the middle and magic goes out on all sides. Above or below, to right or left, it is not thus. No greater than a finger, no more than a spoonful; like a dewdrop, like a pearl, like the moon through a crack, like the reflection in a mirror. Play with it, and it is as if you can catch it; put it off, and it cannot be rid of. Try to understand! It is hard to describe."10
One aspect of chi of place appears connected with the electromagnetic fields in the earth's mantle and atmosphere. 11Much of this energy circles the earth in the cavity of the atmosphere between the earth's surface and the ionosphere, creating a resonant frequency (called the Schumann resonance) at about 10 Hertz - the reciprocal of the time required for a beam of electromagnetic radiation to go around the earth. This is the same as one of the base resonant frequencies of our brain waves. [Airview Italy]
Those fields vary with solar activity, from night
to day, and on daily, monthly, annually, and an 11 year solar activity cycle.
Field strengths vary from .2 to .7 gauss, about 500 times the minimum a
person can sense. Periodicities ranges from .1 to 100 cycles per second.
The most common one (the Schumann Resonance) averages 3-14 cps, in resonance
with the 7.8 - 10 cps brain wave frequency that controls human circadian
rhythms, deep relaxation, and creative imagery. Barbara Brennan and others
indicate that a distinct type of energy connects our intentionality to the
energy core of the earth and draw energy from it to support our lives and
Within the earth's crust, the intensity of this energy is affected by conductivity, discontinuities, shapes and location of different matter that constitutes the crust. Overall intensity changes cyclically and randomly. Global patterns of energy upwelling shift over time. Magnetic poles wander and fields reverse. The magnetic element of chi in the earth thus changes over time both predictably and without known cause.
This creates "power spots" which are favorable or unfavorable for various activities. Landforms, waterways, and groundwater flows within the earth focus, disperse, or divert these energies and their concentrations. Human activities can attract or repel these energies. Powerlines, radio and TV towers, electrified railroad lines, or reinforcing steel in concrete buildings affect and alter the specific energies at any particular point on the Earth's surface. [1700's magnetic map]
The influence of such fields on living matter including
people now is also well documented12.
Correspondence with the traditional dowser's "ley lines"13, "blind springs", etc.
has been studied. Paul Devereaux and others have made a preliminary instrumented
study of British Neolithic monuments which suggests some correspondences.
14They also identified
other apparent influences, such as the presence of radioactivity in some
of the monument rocks. Natural radioactivity has also been indicated as
an active influence in some of the healing springs in Texas and other locations.15
At a Spirit of Place Conference a couple of years ago, a physics professor from Wisconsin was giving a presentation on his use of aerial remote sensing of magnetic fields to correlate anomalies in such fields in the earth with the location of Indian Mounds in the state. He showed maps of the mounds, and the alignment of magnetic anomalies with them. Suddenly one of the Native Americans in the audience rose to his feet and slammed out the door. A few minutes later, he quietly returned to the room, and asked if he could speak. He apologized for his obvious upset, and said,
"You mentioned that one really big anomaly where no known mounds were located, which you hadn't had time to investigate yet. Well, that is our tribe's most secret and most holy place, of which noone else knows!"
Variation in both the electromagnetic fields in
the earth, and the overlay of human-caused electromagnetic fields from power
lines, electric trains, radio and TV, power transformers, electric blankets
and cell phones affect the chi of a place and affect people connected with
that place.16 The chi
in our bodies does radiate out and affect things outside us, as in the energy
of pilgrimage shrines generated by the presence of visitors over the ages.
But there are a lot of other layers of affectors, effects, and interactions
through which chi of place is generated and altered.
Like the smell which fear adds to our sweat, which lingers in the air and on the surfaces we have touched, those affectors leave material, energetic, biological or other evidence of what we value and what has occurred in a place. Pheromones (sex attractants), fear, anger, passion - waft through the air. Body language, eye contact, smiles, or grimaces convey to others our inner feelings. There are a thousand things, and through a thousand senses, that communicate - beyond their immediate causes - the underlying values and feelings that are at play in the place. Graffiti, broken locks and windows. Trash, broken glass, the smell of uncollected garbage and of rat feces. Peeling paint, abandoned cars, abandoned children. Greed, disregard, dispair, hopelessness, hate, anger, fear. But also good things such as love.
Though some people can "see" it directly, the actual chi of place is apprehensible largely through secondary intuitive means such as meditation or dowsing. At this time, these are far from exact or replicable arts. So we are left with that inexactness and with other means, such as sense of how landforms, waterways, road cuts, buildings, or bridges affect the "feel" of a place as tools of chi perception. We can use them, however, to supplement our own intuitive reaction to a place and our sense of the human chi that we and others have put or can put into the place, to gain a sense of the overall energy of a place and its constituents.
We need not be concerned, however, if we are unable personally to sense chi. Our cultural beliefs have, literally, blinded us and blocked that ability in many of us. Many of the means of working with chi are simple enough, and their results perceptible enough that it's okay if we just consider chi as a "black box" and work only with what we put in and get out of it. This is no different that being able to drive a car without knowing all the detailed combustion mechanics and control system electronics involved in its actual operation.
Anything that communicates values of love, trust, community, intimacy, or respect sets into motion the effects of those values. Those effects cascade throughout the interactive web that constitutes the collective energy or chi of a place. We can change the chi of a place by direct channeling of chi; by changing landforms, waterways, or vegetation; or by erecting, tearing down or altering buildings or roads. Those mechanisms are important and not to be disregarded.
But all sorts of other actions - a smile, singing a happy song, sweeping up trash, a pot of flowers on a window sill, people doing things together - have effects far beyond their immediate ones. By influencing other people's perceptions and actions and energy, they collectively effect that of the place itself. They work through the vehicle of chi as well as just on the material level, and initiate changes there that bring results to all dimensions of our lives.
So, any act of caring about other people or places, allowing ourselves to be open to them, respecting them, or causing them to feel good, generates good chi. And any act of disregard of others, of greed, violence in thought or deed, of taking or lack of caring generates bad chi.
LI - INTENTION
The second of the three most important aspects of energetics of place is intention. Li, hara, or intention focuses and directs energy to attain life's purposes. All of our surroundings also reflect back to us the intention that has gone into their making and use - the values of their makers. If made from greed, if made to deceive, they convey that. If they come from a meanness of soul or smallness of spirit, they surround us with that essence. If made with love, with generosity, with honoring of all life, they support and evoke the same intentions in our own lives.
Clarity, strength, and rightness of intention channels life force energy, or chi, into a place, with its ability to nurture our lives. The nature of our intention - whether in making or using a place - reflects that same energy back into our own lives, enhancing or weakening our own energy.
There can be many different levels to our intention. A builder may express an intention to build a good house for someone, but a deeper intention to make a lot of money may alter what results. A person may say they want to build a place with a soul. But deeper values of greed and deceit may lead them to believe that surface appearances are enough, that deeper things don't really matter, and that they can spend their resources on the empty shells of many things rather than one done well which can give true satisfaction. Clarity of intention requires that we carefully examine our core values, and alter them to ones supporting love and life.
Focused attention to each act in building gives opportunity to intensify our connection with the materials, the site, our work, and the spirits of the place. Every step - from planting the trees to their harvesting, making and sharpening of tools, to every part of construction itself - becomes opportunity for ritual that implants ever more deeply in our lives the powerful relationships we have with all of Creation. The finely honed attention and intention involved in the construction of the Ise Shrine in Japan has resulted in every post, every board, every joint resonating with the power of the sacred. [Ise]
The intentions surrounding us are so much a part of our lives that we are often unaware of them until we lose them. Many of the wonderful tree-shaded streets of fifty years ago in Midwestern towns are gone now due to Dutch Elm disease. Those that remain remind us that those shady avenues didn't just happen but were created from the intention and efforts of our ancestors. [Elm trees]
Li, or intention, was an integral part of Chinese natural philosophy associated with chi and is an equally essential component of the power of place. Curiously, li rarely received emphasis in most traditional Chinese feng-shui. In Chinese cosmology, existence emerges out of the seminal void: "T'ai-i" ( ) - the Great Absolute, or "Wu Chi" - Primal Energy. It emerges through two paired concepts - Yin and Yang, and Li and Chi.
Chu Hsi, a Sung Dynasty philosopher (1130-1200) and the main Chinese proponent of the concept of chi in feng-shui, always spoke inseparably of chi and li:
"Throughout heaven and earth there is Li and there is Ch'i. Li is the Tao (organizing) all forms from above, and the root from which all things are produced. Ch'i is the instrument (composing) all forms from below, and the tools and raw material with which all things are made. Thus men and all other things must receive this Li at the moment of their coming into being, and thus get their specific nature; so also they must receive this Ch'i and thus get their form".17
Stephan Feuchtwang comments that:
"...Ch'i is then the animator of Li, capable of condensing into physical being. Li, in turn, is that which makes Ch'i intelligible because Ch'i on its own is just pure being. There is no Li without Ch'i, and no Ch'i without Li; one of Chu Hsi's aphorisms. Everything has both Li and Ch'i in it."18
Unlike yin and yang, li and chi are not "mirror"
dualities, but are distinctly different concepts, dealing with different
interrelated aspects of emergence into the material world. Li is the intention
or purpose which brings into being a particular chi-based etheric
template on the auric levels. It is the purpose we bring to an incarnation,
the intention in any creative act, the aspiration which underlies any materialization,
the goals of any action.
Barbara Brennan discusses this from the energy healing perspective:
"Wherever in our lives we have trouble creating what we want, we discover that we have mixed intentions or crossed purposes. To create what we want, it is essential to sort out our mixed intentions. We must clarify our true intentions so we can realign the ones that are not in keeping with what we truly want. What we truly want is always aligned with our highest spiritual longings. When our personal wants and desires are aligned with our spiritual longing or higher desires, our purposes are aligned and the creative principle in the universe can function unhindered."19
Intention or purpose, she indicates, is held in
our bodies on the hara level - a separate level from the chi, or
auric field level. The hara level forms the foundation for generating the
auric field. Hara is Japanese for the lower belly, referring not
only to that location but to a quality of having energy, strength, and focused
power in that area. It is a center of spiritual power used for centuries
as a source for warriors to draw upon in combat. Within the hara is a central
point called the tan tien, the center of gravity and movement in
the body.20 In
people practicing martial arts, this place becomes a very bright ball of
gold light, often with a very strong gold line of light running through
their bodies from head to foot.
On the hara level, the tan tien is connected by this energy line upwards through the body to a point in the upper chest area which Brennan calls the "soul seat", and then upward to a point about 3-1/2 feet above our heads ending in a small inverted funnel shape, representing our first individuation out of the void. The hara line continues down from the tan tien deep into the earth's core where we synchronize our field pulsations with those of the earth and entrain energy from the earth's field.21
Li, hara, or intentionality, then, is where we focus energy to achieve our life's purposes. Clarity of purpose or intentionality magnifies the energy available and our ability to achieve our purposes. Thus the success of the intense "Zen" focus and intentionality.
Clarity of intentionality in groups emerges similarly from alignment of individual hara energy into a group hara line. Brennan indicates that:
"The true individual purpose of any member of a group is holographically connected to the purpose of the group as a whole. Once all have aligned their haras, all have aligned their purpose in the moment with their greater purpose as individuals and as a group. Everyone's greater purpose is part of the great evolutionary plan of the earth....And as was said before, within this framework of reality no adversarial position is possible. The synchronicity can be felt in the room. The room fills with the power of the task at hand."22
Li comes into play in buildings, gardens, or other
surroundings because clarity of purpose of a place enables the success of
the activity it houses. By removing extraneous matters, our attention is
focused totally on issues at hand, better ensuring their resolution. In
terms of gardens, such as the famous Zen gardens of Japan, the greater the
li and the deeper the intentionality of the designer, the greater the "emptiness"
of the garden and the less distraction in clarifying the purposes of people.
In a home, when the li is strong and clear, we say that the place has a
soul. We relax immediately on entering, finding relief from our confusing
cross-purposes in the clarity and power of a far greater source of energy
to draw upon than our own body.
There is a wonderful symmetry in finding the frontiers of modern learning fitting exactly into the words of a Chinese sage of 800 years ago! But why did most feng-shui embrace yin, yang, and chi, but not li? We can only speculate that li required more rigorous personal spiritual development, and therefore was much harder to put into practice than chi. Chi, in contrast, was something external and easily apprehensible. It had a real tie to place which could be exploited. Its concentrations could be found and used to advantage, apparently by anyone.
While chi held ascendancy in Chinese energetics of place, this was not so in other cultures. Egyptian, Mayan, Native American and African cultures, along with the Old Religions in Europe, were highly skilled in work with energy, and also with hara. Intention is considered today by most energy-working traditions to be the most essential element of change available. And there is one culture which has excelled in working with li, intentionality, or purpose, in the power of place. That is Japan.
It has turned out to be the Japanese, rather than the Chinese, that seem to have followed this particular thread in the weave of an energetic universe to its fullest development. Japan inherited much Chinese culture, including site divination for temple siting and a simplified version of feng-shui (kaso) used in residential design.
In Japan, however, hara work or clarity of intentionality became a central goal of Zen practice. Out of it came a tradition of martial arts, sumi-e ink brush paintings, meditation gardens, carpentry, flower arrangement, house and teahouse design, and arts of everyday living which honed clarity of intentionality to its finest edge. They discovered one of those obvious things - the more we are surrounded by clarity of purpose, the less noise and confusion surround our own existence, and the more clearly we can focus our own intentions!
In those temples, brush-strokes, rock placements or flower arrangements there is an absolute spareness, a total hewing away of extraneous material, purpose, and attention. In No drama, every movement and action arises endowed with primal energy directly from the point of stillness and silence. In all these arts, every move, every effort, is essential, filled with power, and coalescing with all others to an inevitable fullness and achievement of purpose. Each action arises clearly and deeply from the silent core of its birth into full and powerful expression. With that purity of intent, a single brush stroke faultlessly conveys the full intention of the artist.
This same spareness, elimination of the unnecessary, clarity and sureness of purpose can be seen in Shaker furniture and in some of the very last sculptures of Michelangelo. The effect it has on us, conveying a feeling of unequaled effortlessness and sense of freedom, is identical.
[Zen gardens] [Ritsurin rock][Japanese house] [teahouse] [Koto-in garden] [garden details] [Kurisu Pdx garden] [Bender house/houses] [ Japanese scissors]
TUMMIES - Our Hearts and Minds
The last of the three main principles of energetics of place deals with the immense importance our minds and hearts play in our energetic relationship with our surroundings. The psychological, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our relationship with place are important, complex and beautiful, but virtually ignored in our design and use of place.
Their complexity means it is often wisest to ignore the details of their interaction and pay attention directly to the end result of how our tummies feel. Our "gut" feelings are important, and reflect manifold cultural and personal beliefs. It usually matters less what someone else things is right for you than what you know you need or want. Listen to, and trust your tummy.
The expected sitting position of family members and guests in a tipi, a Japanese room, or the home of a French count are utterly different. If a Chinese family believes they or someone else has the most favorable feng-shui site, that belief will strongly influence their happiness and success. It probably doesn't matter if you sleep with your feet towards the door, unless your culture has a practice of taking a corpse out of a room feet first and believes you shouldn't sleep that way.
Acknowledging the importance of our gut feelings gives us personal affirmation. It achieves a degree of success merely in paying attention to and acknowledging the importance of people and their feelings. The importance of our minds and hearts means that many successful chi-related actions don't deal directly with the chi of place but with our feeling good and opening our hearts so that our energy influences the energy of the place. The energetic level of action also accounts for the unexpected success of many psychological actions.
If we are disturbed by something from our surroundings
or elsewhere, it colors all of our perceptions and actions. If we have reason
to feel good about our surroundings or other things, we radiate positive
energy to others, into our actions, and into our surroundings. [Beneres]
Sometimes we are unable to alter things in our surroundings that bother us. It may still be possible to take advantage of the importance of our minds to our comfort and give them something positive to associate with which can counter the negative energy. The Chinese might hang a flute on a heavy beam they feel pressing down on them to counter that energy with the association with the lightness associated with music. Native Americans might hang a feather below the beam. Even our culture has its talismans that can lighten our minds. [Superman]
When we dig into what makes our tummies uncomfortable in a situation, we often find there are subtle clues that are warning us of real but not immediate hazards. There are energetic issues with living at the end of a "t" intersection, but there are also distractions from headlights and noise, and the very real potential of a vehicle failing to turn the corner in hazardous conditions. [T-intersection]
Purely symbolic actions towards our surroundings, such as Chinese use of the bagua, Jewish placement of a mezuza at the door of their home, or using colors we hold symbolic of prosperity or happiness, can achieve a degree of success through affirming in us an intention to pay closer attention to a certain aspect of our lives. [Alcazar door]
Energetics of place is concerned with the relationship between our personal chi energy and the chi energy in places. It calls our attention to the cycles of change in energy that move through both nature and our own lives, and suggests ways to bring our lives in harmony with those changes. It helps us find nurture in natural places and to make and use our own homes and work places so they also sustain our lives and the rest of Creation. It shows how clear intention, giving welcome, honoring others, making places that have a soul, or bringing our ancestors and the spirit world into our everyday life can give richness and meaning to both our places and our lives.
With the diversity and unfamiliarity of chi-related actions possible from various traditions, it is important to understand the relative significance and effectiveness of the different elements. Different situations have different needs. Different individuals and communities have different skills and traditions. Most people don't know a Nine Star Ki from a Yellow River Chart, and have little reason to find out. But they may very well know whether they need the clearing of a space from old chi, a balancing or enhancing of existing earth energy, or a gateway for them to connect with their ancestors in the spirit world.
The philosophical basis of the universe expressed by the Neo-Confucian philosophers is amazingly congruent with what we are confirming today experimentally and experientially. Yet the present dynamics of our materialistic culture are so unprecedented that the truly significant actions needed today to align and improve the energy of place lie outside the normal areas of practice of any tradition of energy work.
In addition to the initial effectiveness of an action, we need equally to consider the duration of its impact. Duration is an aspect of place energetics rarely given proper attention. Some chi-influencing actions are long-lasting, some need frequent repetition. Some long-lasting actions need periodic monitoring, others don't. So it is important to be clear about all that is required to sustain good chi in our relations with place over time, and to choose from the widening range of possible actions ones which best assist us in reaching that goal.
Right duration is an important consideration in all we do. Because it is loved, a building with a soul may often endure beyond the needs of its makers to become a gift to future generations. A cathedral lasting twenty generations, or a bridge lasting twenty centuries can give back far more than the effort put in their making. Such endurance immeasurably alters the per-generation cost of resources and work gone into creating our communities. Durability thus grants a generosity to the places we make that can be obtained in few other ways. There is a hoary strength and a nourishing peacefulness in the timeless qualities of a building that truly fits our hearts and spirits.
Yet everything does not benefit from lasting longer than its nature. Embalming the bodies of our dead and keeping them isolated from returning as new richness of life impoverishes both our soils and our spirits. Simple burial or scattering the ashes of our dead to nurture new life ties us very differently into the life of our home places.
A generation from now we may wish that some of the things that we have recently created had not lasted beyond their time and intention. It may be good that our homes or vehicles are durable. It may not be desirable that our foods or some of our building materials are preserved with poisons that linger and harm. In India, walking along a single country road we can be surrounded by the ghosts and ruins of untold centuries and dynasties of building. A builder or an artist might be inspired by the accumulations of centuries of the greatest achievements of their society. Or they might find those achievements too lofty a yardstick against which to have their own work measured and not even begin to discover what they themselves could create anew. Things that endure can be both a gift and a burden.
It is good, therefore, that some things last and that some things do not persist, making room for each generation and individual to forge anew the understandings and relationships of a meaningful life. The Inuit who throws away a scrimshaw carving once the empowering act of creation is finished, or the Balinese village or Indian pueblo that returns imperceptibly to the earth when its use is finished holds a rightness of duration and of material choice. Finding the right duration for each of our creations is one of the roots of wisdom needed for being a true part of the ever evolving creation of life.
38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© 8 Jan 1999