Thursday, December 31, 2009

Crossing a Line in Air: The Emergence of Global Mind

Today, we celebrate crossing a line in air. This doesn't diminish the importance of marking the new year and new decade. It imbues it with creative magic. It reminds me that each gesture taken and each object shaped is made of formlessness playing hide-and-seek as form. Ten years ago, I might have described dwelling on Earth using the same words, but deep in my bones and deeper in my mind I only had a faint idea of what they meant.

The core change I've traveled in the last ten years is the passage from experiencing the world and myself as solid, measurable objects to experiencing them as spacious flowing consciousness. This shift happened abruptly before Y2K, but its taken this decade to integrate the mysterious, weird, delightful wisdom and humor of this reality into daily life.

When the solid ground beneath my feet dissolved, I was plunged into watery darkness. My studies of mythic journeys through the underworld hadn't prepared me for I encountered. My hands found nothing to grasp, my feet nowhere to stand. Worst of all, my mind, after a lifetime of spiritual practice and learning, couldn't make sense of what was happening. None of the old tricks I had used for navigating the solid world worked in this realm of bottomless, ever-shifting liquid.

It was either sink or swim, breakdown or breakthrough. To navigate this watery world I had to abandon my beliefs about right versus wrong, friend versus foe, spiritual versus material. Every idea that divided the world was useless in this ocean of unmoving currents and wordless wisdom. While everyone around me enacted their lives in the same old ways of self and other, spirit and matter, I moved about as a wave of energy wearing the disguise of a human being doing what a human being does to get by. Words had meaning while pointing beyond meaning. Faces had character while revealing what was beyond character. Places had design while framing what was beyond design.

It would take a decade to recount all the wise guides and miraculous synchronicities that nurtured and challenged the way to today. In essence, life shattered the illusion that I was a separate self and opened my mind to what lives beyond the personal viewpoint. It revealed that through me, you and the rest of us a new networked global mind is emerging. This global mind is transforming the old solid world of divisions through an information world into a consciousness world. The line in air that we are crossing is the threshold to the mind re-membering its original oneness as an "unbounded ocean of consciousness in motion." The implications of this are immeasurable and we will see them unfolding in the years to come.

As we make the cross-less crossing into the timeless New Year, the news reports describe the old divided mind that is savagely clinging to its delusions of isolation, control, dear, numbness and death. It's thrashing about, crying to be heard as it sinks into the waters of consciousness. It has forgotten its true identity as a wave in the ocean of energy and wisdom, rising and falling, emerging and submerging like all the other waves. Rather than despairing at this, I'm celebrating the dissolving of the old and the emergence of the new. This is Earth's natural way of rebirthing itself, including us. On the other hand, I'm thrilled by the tides of connection, communication and creation flowing in every direction. New insights about re-integrating life on Earth and ways of sharing them are shimmering every second. The currents of change are surging. SURF'S UP is the planetary call and billions are riding the waves of transformation. What appears through this watery mystery will be amazing to see. I'm glad we are swimming these waters together. Enjoy where life is taking "you" and "us" in the coming year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Healing the Living Earth

At the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen they're getting it wrong. World leaders are talking up the science of climate change. They're preaching fire and brimstone about carbon, greenhouse gases, ravaged rain forests and humanity cooking the earth into poison stew. They're looking at the earth as a mathematical formula that can be rebalanced by pushing the broken pieces of the global ecosystem back into place... News flash: seeing the earth as a machine is what wounded it in the first place. Continuing to treat Gaia's living body as an engine that can be fixed by replacing parts and retuning it will only wound it more.
The intentions are right, the mindset is wrong.

It will take two things to heal the earth: 1) interact with the planet as a living being and 2) design and dwell with cities, buildings, products and other human creations as organs in the body of Gaia. Climate change is nature's response to our attempts to halt her changes. Straining to freeze frame living processes into measurable and controllable quantities, we have blocked the veins and lungs of the earth. If we don't want Gaia's heart to stop beating, we have to stop attacking her with our mechanical mindset.

The moment we relate to Earth as You instead of It the world of fragmented parts becomes a living being. When we respond to Nature as a living being we can see what we share with all living beings: hope and fear, youth and aging, health and sickness, abundance and scarcity, and so much that is elusive and indescribable. We can see that we are interconnected with all beings, that our wellness is intimately related to the wellness of our neighbors. We can see that we share these life processes with earth and she shares them with us.

Certainly we need to reduce our carbon footprints and handprints. We need to recycle, build green, farm organic, power with solar and wind. But the tasks will be easier and the ways will be clearer when we dwell as living beings interacting with the living being of the earth. Then, instead of making futile attempts to heal a lifeless machine, we can heal the vital systems of a living being. Live for an hour seeing your home, your neighborhood and your city as living beings within the living body of the earth and see if that opens some pathways to your role healing the world.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twitter as Sacred Space

I've been noticing the connections between Twitter and sacred space. To some, this may seem absurd; to others, outrageous. I'm not talking about those hushed, rarified places where a whisper shatters the holy apple cart. The sacred spaces to which I relate Twitter are often pilgrimage sites teeming with a cacophony of seekers, music, rituals, storytelling, offerings, hawkers, con artists, recitations of scriptures and countless other activities. Places such as Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Lourdes, Mecca and countless others are gathering places for the multitudes looking for connection, inspiration, guidance, information and wisdom.

More specifically, the architecture of Twitter reflects the archetypal design of sacred space. Similar to sacred space, Twitter offers a spacious container (think the overarching dome of St. Peter's or the Pantheon). This spacious container of Twitter invites the full spectrum of characters to enter and express themselves (imagine the thousands of carvings covering Notre Dame Cathedral or a Hindu Temple, or Borobudor...) and the crowd of faithful inside. Within the spacious container flows a stream of energy responding to questions, needs, and intentions as they arise moment by moment. Places for making offerings (altars) are also there. Like the prayers wedged between the stones of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the candles lit in the chapels of Chartres Cathedral, flowers placed on the Ganges' current, each tweet is placed in the mysterious digital river, sparking unexpected realizations and pointing toward an indescribable spirit that connects us all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nature's Elusive Totality

I'm noticing how Nature does things. She crafts every detail from a galaxy to an insect with care. Each form, color, texture and sound is exquisitely suited to its function. Each gesture of an ocean wave or a bird's flight is living poetry. Each thing is so entwined with every other thing that it is impossible to tell where the life of a frog ends and the life of the pond where it lives and the flies it eats begins. Yet, with all the care and craft, Nature doesn't seem to be attached to a single thing she creates. Whatever she forms, she reforms. Whatever she plants she uproots. Whatever she spawns she dissolves.

I'm noticing that all the change, the gain and loss, doesn't diminish or expand nature one bit. All this becoming and unbecoming, this shattering and flowing unfolds within Nature's completeness. Her sandbox has no limits. She's not confined in the extent of her expansiveness. She's also not confined to the layers and details of the boundaries she creates within the sandbox. Wherever Nature goes, she's definitely there, in her elusive totality.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Charter for Compassion


Today, Karen Armstrong unveiled the Charter for Compassion, http://charterforcompassion.org/ Go to the link and listen. Hearing the words was like hearing the voice of my soul speaking its longing for what is so simple yet so ignored. At the essence of all our endeavors is a point of view. Do we see ourselves as isolated and alone or interconnected wave in the ocean of being?The isolated viewpoint generates desperate acts intended to protect and defend islands of fear and numbness. The interconnected viewpoint invites engagement in the mystery currents of becoming. Ignoring entry into those mystery currents induces fear and violence. The tides of living are too strong for an isolated individual to resist. Compassion is the act of that mysterious essence within us touching that mysterious essence that appears to be around us. It is finding that our illusions of disconnection are hallucinations. It is finding that the one true thing we are not alone, that the countless diverse waves of personality, action, belief, institutions, and every other form are shimmering glints of light within one ocean of being. We overcome suffering and recall unity in the simplest of acts: opening a door for a stranger; smiling at a passerby; listening to a friend. We enter it also by courageously acting with compassion in the harsh arenas of business, politics, art, spirituality and every other system that tends to suppress love and wisdom. Appreciate the compassion you encounter today and respond in kind. This IS changing the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ask Nature

Check out AskNature.org. This project of The Biomimicry Institute opens the door to nature's research lab. Down at NATURE they've been exploring design applications for hundreds of millions of years. The results are all around you from the architecture of galaxies to the interior design of your brain. Want ideas for waterproofing and paint colors? Don't go to the local lumber yard. Ask Nature and discover what birds, plants and other living things have learned about living on Earth.

Biomimcry means imitating life. What better way to learn about truly sustainable design. Is there a more functional, versatile and beautiful solar collector than a leaf? Why not study a bird's feathers to learn how to design roofing shingles? Nature is ready and willing to share her secrets. Talk to her at AskNature.org.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Visionary Encounters with Trees

Yesterday I collected images of trees as seen by various artists from different times and different places. Looking at these images I don't see trees. I see the minds of the artists. How can Giotto's tree be so different from Cezanne's tree which is different from Georgia O'Keefe's tree and Van Gogh's tree? I think its two things: 1) they each had a direct encounter with a tree (vision of it) that broke through their preconceived (cultural) ideas about the tree, and 2) each artist expressed that vision through the unique viewpoint of their individuality. In other words, they broke through the essential being, the universal tree-ness, of what they saw and then had the courage to express that vision honestly.

This is the power and gift of art. It's a call from one one human being to others that says, "Hey, your life isn't as limited as you think. Just open your eyes, really open them, and see what's in front of you. See through your fears, through your been there done that boredom, through your I'm too busy confusion, through your I'm too important self righteousness and behold the miracle of energy and matter shimmering right here, right now. Then tell someone what you actually saw; not what your supposed to have seen, nor what you would have like to see, nor the meaning of what you saw. Just put into what cannot fit into words, put into brush strokes what cannot fit into brush strokes, put into music what cannot fit into music. Then maybe one day, your work will hang in a museum. More importantly, you will live and spark the creative light in others.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seeing Through the Fiction of Our Lives

For a moment, the clouds of thought parted and revealed what is always behind the scenes. What broke through was not a light or a sound. It wasn't another insight masquerading as truth. It wasn't love or not love. It wasn't bliss or not bliss. It wasn't unity or duality. It wasn't a glowing state of consciousness to be grasped or a dark depression to be pushed away. Naming what it was would be absurd. Denying its reality would be more ridiculous.

In that moment, the entire fiction of my life became clear. The comedy of striving to become what I already am crashed. All the worry and work to do the right thing, make meaningful art, offer genuine love, realize true wisdom, dwell well on the planet appeared as mist illuminated by morning sunlight.

In that moment, papers strewn across the table, clothes flung on the chair, the music pouring through the speaks, birds chirping on the other side of the wall, fingers tapping on the keyboard, golden autumn leaves shimmering through the blinds... anything and everything became a miraculous dream dreaming itself. The dream spun and spun within the emptiness that is full of no-thingness.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Courage to Create

In his book, The Courage to Create, Rollo May explores the dilemma of the truly creative act, to envision and make art despite the chaos and brutality of the world. He points out that imagining new forms, new symbols and new patterns that can open the way to a new society takes the guts to reach through the ego's tight grip and caress the churning forces beneath the surface of the known world.
Often, we think of creative work as an escape or transcendence of daily life's boredom and conflict. Yet, this is the mind dabbling in fantasy. It can produce work that is pretty or intellectually intriguing. But, like the empty calories of an sugar cube, the sweetness stimulates the tongue, while the body starves. The courage to create is the courage to stop looking in the rear view mirror for creative inspiration and enter the unknown territory ahead. It is to perceive what is being born through the clouds of fear and hope and facilitate what can deeply nourish the birth of the new. The courage to create slices through the ego's worries about criticism and disappointment and risks utter failure in the vain attempt to describe the indescribable. It allows the life force gnawing at your belly to express itself unedited by current beliefs of what is politically or spiritually correct. The courage to create is the courage to live. It is the most difficult act to engage. Yet without the courageously creative acts of artists from every walk of life, our days would be dull, uninspired and humorless.

On the other hand, courageous creativity doesn't have to be an heroic feat of monumental proportions. We don't have to redesign cities, hang paintings on MOMA's walls, or cure cancer to make courageous gestures of creativity. In a moment, we can open our minds and bodies to a direct, unfiltered encounter with where we stand, who we are with and what we are doing. In that spacious moment, we can see we are already swimming in the currents of a courageously creative universe. We can see that that all we are being called to do is willingly participate.

Monday, October 12, 2009

John Muir's Green Architecture

In 1869, John Muir attached a wooden shack to the saw mill near the base of Yosemite Falls. He lived there two years listening to the music of the rushing water. Through the hole in the roof, Muir gazed at South Dome, Yosemite Falls, and the stars. Living in the nave of nature's cathedral inspired him to write: "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."

Muir's green architecture was not about reducing his carbon footprint. It's wasn't about the latest politically correct style. Instead, this funky, little shack established a receptacle for guiding the forces of nature into his senses and his soul. Living there, Muir entered an intimate communion with the wisdom and revitalizing power of ecological processes. There, he learned what nature actually was and learned his place within it. That encounter and many others powered his life's work of looking through the outer appearances of mountains and trees, boulders and water, bears and birds and seeing the spirit speaking at their core. He got beyond the idea of nature and engaged in a direct dialogue with it.

In our rush to green the planet, we would do well to remember John Muir's wooden perch at the base of Yosemite Falls. We would do well to follow his lead and listen to the songs of water and wind and to hear the silence of granite and pine. Before drawing the lines of floor plans, we could trace the lines of tree bark and gravity. Before raising the roof, we could raise our eyes to receive the designs of hawk wings and cloud paths. What we find could flow into our cities and our homes. The energy of storms and the freshness of the wind would cancel out our carbon footprint and guide us toward architecture that was a vital and nature itself.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Architecture & Death

Yesterday, my friend, Rob Buck, died. Hearing that the light has left the eyes of this intelligent, strong, loving man fills me with sadness. Yet, as Rob's life gave those who knew him a gift, his passing leaves a gift. The ache of Rob's death frames the light of the spirit that was always shinning in him and in us. We think of a person's life as the sum of what he or she does and judge them by the results of those actions. We define them by the physical forms they present. Yet, Rob's passing points toward a different view. Maybe what matters is how a person's actions and forms frame the light of the spirit that animates those actions. Maybe what matters is the light reflected from the physical forms they create. Maybe how skillfully they radiate the light is secondary to how much we open our eyes and hearts to see it. Maybe the physical architecture of a life matters, but the real purpose of its walls and roofs, doorways and windows is to frame the light, love and wisdom of the soul.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Feel the Tug of the Heavens in Your Hands

Last Saturday on Marina Green in San Francisco, the community celebrated Family Kite Day. Hundreds of people of all ages and styles stood on the field by the bay holding strings and gazing skyward as their kites of all designs fluttered in the breeze. Some flyers guided their kites through intricate swoops and soars, dancing their kites to the music blasting from speakers positioned along the sidelines. Others simply felt the tug of the heavens from their place on earth. The sight was joyous and freeing. How great it is when we can feel the heavens tugging in our hands as we stand on the solid earth.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Freedom Beyond the Grid

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- Rumi

We spend so much energy and attention constructing our grids of right and wrong, me and world, that we forget there is something more. We forget that beyond the lines of self-created divisions and fragments there is the fullness of just being. When, by some chance of fate, our grid of ideas breaks open and we enter that field of freedom, it only lasts a moment. Then the mind has a spasm of rear and and snaps the thought grid back over our eyes.

Wanting to have our cake and eat it, we look for ways to have our grid of ideas and also live in the field beyond ideas. So we search for a grid that ties the world together rather than dividing it up. We look for networks, webs, and matrixes that connect the dots and reveal the hidden picture that makes sense out of the chaos. Yet, these types of grids is that offer visions of truth actually conceal it. Ultimately, every matrix that explains the world reaches a point where it encounters information and experience that it cannot explain. It encounters the messy life that is actually happening while we are busy weaving our neat and clean grid of explanation.

When we discover the limits of our grid and it starts to crumble, most of us rush to mend the grid. We scurry about trying to force the field beyond ideas back into the box of ideas. Then life breaks the boxes open again and the cycle of reconstructing the grid goes for another round.

Rumi sees our struggle with life and invites us to meet him in the field waiting just beyond the lines. He points to the abundant picnic waiting there. It's only a step beyond an intersection of lines. After feasting in that field, we can return to our beloved matrix of beliefs and explore the delights of making connections. Instead of drawing lines that divide up the world, our grids can become windows that point beyond themselves toward that rich field of freedom.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Freeing Earth From Thought Grids

This is Earth on your thoughts. Each of us uses a grid of beliefs to navigate the terrain of life. With this thought grid, we categorize ourselves, society, nature and anything else that that passes through our minds. It defines if we stand on the political left or right; the work we consider high and low; the people we push away and those we pull close. Our thought grid outlines our network of community and our links to ecological web.

Everything we encounter is immediately filtered through our thought grid. Is the face passing on the street beautiful or ugly? Is the food on the plate tasty or bland? Is that fragrance on the breeze sweet of putrid? From the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we close them at night we take the vastness of the world and squeeze it between the lines of our belief grid.

On the one hand, a grid of categories is essential. The body separates digestible grains from indigestible pebbles. It divides warm, dry habitable rooms from cold, damp inhabitable boxes. It's helpful to agree that red light mean stop and green lights mean go. On the other hand, most of the categories in our belief grids are merely preferences. Salad is not really better or worse that soup. Red is not closer to the truth than blue. Gold is not really more valuable than lead.

Clashing thought grids result in wars, arguments, oppression, persecution and all manner of conflicts. Thought grids that attempt to harness and control the ecosystem cause pollution, fragmentation and the loss of plant and animal species.

Thought grids are as essential to being human as breathing. Our brains are grid making machines. By their very nature they distinguish light from dark, gain from loss, earth from sky, self from other. The problem is that we attempt to make them solid and fixed rather than allowing them to be transparent and fluid. When we can see through a flexible grid, we can maintain healthy boundaries while being responsive the changes circumstances. There is much more to say about this. But, for now, perceive the grid of beliefs shaping your thoughts and imagine it as a shifting gauze rather than unmoving steel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

View From the Threshold of Death

On Saturday, I went to an exhibit called The Way of the Samurai. It described the principle of bushido, which includes living each moment as if looking back from the moment of death. Rather than being morbid or scary, this viewpoint opened my mind and senses to the richness of the here and now with a power I hadn't quit experienced before. The world became both more vivid and dreamlike, more intimate and universal, more engaging and freeing. What I do with my days mattered more, but without the pressure of grasping each grain of time. Facing death openly sparked the life forces within me.

Later I asked, "What dies?" Some would say the body and not the soul. Some would say nothing dies; they only change form. I couldn't honestly answer the question. I realized that wanting to pin life down would be like wanting to pin down the wind or the ocean. And that would really be death. Instead, I just perched on the threshold of life and peered into the dreamlike reality of living each moment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Freeing The Dark Heart

"A bit touchy feelly don't you think?" A man with dull eyes confronted me with this question as I walked off the stage to wild applause following a lecture at the Graham Foundation in Chicago. Why is touching and feeling something so frightening? "Who do you think you are, Joseph Campbell?" a "friend" asked after reading three sample chapters from my first book, The Temple in the House. How can self expression be so threatening? Mocking laughter was my father's response when I told him I wanted to be an architect. Why would a man would want to crush the dream of his progeny? Imagine you have encounters with spirit killing comments almost daily.

The grip of these types of comments loosened when I realized they were expressions of fear. At the same time, I realized their cumulative effect is devastating. This is because, more than spreading fear, they promote the withholding of life energy. Bit by bit, this withholding turns the heart dark. Bit by bit, the cold lightless heart becomes a place where brutality is born.

I realized other possibilities at the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence in southern France. This luminous space was designed and decorated by Matisse. In the playful colors and delicate forms I saw the courage in tenderness. Our action heros are hard and loud. But in this little chapel I encountered a great power in softness and silence. The darkness in my heart found a place where the life energy it had withheld could be released and be free.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Wildness of Carrots

At a farmers' market this weekend, these carrots jumped out at me. Certainly, I've looked at carrots, chopped them, grated them, eaten them. In the vegetable stall that day, I encountered their wildness.

Imagine how they come into being. Sinking into the soil's darkness, they twist toward the core of the earth. At the same time, they're reaching for the sun. The green tops pull down the solar radiance and pour it into the root. Underground, the color of sunset glows, waiting for it wild sweetness to be discovered.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Power of Roadside Shrines

Beside the footpath along Corte Madera Creek near my house sits this shrine. It's too far from the closest street to mark the spot of a traffic fatality. Nothing suggests it honors the memory of a fallen celebrity. Instead, Buddha and his pal just hang out in their ring of stones radiating peace. I'm not sure how they got there. I assume the person who lives behind the gate on the opposite side of the footpath placed them and maintains this unassuming shrine. Some days Buddha cups a tangerine in his hands. Other days it's flowers, beads, or some other object. Every time I pass this way, I thank them for their silent gift to the community. I appreciate the simplicity and the lack of "Hey, look at the wonderful gift I have given you!!!"

In other countries, these kinds of shrines are common. As I suggested earlier, they are not intended to mark auto accident sites, but to honor some elusive quality of dwelling on earth. In densely populated cities, I've happened across shrines reminding passersby that amidst the clammer of the marketplace there is stillness, tenderness and artfulness. On isolated mountain trails, at the points where uphill climbs cause the body to scream for rest, someone has often placed a bench. In these places, support and spaciousness form the shrine. In Nepal, trekking northeast from Kathmandu, I found a series of stone benches carved with Tibetan deities. Dotting Paris, fountains where the three muses dance offer water. If you've traveled, I'm sure you've passed shrines such as these. Along the road, these little gems inspire the journey.



Friday, September 4, 2009

Nature's Design Studio

Meet my neighbor. She drops by at unexpected times to remind me that my species isn't the center of the world. I think of her when people talk about green building. They focus on structures that are energy efficiency, photovoltaics and renewable resources. Nothing wrong with that. But, are those the concerns of my neighbor?

Much of green design is approached from the problem-solving, left brain attitude that slices the world into defined pieces and then wonders why the eco-system is breaking into bits. This is like appreciating a bird's ability to fly, dissecting the bird, studying its anatomy, putting it on the window sill and wondering why it doesn't fly away. That's what we do on a global scale. We take the immense power of our brains, focus it on finding logical solutions to the problems of building in the garden of the world, and don't see that our fragmented viewpoint only creates more fragments.

One way to get out of this mess may be to look beyond our human-centeredness and look into the eyes of the ecosystem we inhabit. What shapes do you see in the land, plants and animals that share your neighborhood in the city of planet earth? What colors are specific to that place? How do the patterns of light and shadow move through out the day? Where do the birds hang out during the day? Notice that patterns of food gathering for all the species that share your natural neighborhood. How can you participate in the multi-dimensional life of this community life?

What you will find, I don't know. That's the point; to move beyond what we think we know and learn from our neighbors. They have worked in nature's design studio for millions of years, researching how to live sustainably. The architecture they've developed is elegant, beautiful and functional in ways we can only hope to achieve.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When Your Road Forks

This road sign signals one of the new roundabouts the city of Santa Rosa, California installed to mange the flow of traffic. I love its energy and wild spirit. It's so different from STOP, YIELD, DEAD END. Instead, this sign invites movement and choice. It leaves behind mechanical ONE WAY highways and suggests roads of organic possibilities. It screams, "Yeah, Baby. Let's crank up the tunes and drive." But this is not about a petal to the metal kind of road trip. This is about moving the way water moves, surrendering to the pull of gravity and finding its shape in relation to the objects and events it encounters. Where most road signs demand that we stay in the box, this one points the ways out of the box. There's music in it. Maybe, whoever designed this sign understood what others only laughed at. Maybe he or she understood what that great American sage Yogi Berra meant when he said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The World in the Mirror

They say that outer reflects inner, that Earth mirrors Heaven. Some say the world is a reflection of our consciousness. Others say our consciousness is a reflection of the world. Whatever is happening, I sometimes stop and peer into the reflection. Sometimes I see through the shimmering image to the spaciousness hovering there. In those moments, the reflection appears to be a vivid dream dreaming itself. What I call "Me" is a shimmering imaging in this dream dreaming itself.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hunter-Artists in the 21st Century

I once read that the Bushmen of the Kalahari have two possessions: a hunting spear and a paint set. Whether this is true or not, I love the archetypal image it presents. One tool is used to feed the body. The other feeds the soul. It struck me that it didn't make a difference if we inhabited a desert, forest or city. We still need to hunt for food. The basic necessity that gets overlooked is art. Without the nourishment of beauty, connection, emotion and mystery sparked by art our humanity starves and dies.

The arrow and the brush share a more essential symbiotic relationship. Both are needed for obtaining food and making art. All types of hunting, from catching trout and picking snap peas to gathering a paycheck involves finesse and artful skill. Powerful creation and appreciation of art requires keene senses and the courage to enter unknown territory.

Our ability to integrate the arrow and the brush determines whether each action we make regenerates the world or destroys it. In business, do we use our arrow of choice to pierce the task at hand in an object oriented way that wounds the earth and shatters the heart? Or, do we wield the arrows of technology and information with the adeptness that re-weaves the world again and again?

Modern society doesn't present many examples of how to live as a hunter-artist; a person attuned to the nature of the body, the nature of the soul and the nature of the world. Yet, to live a human life, it would be helpful to find ways of using both our arrows and our brushes to ways appropriate to the digital world we are in.

Friday, July 24, 2009

DUCK DEFEATS DOG: Seeing Nature's Courage

At sunset, walking along Carte Madera Creek, I spotted a mother duck leading six duckings in classic formation. To my left, a huge dog, a Labrador, charged down the bank, leaped into the water and paddled toward the ducks. The mother quacked wildly and sped away, the ducklings in swift tow. The dog pursued them. From my right, an egret, white wings spread wide, squawked and swooped over the dog. Undeterred, the dog gained on the ducks. Still quacking, the mother duck wheeled around and charged at the dog. The egret circled and swooped at the dog again. The dog turned and head for shore. Two ducks flapped into the scene and planted themselves, wing to wing, in the water between the dog and the mother with her ducklings. The dog climbed onto the bank and shook the water from his fur.

When I usually walk along this waterway I delight in the beauty and variety of the birds gathering food, preening their feathers and gliding the air currents. To see this individual and collective show of courage opened a connection I can't put into words yet. It has something to do with the shared journey of the soul dwelling on the earth, something to do with what connects us through our different appearances as ducks, dogs, egrets and humans.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Power of Anonymous Art & Nature

One of the qualities of nature that is never mentioned in attempts to dwell in harmony with the earth is that nature creates anonymously. We may call a mountain "Everest" or a lake "Tahoe" but the mountain and the lake never claim those titles. They are too busy with other work to worry if they are the tallest and the most beautiful.

This thought was sparked the other day when I heard about an art exhibit where the doors opened before the staff had a chance to put the names of the artists and the titles next to each painting. The people attending the exhibit we confused; they didn't know how to evaluate the work and whether the person who created it was worthy of respect or not. Some were angry; not having the names posted was so unprofessional. Few, if any, looked at the art and opened to a direct encounter with it. Without the conceptual framework of name, style, price, and all the other things that they believed made something worth their attention, the art lovers were lost. Many artists whose work would be shown in such an exhibit would have been outraged; how will I get paid? How will people know I created this great work.

What if nature took a similar approach. What if bees only buzzed around flowers labeled with the maker's name? What if water only flowed along approved waterways? What if an apple tree only produced fruit with a copyright and the assurance that its would get a percentage of each use of its apples? Nature, in it's anonymous flow, doesn't worry about the concerns of naming, categorizing, and controlling that drive so much of our activity.

The problem isn't that we want to draw attention to ourselves or receive benefit for our creations. It's that labeling and listing what we see limits our experience of life. The moment we jam a tree into the box and divide it up into "tree", "oak", "quercus", useful, beautiful, cost to maintain, historic or not, etc, we jam ourselves into a mode of perceived that looks at the past and future. We miss what's happening at the moment of encounter. We miss the encounter and interact with our ideas about the tree and not the tree.

On the other hand, our minds are made to label. Its helpful to remember that walking through poison oak, then taking a hot bath, will put you into a world of hurt. The problem is not the narrative, it's believing that the constant talk of the mind is the reality of the oak tree and the poison oak. Seeing through the narrative and opening our perception to what is actually before us is the way great artists make breakthrough art. Maybe its the way we can dwell in actual harmony with the earth.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Architecture of Healing

We've forgotten the power of architecture. The thought thunders through my brain as I descend into the Great Kiva at Aztec New Mexico. Three-foot thick adobe walls wrap the circular room. Overhead, massive tree-trunk beams weave a latticework roof. Stillness charges the space. My lungs sigh. Mind hums. At the midpoint of the ceiling, a shaft of sunlight blasts through a square opening. Wheeling Sun churns stable Earth. Opposing forces unite and swirl. This structure is not designed by a clever ego. It did not arise from the same worldview that built the sterile new hospital a mile down the road. This is not a place of fear and wounding side effects. Instead, the kiva frames the mystery of being and becoming. It is an architecture of healing.

In the kiva that day, I saw that most attempts to create healing places are based on the belief that we can separate ourselves from the processes of living. It's a world that says we can divide life into parts and keep the "good" while tossing out the "bad." In the process we fail to see that attempting break life up is what causes breakdowns, mentally, physically and spiritually.

On the other hand, the kiva embodies what I have encountered in sacred, healing places around the world. It concretizes the truly holistic worldview that provides a space where all the forces of life are invited to play out their roles in the cosmic earth dance. Birth, growth, decay, death and renewal are embraced as sustainers of the bodies of individuals and the world. To me, these sacred places say, "Fighting with life and trying to control it is wounding. Embracing its uncertainty and its change is healing."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Music in Everyday Architecture

"I call architecture frozen music." It's easy to catch a buzz of inspiration from Goethe's famous phrase, then move along through the day. If I stop for a moment and take his observation to heart, I see the buildings and city around me as a world of suspended rhythms, melodies and harmonies. Like bells ready to intoned or guitars ready to strummed, the walls and windows I pass are ready to be seen in ways that resonate their silence into sound. The shapes of roofs and pillars are primed to be encountered in ways that reveal their rhythmic structure. When you add in shifting sunlight and shadows, patterns of color, textures of stone, wood and other materials, the symphony is staggering.

From this perspective, designing architecture is akin to composing a song or a sonata. In fact, this was the organizing principle of architecture for centuries. "...the numbers by which the agreement of sounds affects our ears with delight, are the same which please our eyes and our minds...We shall therefore borrow all our rules for harmonic relations from the musicians to whom this kind of number is extremely well known, and from those particular things wherein Nature shows herself most excellent and complete," wrote the Renaissance architect, Alberti.

With this in mind, look around the room you are in. Take in the forms, colors, textures and qualities of light. Imagine them as sounds and rhythms and see what you discover. The next time to set the table for a meal, imagine you are arranging the notes and beats of a song. See how it changes your experience of the objects. Maybe the music frozen in the design of each thing will melt and into a more connected and fluid experience of place.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Soul Fires at the Core of Dwelling

Primal acts of place-making renew the world. The vital task of caring for the hearth narrates the whole story of creation. In Ireland, the tradition of Smooring the Fire embodies the birth of diversity from the oneness of existence. At the end of the day, the cooking and warming fire is put to rest, but not extinguished in the following ritual. "The embers are spread evenly on the hearth--which is generally in the middle of the hearth--and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A line of peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which forms a common center. The first peat is laid down in the name of the God of Life, the second in the name of the God of Peace, the third in the name of the God of Grace. The circle is then covered with ashes sufficient to subdue but not to extinguish the fire, in the name of the Three of Light. The heap, slightly raised in the center, is called 'Tula nan,' the Hearth of the Three. When the smooring operation is complete, the woman closes her eyes, stretches her hand, and softly intones one of the many formulae current for these occasions."

This ritual links the structure of home to the structure of conscious through which we perceive the world. Within the oneness of Being a spark of consciousness awakens to itself. The One appears to become the Three, The Perceiver, The Perceived and The Process of Perception. Every experience in life and architecture is seen through this lens. I (Perceiver) look out (Process of Perception) at the garden of the world (Perceived). How I interpret what I see determine how I shape the world into structures for dwelling. With each perception, I am smooring the fire of of living, tend the hearth of new creation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Touching Architecture's Soul

A gleaming cube of glass and steel shimmering against the sky can dazzle my eye and glow in my mind. Curling up on a cozy sofa can soothe my heart and ease my bones. Yet, there are folds in my being that seek out the currents of the soul, places where I feel truly alive. Throughout my life I've been drawn to places were I touch those primal currents. I'm not sure what pulls me there. It's not to fantasize about idealized days of yore. It's not to find some solid ground in the shifting terrain of the contemporary world or to solve an esoteric puzzle. It's not to escape the confusing questions about how to live a sane life in an insane world. In fact, it's the opposite.

When I descend a rough wooden ladder into an ancient kiva or climb a mountain of steps to a hand carved temple, I encounter forces that are hidden by the distractions of modern life. I remember that much of what we do is an attempt to escape these elemental powers animating the world. Pressing schedules, flashy entertainments and constant focus on problems keeps us feeling in control or that we had better get in control. When I sit on a granite ledge in a dimly lit cave shrine, feel the cool air on my shoulders, and listen to utter silence, I re-enter the womb of raw life force. I experience an outer, physical structure that reflects and resonates with the silent, still core of Being within me and the world.

Why I do this, what it means, what is the effect, I don't know and don't care. These concerns come from the part of my brain that believes life is better when everything fits into a neat, little box. Luckily, as sure as the ocean tides ebb and flow, the indescribable currents within me seek out and flow toward places where I can touch the silent/humming of the soul.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Digital Monuments to Freedom

Monuments mostly capture ideas, lives and events in frozen gestures and forms. The Statue of Liberty steadily holds the torch of freedom aloft; Lincoln sits stonily in his temple; bronze Marines stand in mind-hoist, about to plant a rigid bronze flag, replicating the flag raised at Iwo Jima. In these digital times, however, vivid monuments to the human drama are elusive and fleeting. The powerful images beaming from Iran are today's monuments, vital this morning and gone by night.

The beauty of these digital monuments is that they are made of flowing energy and shifting imagination. For thousands of years memorials and shrines, made of stone and rigid belief, were intended to capture life in mental amber. They preserved the false image of the perfect instant, the unblemished gesture. Now, digital monuments honor the dynamism of actual life. The heros and gods don't dwell on the granite peak of Mount Olympus, they live in the shifting pictures and sounds reflecting messy real time heroics in the streets halfway round the globe.
Certainly democracy can be made real in honestly counted votes. In the streets of Tehran, it is being born and finding new life through the monumental the gestures of the people.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Design is Life Awakening to Its Possibilities

Design expresses the process of life becoming consciousness of itself. Usually, we don't think of it this way. Instead, we imagine designed objects, like buildings, computers and shoes, being the work of an individual designer shaping raw materials into a form that serves our needs. "Does this _______ make me happy?" is the central question regarding everything from coffee cups to cities. While this has its practical value, it mainly has the effect of reducing the life force within us to a judge who divides the world into things that are satisfying and things that are not. The mind constantly works to stay satisfied, but suffers from almost continual dissatisfaction.  Cue up Mick singing "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

Maybe design isn't mainly about satisfying our personal preferences. Perhaps creating buildings, roads, bicycles and eyeglasses is a process of life working through us to discover its possibilities. I'm not talking about life as some Wizard of Oz character standing behind a curtain pulling levers and pushing buttons to make things happen. I'm talking about it as a spaciousness within which flows of energy move into matter, shaping and reshaping it for nor reason but to explore possibilities. It does this endlessly through countless beings, substances, patterns, randomness and who knows what else.

From this perspective, we are released from the tyranny of "getting it right" and are free to choose kitchen sinks, doorknobs, and roof shingles as acts of play. The size and arrangements of rooms can become a reflection of how the life force within you actually wants to inhabit the world, not how your mind believes it should dwell here.

Instead of judging various the buildings in your neighborhood according to whether or not they conform to rules of right and wrong design, take a few minutes to experience them as waves in the ocean existence. Imagine them as a momentary picture of life energy rising and falling, shifting into forms that will eventually move into other forms. Watch how the sunlight explores the possibilities of color and shadow as it travels across the exterior walls. See how the plants change the scene at different times of the year. See the life force within you experiencing the life force around you as waves of energy discovering its possibilities through matter. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Creating Beyond Ego

I love creative genius. I delight in participating in the creative process and feel frustrated when the creative juices running through me crash into obstacles. With the me-centered structure of the human mind coloring every thought word and action, I, like most people, have seen myself as the center of my creative endeavors. For a number of years, however, that sense of authorship has been crumbling. The sense of creative control and mastery I once thought was mine has given way to the experience of being a wave in the creative ocean of living.

Instead, it appears more authentic to own up to the fact that my personal viewpoint is not the source, course and manifestation of the creative process. As an architect, my work is the continuation of a line of designers and builders that stretches into the dim past when someone used some branches to make a primal shelter for a sacred fire. In the future, there will be countless architects and builders struggling with the same issues of making a roof both waterproof and inspiring. With each design choice, I draw on the past and peer into future possibilities. Yet, I do this through a cultural lens that I learned from those who came before me. Look and any design magazine and you will see that most of the buildings of a certain era share qualities of design that reflect the mindset of that era.

Beyond that, I daily inherit countless other factors that shape my creative work. The language I speak, my gender, where I live on the planet, the food I eat, etc. are not of my making, but they influence my thinking and actions. The more I look at this situation the more I realize that the me I hold as so individual and separate has little individuality and no separateness. 

To my sense of creative identity, this is terrifying and confusing. It's terrifying because my identify is based in the idea that separateness protects me and makes my actions worthwhile. It's confusing because I'm unsure how to create from a place that is not self-centered.

In response, I've abandoned goal-oriented projects. The bright ideas that once spurred me to engage in writing a book that might take months or years of sweat and to complete now dissolve almost as soon as they arise. Now, I open to the creative flow and see where it takes me. Currently, something is developing that, interestingly enough, may be the most original work I've done. Why I'm pursuing this, I don't know. Fantasies of saving the world while gaining fame and fortune seem childish. They dilute the task at hand. I seem to be creating simply because that's what I do. I'm less like the image of the genius artist in his studio and more like an apple tree producing fruit.

In this time of so many sincere efforts to save the planet, the children and other valuable causes, I wonder if we might be more effective if we checked our ego-centered notions of creativity and healing at the door, sensed our individual waves of identity as movements in the ocean of living, and let the genuine currents moving within carry us away.
 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Shimmering Gate of the Mind, Architecture & World

Architecture provides a shimmering gate into the fluid structure of the mind and the world. We're usually too busy to notice this. When I stop for a moment and really look, I realize I'm not seeing the building in front of me at all. Instead, I'm seeing my thoughts about it. More likely, I'm seeing my thoughts about 1,000 other things. The constant mind flow cascades like a waterfall between me and the object I imagine I'm looking at. The me in this case is that silent observer that is aware of my thoughts. What I'm looking at might be a gas station or a museum, but I can't them for the flood of thought between us. 

The problem with this is that I believe my thoughts are the architecture. But they are simply the story my mind is spinning about the architecture. "It's this style."..."It's well designed."..."It's a piece of crap."... "I could have designed it better."... And the problem with that is being lost in my mind's thought video reinforces the sense of a separate self that can be supported or harmed. It reinforces a disconnect from life, instilling fear and isolation.

Becoming aware of this process of me, the mind stream and the architecture on the other side of it, allows me to see through the waterfall of thoughts and actually perceive the architecture. When that happens, I see how the architecture is a solidification of the cultural mind-stream we dwell within. I see reflections of the collective hopes and fears, the creativity and mediocrity, the economics and the politics. I see how we live within structures of the mind and believe we are living in the world.

Looking deeper still, I see passed the designed form into spaciousness, into that silent hum of unmoving movement. That's when things get interesting. I see that a piece of architecture doesn't have to be only about itself. It doesn't have to scream, "Look at me!" It can be a gateway into the womb of creative energy and wisdom. It can be can opening to connection and peace. Architecture can be a portal to new possibilities and freedom. 




Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are You Willing to Dream a New Dream?

Why is opening to the fresh visions so difficult? Why do we strive to force the world into old, preconceived images rather facilitating the forms and relationships arising within us? For years I have sought clients willing to rediscover their primal relationship to architecture and the land. My intention, to work with them to create designs that intimately respond to the needs and dreams specific to their sites and patterns of living. Instead, people bring grids of borrowed ideas to the table. The unspoken hope is that templets used by others will guide them toward designs that will work from them. What gets missed in the process is discovering the creative spark that can make their homes and workplaces vital links between the forces of nature and their personal modes of dwelling in the world.

I'm not talking about creating wild forms that display the ego's cleverness. I'm not talking about developing innovative designs just to be different or exotic. I'm talking about engaging the basic creative process of looking deeply into he design of the human spirit, the design of the nature and the design of culture to create buildings that are born from naturally emerging patterns. This process is not about dreaming old dreams of another people, time and place. It's about participating in the dream that is emerging from this era and location.

Architects and designers are also caught in this habit of looking in the rearview mirror while driving toward the future. It's standard procedure for architects to see design as a matter of already defined styles. "Do you want Craftsman or Contemporary?" They may say they long to create cutting edge work or a home the suits your needs, but their reference points are not the designs of the forces coming together on a particular project. Their bibles are the latest magazines and books that reflect what they believe is cool and smart. Their real longing is to use a client's money to enact their personal preconceived idea of great architecture. Countless creative opportunities are missed by not collaborating with the hidden designs on the building site and the subtle patterns of dwelling moving through the client's life.

As each day passes, I think of the wasted opportunities of not using what I've gathered over three decades about creating architecture in the way I've described. So, I offer this invitation. If you're interested in discovering an architecture that connects your emerging life to the new world that is emerging on this planet, contact me at dwellinghereblog@gmail.com. Tell me your desires and what you hope to build and we can engage in a truly creative dialogue. Perhaps, together, we can discover a vision of the architecture that wants to be born in this time and place. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can Prefab Be Green?

This house, designed by Scott Spect Harpman of uArchitects, generates its own electricity, collects and stores rainwater, and processes its waste. It's shipped to the site on two flatbed trailers and can be erected in less than a day. The design fulfills the goals of green building. Or does it? I appreciate the attempt, but to say this a house is attuned to nature is to be caught in a fragmented view of ecology. Like Le Corbusier calling houses "machines for living," I call this house a "machine for mining natural resources." It efficiently takes and gives back the energy and matter needed for human dwelling, but is misses essential connections that make a nature sustainable, living ecosystem.

Reflecting on the way nature does prefab points out the disconnect between this house and vital ecology. An apple seed, for example, is a prefab component produced by nature. All seeds manufactured by an individual apple tree have a similar shape and contain the information needed to make new apple trees. Once the seeds arrive at their sites, they interact with the particular qualities of the soil, air, sunlight, rain and groundwater of those sites. The seeds also interact with the plants, birds, insects, humans and other creatures they find there. To survive and grow, the prefab apple seeds adapt to the conditions they find on the ground. This shapes the overall form of the tree and the qualities of the apples it produces. A prefab apple seed planted on the Iowa prairie and one planted on California coast encounter very different environments. They share the same DNA, but the local relationship turns them into different creatures. Would an apple tree grow at all in Panama or Antarctica?

I don't get this idea that a building is green without engaging a direct relationship with its location on earth. What makes a particular spot on earth a living place includes the geology that formed the terrain, the geometry of the sun's path across that specific latitude, the plants and animals that live in that watershed, and many other factors that make a Tahitian island different from Vancouver Island and a Greek Island. Architecture that is truly green is not born in a factory and dispersed on trucks. It is born from its site and grows in response to the land, sun, plants, animals, water and other neighbors it finds there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Porch Can Save the Earth

Within a porch, Nature, Imagination and Architecture gather to talk. How the dialogue goes, so goes the destruction or renewal of the earth. If Imagination rocks on the porch and senses the familiar syllables of Architecture at its back while peering out and hearing Nature speaking in unintelligible tongues, Imagination may believe it best to tame what it sees as Nature's brutality and wildness. Imagination then spreads Architecture into the jungle with the intention of harnessing Nature and boxing it up as a useful resource. This kind of talk strangles Nature and sucks the air out of the porch. Imagination suffocates and Architecture disintegrates into a ruin.  

On the other hand, Imagination can rock on the porch and sense Architecture as a structure for framing a conversation with the vibrant mystery Imagination sees out there forming and transforming. From this worldview, Imagination employs Architecture as a means of exploring a relationship with Nature. Through the dialogue, Nature, Imagination and Architecture can discover the possibilities within them and their interactions.  The trio is enriched and the Earth has a better chance of thriving.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Contemporary Temples are Necessary

Temples are essential to human dwelling. Wherever people have settled in whatever time and place they have crafted shrines to the mysteries of inhabiting this world. For most of human history the places that honored being flowing into becoming and back again embodied the beliefs of a particular tribe or religion. The grid of belief used to organize each sacred place was seen as a description of absolute truth. Hindu temples embodied the viewpoint of Hinduism; Hopi kivas reflected the Hopi worldview. As belief systems changed across territory and time, the shape of the architecture manifested by those beliefs changed.  

In today's cut and paste global community, the shimmering digital screen challenges any and all notions that truth can be grasped, let alone be absolute. Yet, the essential human need for temples still stirs our blood. In response, people are exploring new possibilities of contemporary temples. One such place is pictured above. Skyspace, designed by James Turrell, occupies a corner of the sculpture garden at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. It's the kind of contemporary temple I love to visit; architecture that opens directly to the intersections of energy and matter without an agenda. 

Skyspace is simple enough, a domed enclosure with a hole on top. There are no words or images instructing visitors how to use the space or what to do there. In response most people who enter act a bit confused, giggle, and spin explanations as to what it's about. But, sitting on the curved concrete bench encircling the room and gazing through the oculus is a chance to look directly into wonder. On a clear day the blue sky is charged possibilities. A bird might dart over the shimmering azure disk; a wayward balloon might float a path across it. On cloudy days, the opening becomes a living painting constantly heaving and undulating in continuous slow motion transformation. On Friday nights, you can visit Skyspace and enter a wild, glorious surprise.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How a Donut Explains the Secrets of Design & Life

The design of a donut sums up what I've learned about life. Within the vast, unnamable expanse of Being rises the circle of sticky goo. Mind is drawn to the sparkling, sugary mandala. Body salivates. Fulfillment, it appears, can be had by biting into the ring of sweet fat. When swallowed, however, the pleasure of those empty calories passes almost instantly. 

On the other hand, pausing for a moment and gazing at the glazed halo reveals the donut's secret power and wisdom. The whole structure is about the hole. The circle of calories frames the calorie-less center.  The gap in the dough is not empty. It is vibrant spaciousness, ignited by being captured within the ring of sugar and wheat. The donut captures this bit of spaciousness not to harness or suppress its vitality, but to tease its potential into manifestation. The design of the donut embodies the womb of the universe. Without energized spaciousness the donut is a lifeless blob. Without the donut's sweet circle, spaciousness remains unborn nothingness.  

It's the same with architecture. We can make our forms and materials as tasty as we like. If, however, the sexy geometry, sensuous skin, green materials doesn't make spaciousness come alive we are just littering the landscape with more passing amusement and empty calories. 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ode to the Site Guy

Yesterday, I made a site visit to a remodeling project I'm working on. It struck me how carpenters, electricians, plumbers, cabinetmakers and other craftspersons get little appreciation and a lot of grief from clients and architects. We all have nightmare stories about construction site incompetence. My favorite concerns the heating system installer who, after two years of fiddling with the furnace and not getting it to work properly told the client, "This is caused by your karma. You need to do a past life regression." For the most part, however, on site guys and women do a great job that often serves people for generations.

While you are sitting in your well-lit, temperature-controlled work space, the On Site Guy is standing in mud and cold wind wrestling to get foundation form boards into precise alignment. He's lifting a heavy ridge beam toward the burning sun, fitting a sewer drain in some dank, spider-filled crawl space... He's rebuilding a cabinet for the third time because the client changed her mind. He's standing in the living room watching his profit being eaten up by an architect and interior design debating the difference between three shades of white. 

In the end (most of the time), the building stands. The roof sheds rain. The windows open and close. The toilet flushes and the lights switch on. Things work so well most of the time that we have more faith in the kitchen faucet than we do in God and gold. Every time we move open the faucet lever we have complete faith that water will pour out. Can you say that about your idea of the divine or your money?

So when you open and close your front door today, plug in you mobile phone charger, pull milk from your refrigerator, hand pant in you closet... appreciate the anonymous people who installed them, checked that they work, and made your day a little bit better.