Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Perfect Self

This is an interactive artwork by Jennifer Parker called "The Perfect Self." About it, Jenny wrote, "You can move around the labeled pins (characteristics) on different areas of the brain. Maybe you feel more compassion one day?  Maybe this is a vision brain for what qualities you are desiring?" You can see more of Jenny's art at her Flickr link,

If there's one thing about ourselves, perfect and otherwise, the labels in our thought streams are constantly shifting. One day we're right with the world, the next day we're not. What I appreciate about Jenny's artwork of found objects is it's honest representation of who we are. 

Buddhists say, "the self is made of non-self elements." Like this collage, what we can "me" is made of bits and piece gathered on our life journey. The DNA structuring our cells arrived at our bag of "me" from millions of years of evolution. The air we breathe and the food we eat comes from processes of nature beyond our making. The language we use, the culture we identify with, the cities where we dwell are hand-me-downs that we paste together to shape the stories of our lives. The people who we share the journey with meet through chance encounters.

When I remember this, creating architecture (and living life) becomes a creative mystery. Releasing the ego's need for authorship, I enter the freedom participating in the patterns of design that are spontaneously emerging. When "I" step aside, the fun and real creativity begin. Suddenly, the situation shifts from a childish "am I getting my way" encounter to an expansive "let's party" fest. The experience moves from straining to push life into a preconceived box to a fluid ride flowing toward unexpected possibilities. 

The architect Louis Khan suggested asking in designing architecture, "What does the building want to be?" Since buildings are collages similar to Jenny's artwork, they are assemblies of the forces coming together at a particular place and time. If our intention is to overlay our preconceived notion of truth, or rightness, on that moment and setting, we are blocking the revitalizing energies and patterns that want to be born there. This is the essence of sustainable design, to trust and facilitate the patterns and wisdom of nature wanting to be born here and now.

This is both more difficult and easier than it sounds. The difficult part is loosening our grip on the belief that we are in control. Yet, what could be easier than relaxing our fingers and accepting that we are not in control anyway. Sure, we select the style of roof we want, but that roof has to meet a whole list of requirements that are beyond our choosing. It has to respond the laws of rain and gravity and the height limits of the local zoning code. We can face this a victims that we can't do anything we want, or as creators dancing with the complex music of the world.

Maybe the perfect self and the perfect world is not what we think we should have, but appreciating and participating in the one that is being born again and agin each moment.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful, Tony! You captured the essence of The Perfect Self beautifully!