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.


  1. Thank you for writting this post, especially the second paragraph. My question: how can I stop the fear spreading to every cell of my being with these daily attacks felt so deeply?

  2. these are really powerful thoughts.

    your "about me" reminds me of a lecture i attended last year, where danish architect jan gehl spoke about human cities and how we can design them better and more accommodating to us as humans.

    elizabeth of landanna pointed me here and i'm glad she did.