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.