Last evening, for three hours, I hovered in the pleasure zone, my brain and body exquisitely in sync. This was delight the likes of which I haven’t felt in six months, or perhaps as long as a year. The kind of pleasure, intense and pervasive, that obliterates worry and fatigue as all the universe seems to buzz and sizzle in the moment, and the moment goes on and on…
This is not the stuff of my everyday life; it is affirming and energizing to relive this extraordinary fullness, the mind-body connection, the airy sense of well-being that results. And as the thrill of the experience began to ease, very late last night, I lay down and slept. Without turbulence, without waking, for nearly six hours. Miraculous.
This morning, I woke still basking in a very particular afterglow following a remarkable night. Care to hear more?
Passion of the mind
An acquaintance came to my home last evening to speak with my son about architecture, about the ways to approach an architectural education, and the architectural profession. He is a photographer, an artist, an architect, a professor of architecture, a researcher, and more. He has designed some stunning structures. What I didn’t know is that he is an inspired teacher.
He asked my son some questions, and they talked. Then he spoke, eloquently, about his own meandering path into architecture: the intersection of philosophy, psychology, fine art, history, engineering, chemistry, mathematics, environmental studies, and more. That is – or can be – the realm of the architect who creates in harmony with his own imagination, with the land, the elements, and of course, the human beings who will live in or interact with the private or public structures he is designing.
I listened in an adjoining room, as the discussion wandered from Le Corbusier to Frank Gehry to Santiago Calatrava, from theory to pragmatism to bringing an idea to life, and the distinction between “a building” and true architecture.
Transported in time, boosting my brain
I began to take notes. I felt 17 again, exposed to a brilliant mind in a lecture hall, scribbling as quickly as I could to document the possibilities pouring in. I caught a glimpse of my son’s face, open and engaged, and as the discussion progressed I felt the space in my brain reorganizing – its furnishings shifted, adjusted, rearranged; the walls easing outward in order to house broader concepts than I’d entertained just an hour earlier.
The rooms of my own capacity were undergoing renovation; a new structure was forming, even as I was nudged, bombarded, and overwhelmed by words and the visuals they crafted that came in jolts and waves. There is potency in the pairing of certain phenomena, in the tension of opposites and opposition: presence and absence, form and function, process and material, imagination and engineering. And they all combine most effectively when coordinated with mother nature as well as human nature.
This is the heart of architecting: the structure as art, as sculpture, as music, as evolutionary and satisfying space created purposefully. This is the iterative, cumulative and perpetual process of discovery.
At one point, our guest said: “You may have an idea, and conceive it one way. But it’s something else as you’re building it. When you’re in it. Be open to not knowing.”
Renaissance man (and woman)
Last evening, I experienced the full body pleasure of learning. I was quickly aware that the Renaissance man at my kitchen table was no “ordinary” architect. He showed images of various projects and described them. One in particular is a masterpiece of visual poetry.
As the reason for inviting the architect was to talk about various educational routes to the architectural profession, I couldn’t help but think about the benefits of a liberal arts education, its exposure to classics, to the overlap and interaction of many fields of thought and endeavor. It provides a foundation in the tools of learning as much as subject matter.
If the proverbial Renaissance man or woman is one who has knowledge in a wide array of both arts and sciences, then the gentleman in our kitchen epitomizes that particular role. Personally, I would like to do a better job of becoming a Renaissance woman. I was on that path, once, and had to yield to another that was more “pragmatic.” As important as it is to make a living, the desire to pursue language, literature, and art is no less pressing than it was when I was 17. If anything, it is more so, as life at 50 seems so much more precious than it did when I was an adolescent.
Seduction and motivation
I am reminded that my brain can still be seduced by ideas, pleasured by putting pieces of a puzzle together, teased by trailing off into imagery, encouraged by the playfulness of meticulous language and a searching mind. For me, this is life force. This is hopefulness.
I believe my son, in his own way, was deeply affected. He is normally taciturn in the mornings, but on the way to school today we talked.
“See that house?” he said pointing to a large, pseudo-federal structure clearly constructed in recent years. I nodded. “That’s nothing like what he designs. His architecture is awesome. Every element flows together and each has a purpose. And it’s art.”
Stress reducers, memory boosters
I wonder if last evening will be a turning point for my son. I know that he “got it.” Now it’s up to him to run with it, to do the work. To prepare his future.
Perhaps our best memory inducers, brain boosters, stress-reducers and even pleasure centers are those lit up by what naturally engages us. The gift I offered my son by inviting this fascinating architect to sit and talk was a gift to myself. I had no idea that would be the case. I am now keenly aware that somehow I must dust off the tables and chairs neglected in my own brain. I need my mind challenged, stretched, and stimulated. That cannot be done in isolation.
As for the generosity of this man, in sharing his time and arranging for a followup, I am immensely grateful. Where my son may go from here, I can only imagine. As for myself, I am uncertain. But I am open to not knowing.