The scene: The beginning of the workday at an architect’s studio somewhere along the rural Pacific Coast. The seasoned old architect mentor is greeted by his protégé, a young intern not long removed from architecture school.
I: I’ve got a good one for you today, Boss….
A: Go ahead. Hit me with it.
I: What’s most important to you?
I: You mean like human life?
A. No, I mean all life. Life versus no life, animate vs. inanimate. As far as we can tell this is a pretty special phenomena. But human life comes with the ability to greatly affect the planet and therefore the most important aspect of human life for me is responsibility. Responsibility in all its manifestations and with the ultimate purpose of supporting survival, human and non-human alike. And a corollary to this, as you know from working here, is the elimination of excuses from most of our thoughts and actions. This is true here in our studio work and outside the studio as well.
I: Speaking of responsibility, if I may veer off a ways, I’m really disappointed by the removal and destruction of statues and monuments going on throughout the country. Some of these are irreplaceable works of art and certainly all are works of history. I remember in grade school we took a field trip to a Christopher Columbus statue and the teacher talked about Queen Isabella, the three ships, and discovering the new world. The trip wasn’t about the statue but its physical presence anchored the trip in my mind and made the history something tactile and real for me.
A: Having tangible objects to associate with helps earmark the milestones in life. Graduations, weddings, funerals… But talk about disappointment, I’m even more disappointed with the ineffective protection of these public earmarks by our leadership. Throughout my career I’ve come to realize that our governing officials just aren’t made out of the stuff we’d hope for. Of course, realistically they can’t all be George Washington or Thomas Jefferson just as we can’t all be Louis Sullivan or Louis Kahn. They are just ordinary people, some strong and some weak, that just happen to be in positions of power and most of them possess only mediocre leadership skills. Still, at the major city government level, it’s hard to accept such lack of proactive response… neither upholding nor even criticizing lawlessness for fear of losing votes – what disingenuous, unprincipled leadership.
I: It seems pretty strange that this lack of action is taking place in predominantly more liberal cities.
A: When asked about statues being torn down by mobs Nancy Pelosi ineptly answered “People will do what they do.” Leadership? Governance is clearly absent, but then I don’t see many conservatives standing up… or the local citizenry either for that matter. Weakness is not much of a strategy for success.
You may have noticed that the world consists of pairs of opposites and I think too many of us readily assume a negative or neutral or even victim’s role as their legacy in life and mostly blame others for their own shortcomings. More courageous would be the assumption of personal responsibility, fend off the obstacles, and pursue the wealth of opportunities life provides. And beyond the opposites there are almost always a myriad of insights and variations that only the most thoughtful among us seem to have access to.
I: Creative people obviously favor taking responsibility for themselves rather than relying on the efforts of others to carry them along. I see this is the case here in our studio work and our admiration of all manner of architects and artists and it makes sense that this applies, really, to just about everything else.
A: If we can persevere and achieve a thoughtful and responsible life we can be satisfied with our performance. If we can provide thoughtful and responsible leadership someone may even erect a memorial in commemoration. I say this in jest, but I still choke up when I think of the epitaph on Sullivan’s head stone.
I: An earmark to a piece of American History. Amen.