“For my teachers, unfortunately, certain things were, as they are for you, only tales of power”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Christopher Alexander on Pleasing Yourself

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“In order to create living structure, we must please ourselves … And you need only please yourself. But you must please yourself truly. And to do that you must first discover your own true self, come close enough to t, and to listen to it, so that it can be pleased.

Does this sound absurd? And does it sound too easy? It is not absurd. And it is that kind of ‘easy’ which is so hard that on most days it is almost undoable, because to do it we have to break down every resistant force that remains in us …

If true, and it if can be made practical, this would be amazing. Having grown up in an era of moralistic prescriptions, of laws, rules, theories, regulations, prescriptions – all well-meaning, but all ultimately incapable of creating living structure – it would be astonishing, truly amazing, to find out that if we can only learn how to please ourselves, tha prescription by itself will always create living structure.

… we are so mired in the subjectivity of value that we have lost all connection with the fact – or the idea – that what truly pleases us is always living structure, and that living structure might even be defined as ‘that which pleases us,’ that which truly pleases us. And there, in that one word, ‘truly,’ lies the whole space of these four books.

… We cannot perform the unfolding process without knowing how to please ourselves – truly .. The social processes of unfolding comes about as society learns how all its men and women may, in the going about of daily life and in the creation of their world, know how to please themselves.

… What I have said about ‘I,’ what used to be called the religious basis of existence, the contact with that world, and the respect for the ultimate, spiritual nature of matter – all this, too, may be encapsulated through the idea of our pleasing ourselves.

To some traditionalists, this might seem almost like blasphemy or heresy. Yet I believe – indeed, I am nearly certain – that when we learn and practice this pleasing oneself at the very deepest level, that is the same thing, then, and leads to the same thing, that was once related by the most mystical religious art, seeking union with God, creating the greatest and most holy things on Earth … and in doing it, we might be led to the forms of art, the forms of buildings, which are most like nature, most nearly in touch with the nature of the universe.

… We will never be able to contribute to the world’s horrible buildings – too prevalent in recent years – if we make things that we like.

… I was invited by a fellow professor of architecture …. to be a critic in the final review of his masters’ class. His students were in their last year, and they had spent the year working on a project for an office building … the students’ drawings were all around the walls. Other jury members began making comments, but, for a long time, I kept quiet. I hate juries … After half an hour or so, I felt that I couldn’t go on keeping quiet … I felt, I said, that the students did not really like their buildings … ‘I realize that you have done your best, done work that on some level you like; but it is not really liking, you do not really like what you have done, in the same ordinary sense that you like a hamburger, or a rose. That is what I mean. I am convinced.’ …

The students were angry with me … my discussion with the students lasted about half an hour. Gradually, by the end, I had led them to admit that, in the sense that I meant it, in the ordinary sense, they really did not like that they had done, or what they had been doing – that indeed, the conditions of their work had never emphasized this point at all … That was just not part of the professional discipline being taught to them … And yet, I said to them, ‘How terrible! This means you can expect to live your life making buildings that you do not really like.’ And, even worse, that the others in society, who live with the buildings, made in this loveless spirit, will spend hours, days, years, living with these products of an unliked and unlikable architecture, done only because it was the thing to do, the way to get jobs, the way to impress one’s fellow architects.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 4: The Luminous Ground

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