Recapitulation of books 1 to 4 as "pleasing yourself"
In book 1, I have tried to describe a living structure which exists, sometimes, in the world. The core of this living structure, from our point of view, is that it is completely natural to us. The only reason that we no longer understand it well is that we no longer know, instinctively, what pleases us. Learning, again, what pleases us, learning to live in the knowledge, daily and in every moment, what pleases us, is the same, exactly the same, as being able to recognize living structure when it occurs.
But 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.
In Book 2, I have shown how living structure can only be created by an unfolding process. Once again, when we come to creation of things by people, the form this unfolding takes, always, is step by step to please yourself. We cannot perform the unfolding process without knowing how to please ourselves — truly. And if we know how to please ourselves truly, why then the process of unfolding and the fundamental process follow from this pleasing of oneself, as night follows day. All of Book 2 may be understood, really, as the definition of those living processes which occur when people learn to, or know how to, please themselves. The social process 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.
In Book 3, I have shown hundreds of buildings and places in which living structure occurs. Once again, what I have really shown is what kind of world will come about when people truly please themselves. At least that is what I claim. What I have tried to show is not some personal or arbitrary world created by Christopher Alexander and by others who think as he does. What I have shown may be seen, rather, as an embodiment, at many levels of scale, of the kind of world that will come into being when men and women act to please themselves, when they know what it means to please themselves truly, and have the freedom to carry out this process of truly pleasing.
And, finally, Book 4 is once again the same: yet another way of describing the world, and the world-view that follows, when people truly 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 created by the most mystical religious art, seeking union with God, creating the greatest and most holy things on Earth. Pleasing oneself, when it is truly done, when we are free enough in ourselves to be able to do it, leads to the most sublime, the most profound, the most truly spiritual art, and is — as I believe — the basis that was ultimately intended by the greatest religious teachers. It is the path they tried to show, the path of a freedom so pure, so perfect, that people might manage to do only what is in their hearts. And in doing it, we might be led to the forms of art, the forms of building, which are most like nature, most nearly in touch with the nature of the universe.