Why unity and sadness are connected

Unity ties everything together — including joy, happiness and laughter, but also including loss, death, and betrayal. A thing which truly has unity partakes of everything. And through that everything, there must be sadness. The making of this sadness, then, must come through a process where land, details, rooms, form an indivisible whole. Always trying to tie it together, to unify it, to make it disappear.

From the chapter on color, we have the rudiments, now, of a way of understanding the actual unity which appears in buildings. What is remarkable about color — the color phenomenon, inner light — is that we experience it as a single unbroken thing, not a system of elements or a system of centers, but we feel the light as a single thing.

Of course, in a great work of building, we see more than living centers: not only large centers tying the whole together, not only many living centers that are I-like. Beyond the living centers, there is an active unity within the work which makes it one thing, and brings it its sadness caused by its impending death. If it is alive, it knows death. If it is truly alive, one can feel its own death within it, even while it lives. It is this, above all, that we mark when we see a living work of art, or the grass on a living hillside.

This unity makes itself felt, to be sure, in some measure, from the higher level properties which appear in the world. For instance, echoes and not-separateness are two of the properties which most strongly tie things together, and create this inner unity in them.

As the brushstrokes in the swan form a unity because of their inner similarity and similarity of intent, in a building this may come from something as simple as a single material used again and again in transformed versions, forming everything.

For if each living center is but a reflection of a single unity, has the same origin in its being, then the whole, the living work, is animated by this same being behind the scenes — and we experience the same living fire in every part of the whole.

It is when this happens that we may — sometimes — feel ourselves to be in the presence of true life, true value. And it is in that situation, so rare in the experience of every maker, that the existence of the I as the source of all being makes itself felt.

(Pages 242-245)

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