The mirror of the self
The existence of the wholeness as an objective, neutrally existing structure, and the possibility of seeing life in buildings as something which emerges naturally from this wholeness as living structure gives us a unifying picture of reality. The concept of living structure holds the promise of understanding architecture clearly and coherently. It gives us a single way of talking about function in buildings, ecology, and the beauty of artifacts in a single language — one which shows us the profound meaning and consequence of all these related facets of the world, and one which, above all, gives us an ethical view of things, because the life (really goodness) of any portion of the world is, in this view, then an objective matter which arises from this structure.
For three hundred years our mechanistic world view has disconnected us from our selves. We have a picture of the universe that is powerful and apparently accurate, but no clear sense how we, our own selves, enter into this picture. This is the famous bifurcation of nature discussed by Whitehead. We have a disconnected vision of reality, which seems secure, which seems strong and objective — but which leaves me out. My experience of self, my own actual person, my existence as I experience it every day is not part of the “objective” world-picture. So, in my daily encounter with the world, I have to make do with a world-picture that fails to connect me to the world. I flail around in it and struggle.
In this new world-picture, based on wholeness and the structure of centers, the connection between the outer or objective world and my experience of the self is profound and immediate. It makes sense. It is pervasive. It is direct.
Life can be seen as a phenomenon which depends entirely on the existence of centers in the world. Wholeness is made of centers. Centers appear in space. When the wholeness becomes profound, we experience it as life, in buildings, in other artifacts, in nature, even in actions. The life is able to be more profound, or less profound, because the centers themselves have different degrees of life and the life of any one center depends on the life of other centers. The life of a building thus comes about as a recursive phenomenon in which different centers prop each other up and intensify their life cooperatively. It is responsible for the functional life in a building (the way it works) and for the geometric life (its beauty). They are one and the same thing.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs
The actual life itself which any given center possesses, its degree of life, is still not entirely clear as a concept. We cannot easily avoid the idea that space itself has the power to come to life — a center is an emerging spot of life in the material substance of space itself. This is disturbing, or at least surprising, because it is inconsistent with most modern interpretations of physics.
If the wholeness is as important as it appears to be, it is of course essential — indeed necessary — that we can reach an objective understanding of it, that we learn to recognize it as something which is objectively present in any given part of the world we pay attention to.
What kind of judgement are we making when we see that one thing has a greater degree of life than another?
#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/8 The mirror of the self#
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