Crossword puzzles, I find, are an invitation to meet other minds head-on. As mental exercise, I'm usually entertained by them: I daresay they expand the mental space I have for all sorts of other interesting meet-other-minds challenges, which includes the puzzle of my 50+ year history with the people of Arcosanti. (That's an association that might well take another 50+ years, if I want to work out what I've already started.
In medias res, the "Where to begin" is with correcting a still-common wrong impression that goes back to the bad old days when post-Beat culture was mindlessly unaware how 'joined at the hip' it was with the hegemony of the automobile.
Inside and outside mainstream architectural academies, the mention of arcology would engender patronizing, pat-on-the-shoulder dismissal: "Oh, Soleri! The guy who plays in the sand!? At that place in Arizona, what's it called - Arcosanti? Where they talk about building arcology? The hippie commune with the Utopian fantasy ideology?"
Well, I gotta say IMHO (although I am not unaware that my HO can be sometimes less than H) both "commune" and "Utopian" are serious misunderstandings of arcology - which is, after all, the primary social enterprise of Arcosanti as well as a design concept specifically related to the construction of its physical plant. I'll explain what I mean.
Where I'm coming from is a community organization/community development perspective. Both of them take, as given norms, expectations of/requirement for short and long term investment returns.
Sidestepping that norm is (again IMHO) a flaw stemming from the flaw in the original hypothesis of Paolo Soleri. Not an insoluble problem but nevertheless an omission to consider/reckon with. If the idea of arcology at Arcosanti is to flourish ever more keenly than it has since the setbacks that followed the Caebecue in 1978, the flaws can't be left to go unattended: they it can and will burrow problematically, ever deeper, until they're met with committed administrative acknowledgement, examination and correction so that Arcosanti can actually maximize its unique potential to the benefit of a majority of the world's architectural academies' communities.
Demanding fealty to what has been a fairly persistent emulation of Paolo's original hypotheses, which constellated around implementing his passive solar designs, adopting his unique personal vocabulay of form for arcology, would suffice to demonstrate the virtue of arcology. But it's vital to come to grips with and fully appreciate the flaw in that central hypothesis so that whatever calls out for revision is recognized, well-met, neatly responded to (in ways that afford compensation for all of the encouragements Arcosanti most needs.
The challenge is to obtain necessary purchase over a fundamental core principle that is central to the idea of arcology. That principle, in a nutshell, is a time-honored one: Frugality.
Transparent as it may be as a concept, attaining/achieving it today in a hyper-possessive society such as the one we live in, takes some considerable effort.
[Caution: Bullying can't get us where we need to go if we are serious about mastering frugality! Bullying destroys the delicate health of everything a robust human ecosystem needs, to balance itself.
[Caveat: Recognizing, treating, and preventing bullying is one thing. Accumulating hulking gobs of extra baggage is another.]
"Stuff" - physical and/or mental - lades massive extra weight onto the already challenging project of demonstrating how architectural ecology (aka arcology) is a beautifully constructive, realistic, imaginatively egalitarian response to a world in grave need of working blueprints for sustainable development. For arcology to "shine on" at Arcosanti, essentials such as self-examination, self-discipline/self-control may not be dismissed as burdensome Utopian fantasy. To the contrary.
The fact that acquisition of such skills must be integrated into the lesson plan Soleri did not write, as such, before he died, means it's up to today's Arconauts to figure out how to make such lessons available, require them. practice them, and pass them on.
Like it or not, if you haven't already managed to internalize it, "frugality" is a lesson we all can stand to learn. No matter who/where you stand on the planet, at some point in your life, every bit of the "stuff" you've managed to accumulate/hoard will have to be put aside, out of your way. It doesn't matter who you are, when your mortal flesh expires your only choice will be to leave all of your "stuff" behind.
Like it or not, "You can't take it with you" is an understatement.
The point of taking on this exercise (for me, anyway) is to figure out how to come to grips with my certainty that the less mental/emotional baggage I'm burdened with that has to be carried into my next lifetime (no matter what form that lifetime might take), the better off I am, the better off I'll be.
Goody for me, I discovered that deciding I'd better figure out how to get a good head start on this useful project gave it a boost. Taking stock of what I've been acquiring over the course of my lifetime thus far led me zigzagging right straight back to my early conviction: The possibility of adequately testing Paolo's original hypothesis (that all we need to prove the decisive virtue of arcology in our present lifetime is to strictly construct his passive solar designs) can only continue being a profoundly limited way to test them.
I suspect now that the rational transparency of the sheer improbability of testing that original hypothesis is what led to repeated academic rejection, to repeated consequent reiteration of how flawed his hypothesis appeared scientifically, ergonomically, economically and materially as well as culturally and socially.
I noticed the flaw quite a while ago, perhaps because my history with the idea of arcology began at Cosanti, where I was first employed as an apprentice in 1962. I cycled through various job titles confirming my employee status until 2006, around which time I managed to earn the higher status that "volunteer" confers on the super-lucky. (Lucky me, to be so lucky!)
Then, in 2015, thanks to a grant from the NY Center for Architecture, I was able to begin undertaking a Pilot Study, conducting doctoral-level research designed to acquire/provide deeper understanding of how Arcosanti as an experiential education site serves to abet the exploration of various architectural/performance studies, crafts, arts, sciences, et al. That pursuit led me into considering how cooperative endeavors appear to be characteristic of the social construction of Arcosanti from a behavioral perspective. That, in turn, that led me to suggest that confirmation of arcology (at what I have come to think of as the "Urban Village of Arcosanti") will most readily manifest with actual entrenchment of a legally formalized social enterprise, a multi-stakeholders' co-operative that is readily supportive of sustainable development.
[Sidebar: From an academic perspective, the Urban Village culture that Arcosanti has embodied to date can be meaningfully compared and contrasted with an Urban Village culture I happen to simultaneously occupy, consequent to the considerable advantages I enjoy (maybe uniquely) as a responsible citizen who is privileged to reside in two atypical multicultural urban village cultures, in two different industrialized Western countries.]
[Caveat: I've also come to recognize that "White privilege" is an aspect of cultural "complexification" which must ultimately be included in any analytic examination of the development of arcology at Arcosanti.]
This brings me to another, much-appreciated advantage I enjoy: My research is interdisciplinary to the max. Almost wildly so! So far, it touches on:
- architecture/design (remote/rural and urban/suburban)
- clinical/analytical psychology
- philosophy, religious studies
- anthropology/material culture and linguistics
- human/social ecology, health and human services
- energy resources, transportation technology
- taxonomy, classification systems
- sustainable, critter-safe agriculture - including sustainable bee-keeping
- journalism, crafts and fine art,
- music, dance and drama
That's just for starters!
To return to my puzzling about puzzles, which is where this musing started: I've noticed that although I can be fairly intuitive, have been schooled in how to trust my intuition, I'm not always a perfect mind-reader. Encountering the defensiveness of others, though, can serve to sensitize a body and recently I had to wonder if I was under attack. (Passive-aggressive attack, but still. attack.) When I came to the conclusion that was actually happening, I wanted to be very certain I could respond to the aggression directed at me without going into "attack" mode, myself. After I'd had some time to ruminate on all that, it occurred to me that masked questions might lurk behind someone's subjective feelings - feelings that I couldn't immediately intuit.
What people don't ask you can be as powerful a form of invasion as what they do! So then, I got to wondering if/how some form of role ambiguity could provoke a projection of absolute negativity, how someone might verbally attack you because s/he doesn't get where you're coming from, how
minor misgivings someone might have about the social performance of others could somehow provoke attack. ("Others," of course, could include me - as well as anyone else who was not in an inner sanctum of power that the attacker is familar with.
Witnessing someone obliquely (or directly) attempt to invalidate the credibility of another person's ideas, motivation, experience, accomplishments, and/or ideological curiosity is not a pretty sight. With respect to the puzzle of Arcosanti, witnessing bullying, disrespectful conduct, the disdaining of someone's questions, respect for resources, or any sort of ad hoc pathologizing, isn't simply not pretty. It's downright ugly and it acutely distresses me.
[Caveat: It also distresses me to encounter the demeaning of any resources, even/especially when/if they can be classified as dirt, waste (including organic/human waste), all of which are elemental necessities for all human populations.]
For sure there are multiple facets to a large puzzle which is least a 3-D creation. What I'm noting here is an odd sort of "dark-side" phenomenon that appears relevant to the puzzle-pieces which have been crucial elements in the evolutionary development of arcology at Arcosanti. All of those we can examine easily are relevant to any understanding of how Arcosanti might be evolving; but for sure there are likely many others to examine. ("Leave no stone unturned," yes?)
For example: the value of time is also a many-faceted piece that should appear in the puzzle box.
Market value and energy-value should, I think, appear as separate numbers. (This is true for me personally since calculating exactly the value of my experience as a researcher, journalist, as a resident volunteer, etc., is a puzzle element I've not yet concluded how to figure in, factor in. But if that's true for me, might it not be true for others?)
As one of the many agents of change who got attracted to an idea Paolo Soleri called arcology, as one of those many agents of change who wondered how that arcology idea could be realized, who wanted to see it realized and still does, I'm here to report that attachment to Arcosanti does occur. It does indeed occur...oh my goodness, yes, it does.
I don't dismiss my own several decades-long attachment. I don't dismiss the well-consolidated, decades-long attachments of other old fogies entrenched into actual staff-lines, including people now at Arcosanti whose continuing occupation of physical residences in what Paolo called "The Old Town" – the structures at Arcosanti today, which have been the handwork of thousands. All of those attachments may also be measured in decades. Add 'em all up, you get a lot of years...
The irony here deserves consideration: Despite Paolo's contradictory hypothesizing about Arcosanti-attachment, his opining that attachment would not be significantly important to growth and development of Arcosanti, not only can and does attachment to Arcosanti occur, it's of major importance to those who experience it.
IMsometimesHO, most likely Paolo's misapprehension about attachment was a consequence of his own lack of foresight about (and insight into) the evolutionary advantages of that human trait; but that gap in his powers of observation certainly could not remove Arcosanti's appeal, nor has it done so. Far from it. Arcosanti's appeal is relatively obvious even if it hasntt been totally secure.
[Observational Sidebar: Arcosanti continues to attract. There's good evidence of its power of attachment over the course of time. Apart from the historic example of some of the old fogies (a few of them relatively easy to spot) whose attachment could be consequent to inertia or habit rather than committed affection, what I have been finding in the course of my research study is that just the idea of a place devoted to thinking about "cities without cars" has the power to attract. No-one I've talked with about my research has had a negative response to my explaining that the focus of my study is a place "dedicated to the proposition that it's possible to build cities without cars." To the contrary. That idea is met with universal approval, even by people who love cars, in a way that evokes the power of architecture to attract attention. Especially when that architecture transcends expectations about space/spatial awareness, when it evokes the image of "Frozen music," as Edward Gordon Craig said of it with respect to his set designs, hearkening Schiller and Goethe's "Music is frozen architecture, architecture is frozen music." To encounter a place compelling some kind of kinesthetic realization of "All the World's a Stage" is a compelling encounter. That place is quite a space.]
[Fact Sidebar: Kinesthetics isn't in the eye. It's in the ear. I know this thanks to Canadian Kripalu Yoga-teaching psychologist Devika Eiffert.]
To return to where we started: Meditating about my puzzlement, what came into my head as an insight was that attachment to attraction can have a drug-like effect. It's heady, to be able to attract. (Euphoria-inducing, even - as enchanters know.)
Handling the power to attract is another bailiwick. Euphoria transcends management, n'est-ce pas? How often do you see people trying to manage or quell elation?
I'll get back to that later this year, but since this blog is up to me and I've been ranting on it about wish-fulfillment for quite a while, I'd rather not shirk from the task of enumerating my own wishes. So to forge ahead, I'll start off here (in no particular order) with A Short List:
1. Five (5) ice-making refrigerators for:
- the Lab Kitchen (right at the entrance to the Vaults);
- the Community Kitchen in the Colly Crescent;
- East Housing;
- West Housing,;
- Crafts III's kitchen.
3. More better solar-powered exterior lights for safer night walking.
4. Reliable handicap-friendly access to the Crafts III Cafe.
5. Ongoing Spoken Word Performance Programs in the Colly Soleri Amphitheatre, starting with
- Poetry Slams
- More more better better Shakespeare (for which a sound baffle is needed over the stage of the Colly Soleri Amphitheatre
- Japanese Noh drama (including productions in the marvelous but sadly unused performance space created by Russell Ferguson in Camp)
- Greek drama, starting with the Antigone of Jean Anouilh
- Improvisational Drama (SNL, move over! The Arcosanti Improv Team is waiting in the wings!)