I don't see this as historic fact even if it's true we seldom see, nowadays the rituals around death that were common practice in the United States right up to and through the Civil War. People do find new ways to grieve even if older ways are somehow lost.
A widow(er) might no longer wear black for a year, but s/he still finds ways to mourn publicly. Reality TV, for example; call-in radio talk shows. Blogs. All in all, there are audiences for their stories. Glorification of death. Hollywood's version of war, might suit the rigidly set jaws of the would-be masters of what has become the garrison economy's military-industrial-prison complex. But what bearing does that have on death's place in human existence?
It seems to me that Death remains central. It shadows each and every sentient being, every creature that lives. It shadows even forms considered inanimate, like radioactive isotopes.
Death as a cultural artifact operates simultaneously in real time, the way sex does, as a given constraint. A person born with a sexual identity designated male or female will be interpreted socially. Gender roles are constructed for the individual as social rules for behavior, based upon expectations about physiological performance. Sex and death, an assignment of some sort, is inevitable. How the assignments are received, perceived or interpreted is a form of social play..
Paolo Soleri, convinced his self-assigned experiments with concrete and clay could/would provide sufficient support to test all his theorizing, was not keen to devote time to tensile forms, they didn't enchant him. Cables didn't attract him. String-playing as fun was abetted by him with a phonograph. The celli of Villa Lobos enchanted our workday at Cosanti in 1962, but Colly had by then already put her violin down to devote herself to the music they could make together.
When I once chided her for having cached her light to serve his legacy, her heroic response was dry but direct: ""One genius in the family is enough," she said.
If social tension were the equivalent of a design parameter, I can see how I came to wonder if there was an autistic feature in his personality. But when I asked McGill Transcultural Psychiatry professor Laurence Kirmayer about this, he replied that autidtic features are evidently a male phenomenon, at least in the culture of this hemisphere.
Paolo Soleri was no doubt a male being of this hemisphere. He was quirky, charming, thoughtful. He could confound the best, he could consider the bejeezus out of you. He left a monster legacy, a portmanteau of potential full of possibilities.
It's probably no secret that he was not an easy guy to challenge. If I minded his calling me - with a smile - his "troublemaker," I didn't mind it enough to let it put my nose out of joint. It was, I thought, a back-handed compliment he threw at me when, in my brash and flaming youth, I differed with him. (If no-one ever disagrees with you, you can be sure you have nothing to say.)
Now that he's not able to respond to challenges in the flesh, I have an advantage: I can fulminate in any direction I fancy.
It behooves me to start, then, with his take on the suburbs. His misgivings about them aside, in fact he was sustained by them 'burbs. Technically, a suburbanite he was.
Cosanti, the home he and Colly created in Paradise Valley for their family, was a heck of a long walk even from Sottsdale, one of the suburban tentacles of Phoenix. When he and Colly settledin Paradise Valley after their Santa Fe sojourn, it was as far out of town as they could get. That unpaved Doubletree Ranch Road was how they kept the world at bay although the world, it beat its own pathway to them.
It remained their home through suburban development''s encroachment engulfed the vista of their desert landscape surrounds. It remained their home until their deaths. The apartment built for them at Arcosanti, their unique digs in the Old Town, served as pied-a-terre until their last days but although they are buried in the private cemetery at Arcosanti, their last breaths were drawn at Cosanti.
Born and raised in the commonality of suburban life, I knew my own war with the burbs even if I understood them differently. As an American-born nordeamericana, I could accept the beneficial side of the lifestyle they afforded, the heady proximity to the city without some of the press the city claimed its responsibility for.
Culture, by which I mean "high culture" - opera, musical theatre, the Broadway stage, meant that deviation might be tolerated. Needed, even. Any body could feel like it could fit right in.
So long as you have a place you can call home and it isn't the street, a protected space it is. Freedom, you have, to explore it. Once you familiarize yourself with its geography, your time with it rewards you, echoes your questions, minds how you speak, is curious about how you employ yourself..
Why not arcologize the suburbs? I asked him. Promote the intent of arcology to build by maximizing the use of available space to accommodate habitation and industrial activity upwards and downwards rather than outwards Don't just decline arcology as a noun, treat it like a verb. Arcologize the burbs so they demonstrate application of arcology principles.
Arcologize the suburbs along with existing cities as a concomitant to building new tracts. Insist we must assure the suburbs will retain natural landscape, preserve its remaining wilderness areas for recreation and survival, Conserve *all* the arable land, maintain *all* natural, culturally sensitive environments, including landmarks.
He agreed that arcology for any contemporary society requires the pledge to accelerate muse of ass transit. But how to get on with mobilizing the political will necessary for such action? That issue, he could not address.
After that, my argument for the necessary nod of recognition to arcologizing suburban-mindedness rested. Retrofit wasn't his thing. Conservation and restoration weren't his thing.
However, when I asked him, after I returned from a trip to Israel in 1999, about rethinking the tiny house in Jerusalem which my great-grandfather had built in the 1880s, which remains with our family, I could see he was intrigued. What was the orientation of that "little jewel" (his image of it) - that's what he wanted to know. Did it face north or south, east or west?
He didn't live long enough to take me up on the challenge of coming up with a design for that little jewel in Jerusalem, but the fact that it intrigued him was intriguing enough. Intention is not insignificant. Sometimes it can even serve in lieu of "everything" - and that is certainly more than paving stones on a rough road to Hell, right?.
One puzzlement continues to puzzle me. What did he mean, exactly, when he titled one of the Departments of Cosanti Foundation, "Colly"? We can speculate but for the details of his precise mindset, to what resources can we look?
Personal conversation with him is now not a possibility;.But we do get to continue - possibly for a good number of years. This is good because neither Rome nor Arcosanti were built in a day.
The other "Departments" - Habitat, Land, Manufacturing, Conviviality, Music, I get. Even Neo-monasticism, I can get. But "Colly" as a unique and separate department, all by herself?
One interpretation that makes sense to me is simple architectural psychology: Cathedral as tribute to an ideological faith in the Virgin Mother, Arcosanti as Taj Mahal to incomparable Colly. To the "feminine ideal" that Adrian Stokes wrote about, an almost androgynous idea of the feminine?