Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

It continues from last week

And so it is that we have an “Identity of Identities” a myriad of identities that make up our “singular” identity, though identities that, for all that “singularness”, will sometimes (often) in a set of situations make manifest a different “singular” …

And given that we are always “me”, and “me” is always experiencing everything in that moment at the same time it is “me”, it is very difficult to see when a different “me” shows up…

And so it is too that there are so many different things that can become part of our identities, from region affiliation (and all the shared social constructs and opinions and traditions that go with that) to values to things to fiction to activities to culture to ad infinitum…

So then, where is it that we take on and become these identities? How do they become part of us?

Truth is, while we certainly have chosen some of our identities, we also inherit many aspects of our identities. We take them on, you could say, through osmosis. We build our identities out of the culture around us, out of what we experience and see and hear (and the subtexts inherent within them) and because that’s what we experience we take on that’s how it is, and how it should be. We didn’t plan on becoming that identity, we kinda fell into it. It’s what we know. It may be all we knew; we may not have had experiences that presented any other options.

Many of our identities were also cemented during times of intense emotion, when options seemed to be slim. We can point to them, and feel that certain events forced or guided us to be a certain way – this happened to me, so now I’m like this. It is a different kind of inherited, an identity foist upon us.

The real mind noodler is to consider that even those identities we feel we chose, we may not have been as free, or as insightful, or as clear, or as experienced to what is available, as we thought we were in the moment when we chose them.

And lo, do we then walk around with this gaggle of “accidental” identities and take them on as “me”.

Interesting thing about identities: they are not empty skins. They come as a package with a whole world that includes views, truths, attitudes, behaviours, manners of speech, likes, dislikes, ideologies, accoutrements. And so many of them come with a certain amount of baggage… and many of our hidden biases originate from these hidden identities and the views contained therein.

It’s why our identities can sometimes show up quite unexpectedly: I can’t believe I’m like my mother/father!

We often take for granted (and operate from) that I am me, and I showed up whole cloth, so please accept me. Who I am is inherent. Yet it was a process, one from which we were largely absent. We did not choose them with intention.

However, as a process… it’s never ended. We are not fixed objects, set in stone. We can choose. Anew.

Still more still to unfold!  More next week…

Architecture Monday

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Alright, after that tease here’s the real textile block building!   Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis house, built in 1923. Both the idea and the floor plan are simple – but, as with many things, it is the execution that renders this stunning. The idea was the textile block itself, using a simple technique and material rarely used in residential construction (the humble concrete block) but made elegant through the addition of a geometric pattern relief, used in patterns of repetition (thus, patterns used in patterns). The plan was unified with a long loggia that brought light and views and rhythm, coupled with very Wrightian elements such as the incredible hearth and an attention to details with geometric stained glass windows and many custom and art-worthy elements for everyday mundane details.

This is a bold house, with prominent planar volumes and a strong visual impact from the textile blocks, following a motif with great intensity.

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Unfortunately it was not open to the public, so I only got to experience it from the outside, but I’m very glad I could experience it. The house has suffered greatly over the years, due to impurities in the concrete mix and the heavy air pollution. The 1994 earthquake and heavy rains a decade later almost brought the house down (great sections of the retaining wall gave way, and temporary steel beams were inserted to support the house). It’s been heavily restored now, and has a secure owner.  With an easement that’ll open it up for limited viewing a few times a year, perhaps I’ll be fortunate to be in town one day that it is open.

Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

When we talk about our identity – the bits of ourselves we call “me” – speaking of it as a unified whole is a bit of a misnomer. Just as “the” internet is actually a “network of networks”, our identity is actually an identity of identities.

It is not singular. It is a multitude of identities that are all glommed together and combine to form how we relate to the world at large and how we act within it.

This conglomeration doesn’t always produce the same results. Many of our identities have bits that are contradictory to each other. Others, while not necessarily at odds, nevertheless differ. In certain situations, one identity may wield its influence to a much greater extent than another, producing different reactions and different behaviour. And not all identities hold the same strength. Certain identities (we could call them core identities) loom pretty large and they make their presence known quite often, guiding the action. Yet even with those overarching identities there are times where we may look at our behaviour and wonder what’s going on, given how it seems to be at odds with who we think or say we are…

The notion of “Who we are” starts to get a bit more complex.

What can become part of our identities is also very diverse, open to a wide range of themes and concepts. Some are personal, such as how we be in the world: being nice, being smart, being independent, being strong, being right, etc. Some are built around values*: fairness, ecology, family, kinship, self-preservation, growth, might makes right, individualism, etc. Others, many, are shared constructs built around a whole panoply of things and motifs: music, sports, products, religion, activity, wealth, ideology, world views, cultural groupings; and social groups and views: class, gender, orientation, employment, and more. Hyper-social constructs abound too: local, regional, and country identities.

They’re all up there, all lending their influence to creating your identity of the moment.

Some are well known to us. We could sit and write them down.

Others are more hidden from our everyday view – though they may be well on display and known by those around us.

When we get our own richness of identity, we gain access to examining and developing a deeper understanding of ourselves. Becoming present to our identities as identities gives us access to choosing who we want to be.

Even better, when we see our own richness, we become resilient to reducing others to a one-note character.

The concept of identity is a deep well. More next week.

 

* – Which in turn begat additional ways of being…

Architecture Monday

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During my recent trip down to the environs of Los Angeles, I spent a couple of days touring some of the architectural sites, including the Getty Centre. I’d been wanting to visit the Getty Centre for quite some time, based entirely on an experience one of coworkers described during his visit soon before the museum opened.

The Centre is quite impressive. Situated atop a hill at the crosspoints of two ridges, the Centre is a cluster of buildings, an exercise in forms and geometry interspersed with terraces and gardens. It’s a geometric affair, with the structures forming a complex set of interlocking volumes and courtyards, generating space within all while framing vistas outward. The near-white buildings command yet disappear into a backdrop, while the travertine speaks to the surrounding landscape. It’s hard to get a grasp on it all, yet it also manages to never quite slip completely away.

Designed by Richard Meier, the Getty Centre uses the same primary concept that forms the organizing motif he is most famous for, and that is the grid. Or, in the case of the Getty, two 30 inch by 30 inch grids that intersect at a 22.5 degree angle. Now, while many, many buildings use grids as part of their design form, what Meier does, and what makes the Getty Centre such an interesting space, is to use this grid and stick to it with a kind of maniacal rigour. Everything is based on those two intersecting grids, or a module thereof.  EVERYTHING.

And this is the story to which my coworker shared with me many years ago, standing in the entry court and following the line of the tiles they were standing on to where it intersected the building and rose vertically as a line of aluminum tiles (of the same dimensions) to a mullion of a window back onto the tile above… And for myself, during my visit, standing inside the building and following a mullion joint line to become the tile outside on the patio to become the aluminum panel of the wall to it travelling down to the ground to become the grid of tiles on the ground to become the panel joint of the wall across the courtyard to become the post of a railing to become the panel joint of the wall beyond…

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my attempt to capture the grid rigour – the travertine tile at top is also aligned, I just had the camera positioned wrong

 

It is that kind of amazing attention to detail that makes this tick. A Meier building may not have a particularly complex or poetic concept, but the degree to which the concept is carried out and stuck to with exceptional exactitude and thoroughness is what makes things really come together. What might otherwise be a hodgepodge of forms and voids instead reads with unity, and allows for the complexity to sing.

 

(As a hilarious side note, on the trip I discovered the only time that mentioning I was an architect struck fear in the heart of someone: our guide for the architecture tour at the Getty… not that they had anything to be worried about, by far.)