Impermanence and (the Architect’s) Ego

I read an article recently on the subject of “things ain’t looking good for god”.

The article was written in response to the recent discovery of a truly earth-like planet in a distant solar system. Indeed, there appears to be a reasonable likelihood of discovering life in our own solar system in the oceans of the moons Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede and, yes, perhaps Mars.

“God” on the spectrum, was invented as an all powerful lord over the chosen planet earth and by extension the Universe with various religions at God’s right (or left) side ruling the heavens.

So what will self-reflective aliens think of this reality? Hmmm….

By extension, I propose that permanence is one of the grand illusions of human beings. In my opinion its one of the primary reasons religion was created. To allow us to “live forever” in the rosy fields of Heaven. Even as we are forced to recognize impermanence we continue to seek the illusion of permanence. Its a Faustian bargain in that I believe that technology and progress itself are driven by the desire for permanence. In a sense this paradox is a motor driven towards the infinite (which is forever expanding!)….

Architecture and architects have been, without doubt, keepers of the myth in terms of the construction of vast cathedrals, mosques, synagogues and other religious structures. Architects, of course, also have established the “face” of human kind through the great cities and the expansive homes and villas of the rich.

Yet all of this is a vast illusion as temporal as the grains of sand on a beach.

As an architect, this fact doesn’t depress me in the least. Indeed I find it a cause for celebration for underscoring how deeply I love science and questioning and research and the love of knowledge itself.

Impermanence also teaches me to relax, enjoy my family, enjoy my friends and not seek fame and fortune so directly as to detract from the joys of California and climbing a rock in Yosemite or surfing in Pacifica or Del Mar.

Impermanence also reminds me that reality itself is an illusion. The architecture of dreams is where our greatest works reside (I mean this broadly for all disciplines). We should be reminded that it’s our watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, songs, and imaginary creations that matter most. For our reality itself is imaginary. Fame is imaginary. Fortune is fleeting. Our families, our love of creativity , our friends…surpass any earthly desire for permanence.

I think its the understanding of impermanence that will continue to push technology and the evolution of our political systems to help us free ourselves from this earth to build new cities (also impermanent) on the new worlds I am confident we will find some day.

“We” are impermanent. We humans are certainly dust blowing in the wind. So are the religions. So is the work of the “great” architects. So is our planet.

Best learn to look far beyond the impermanence of the sand castles before the ocean sweeps back in.

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David Kesler is a Multi-Disciplinary Architectural Firm in San Francisco

David Kesler is a multi-disciplinary firm specializing in architectural services for residential, commercial, and institutional clients.