Why do we build things?
For much of human history we didn’t. Maybe we didn’t have the capacity; maybe we didn’t see the need. Somewhere along the way – most likely a few thousand years after the Agricultural Revolution with the rise of Civilization –people started to surround themselves with architecture.
Archaeologists and historians can get an idea of what the interior life of those who lived long ago might have been based upon the buildings left behind. Nowadays most people around the globe are surrounded by architecture and, likewise, these surroundings can tell us a lot about ourselves.
Alain de Botton expands upon this in his book The Architecture of Happiness. It centers around an insight and an implication:
- Insight: Buildings are psychological molds.
- Implication: We can mold ourselves into better humans through architecture.
Delving into esoteric literature can be an overwhelming experience that prematurely sets off bullshit detectors which short-circuit one’s awareness of their own cognitive biases.
Curious enthusiasts (like yours truly) stumbling through this paradoxical maze of arcane terms, odd blabbering’s, and fantastical explanations need some sort of guide.
Johnathon Black’s The Secret History of the World is just such a guide.
This comprehensive narrative weaves together disparate strands of esoteric philosophy into something that lay folk can grok.
Black detours down the alleyways of esoterica, walking through the streets of Alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Swedenborg, Egypt and more, to let the reader admire their unique form and structure before merging back onto the main road they all use. Continue reading
Lay-folk like yours truly often need quick-and-comprehensive guides to help navigate the strange maze of modernity. John Naughton’s book What You Really Need To Know About The Internet is an indispensable primer for the aforementioned demographic.
It helps the helpless halfwits (like yours truly) in getting a handle on what the Internet medium is, its place in the larger Media Ecosystem, and its relationship with larger forces (historical, cultural etc.) Continue reading
Childhood has been around forever, right?
That de-facto assumption was dismantled in the early 1980s by Neil Postman in his book The Disappearance of Childhood. “Childhood is a social artifact, not a biological category” Postman writes:
“In fact, if we take the word children to mean a special class of people somewhere between the ages of seven and, say, seventeen, requiring special forms of nurturing and protection, and believed to be qualitatively different from adults, then there is ample evidence that children have existed for less than four hundred years.”
Witold Rybczynksi was uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable with the fact that comfort was left out of his architectural education. It made no sense — but that didn’t stop them from charging far too many cents to get the diploma! Anyways that curious omission made him, well, curious and that curiosity (after killing the cat) sparked an interest and that interest grew into a book and that book charted the historical progression of one question: Continue reading
There are some books that you read and some books that read you.
The latter kind come with demands. They say “listen listen…sit down, shut up, and pay attention”. After you check your punch to make sure it wasn’t spiked, you interrogate the book —“why are you talking to me?!” — and then, inevitably, end up sitting down, shutting up, and paying attention. Continue reading