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May 17, 2016

New Stuff:

In Left To Myself Adult Children

In Random Stuff: Darwin’s Still Small Voice

In Not (As) Fat: Hungry & Fat

In Finding Home: The REAL/IDEAL Collision

In The Rules:  Shedding Water = A Building 

In Home Page: Books & Homes

Darwin’s Still Small Voice

November 24, 2016

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As Charles Darwin began defining Natural Selection, his revelatory insight creating the theory of evolution, he lost his religious faith – a faith he had to the point of going to seminary before he became fascinated with biology. Despite apocryphal stories of a death bed reconnection back to faith, Darwin by all factual accounts was at best a firm agnostic, and definitely not a Christian, which he called “a damnable doctrine” – despite firm belief by the rest of his family.

For atheists, Darwin is a true hero: someone that manifests the mind triumphing over the delusions of myth, the victory of Truth confronting the cowardice of his era’s overwhelming religious judgment. Or so say many of my close friends who are at best firm agnostics – some of whom go to church or synagogue as a cultural expression, confident that what they know is sufficient to preclude any Faith beyond what is known. Darwin is the perfect St. Paul for atheists: a Believer who saw the light and ended up providing the tools for conversion from the Folly of Faith to the Truth of Fact.

But, like Jesus, Darwin was just a man. As with any human, tragedies do happen, despite any level of fact-centered living. Charles Darwin’s daughter, Anne died in 1851, at the age of 10 – of either Scarlet Fever or Tuberculosis – despite efforts at the then best science: “Gully’s Water Cure”. Anne was the Darwins’ first born, and exquisitely loved by her dad. Darwin had lost religious faith around the time of her birth. But upon her death, Darwin wrote a gut wrenching letter ending with these words:

“We have lost the joy of the Household, and the solace of our old age:— she must have known how we loved her; oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & shall ever love her dear joyous face. Blessings on her.—“

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“Blessings on her.”

To a dead person. From who? what? where?

In his poignant missive, Charles Darwin cries out in pain at the natural selection of the loss of his beloved daughter – finding no solace or explanation in her death besides the love he had for her – and yet – he wishes, as any of us would, “Blessings on her”. What are these “Blessings”? – Did Darwin think there was some distinct bestower of blessings that could ameliorate her loss in his life?  Or an afterlife emollient to vitiate the pain of her untimely death, salving, if not saving, her soul?

I think the reason for Darwin’s sad wish for his dead child is far less coherent than any reasoned reconstruction. God simply could not exist in parallel with Darwin’s belief in natural selection – but upon tragedy his heart clearly felt something his mind could not rationalize.

When the power goes out on our assumptions, when the grid fails and we lose distractions, when the batteries are at 0% on our “Rationalization App”, when the dead of night renders the photovoltaics of reason juiceless, when we are without the capacity for logical selection of what we want to be, and we are confronted only with the inevitable “natural” end, as all things end in nature, we are left alone. But not alone.

For me, knowledge alone ultimately fails to comfort, because some things are inexplicable. Humans opt to find pattern in the overwhelmingly random aspects of reality. We read our horoscope. We selectively celebrate some birthdays (30, 50 etc) simply because we naturally want a reality beyond knowledge. We connect victories by the Cubs, Trump and Yale.

Darwin explicitly rejected an inbred genetic predilection for Faith – he believed we learned to believe. His life was based on learning, so thats a natural way to see the world. As I am an architect I can be accused of seeing design in everything and thus a Designer for everything. But neither my Cradle Episcopalian status, nor 40 years designing stuff compels my Faith. That’s because my Faith is not based in reason, education or really anything in the temporal world I can defend or promote – despite going to church each week.

Perhaps, despite Darwin’s dismissal, it’s just a hard-wired need for connections that make for Faith. For me, its found in the Old Testament “Still Small Voice”- which is both unreasonable and unavoidable. I have not selected it. It is not factually natural. But it is present. I think hero scientist Charles Darwin was pleading for supernatural “Blessings” for his dead child to that Voice – despite his objective rejection of any source, method or place to send them.

Neither he nor I selected that Voice: it’s just there…

News

November 23, 2016

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Before & After
Leonard Saari B&A Exterior

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Getting Done in San Francisco

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The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.

CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.

READ:

In Common Edge: The BIM Moment: What We’re Losing in the Robot-Age of Architecture

In Mockingbird: The Big Mo: Feeling and Rationalizing ‘Momentum’

In New Haven Register: Why spend $60 million on an ugly building

In Common Edge: What Architecture Has in Common with Organized Religion

In Mockingbird: What is Faith? A Look at the Religiosity of Football Fans

In U.S. News Real Estate: How to Design and Build Your Own Custom Home

In Common Edge: What Do Architects and Commercial Fishermen Have in Common?

In Common Edge: In Architects We Trust? 10 Trusts Worth Busting

In Common Edge: Donald Trump as Architectures Nightmare Client

In Unorthodox: Just the Two Of Us

In Hartford Currant: Yale’s Edifice Complex: University is Building a Modern History for its Future

In Common Edge: Modern Restoration and the Veneration of Its Hero Architects

In Common Edge: When Intellectual Diversity Mattered

In Common Edge: Why Architecture Doesn’t Do More Pro-Bono Work

In Common Edge: The AIA’s Response to Crisis Call In the Stars

In Common Edge: Will Architecture Have Its Donald Trump Moment?

In New Haven Independent: Visionary Bromances

In New Haven Independent: Architecture Becomes a Lifestyle

In New Haven Independent: That’s It?

In New Haven Register: Battered Homeowner Syndrome in New Haven

In New Haven Register: New Haven Knights of Columbus building – an icon reclad

In Common Edge: Why Architecture Needs More Building Architect Critiques

In Common Edge: Architects Design Just 2% of All Houses – Why?

In Common Edge: Death & Architecture

In Common Edge: Sprinting to the Past

In Hartford Courant: Deborah Berke, First Woman To Lead Yale’s School of Architecture

In Common Edge: Architecture Has Become a Lifestyle Choice

In Daily Nutmeg: Creation Story

In Next Avenue: Aging and Your Home: The Coping Quotient

In New Haven Register: When Things Go South – Design Can’t Save Bad Building

In Hartford Courant (login required): The Classroom of the Future

In New Haven Register: When Branding Becomes Blanding in New Haven

In Home Living Magazine: City Living: An Award Winning Renovation

In Hartford Courant: What CT Has Is History- Don’t Neglect It

In New Haven Independant: Architect Couple, Institute Library Snag Awards

In Hartford Courant: History is Precious

In New Haven Register: New Haven’s Court Street is ‘like its own little town’

In Hartford Courant (login required): Smart Home Design In A City That’s Neighborly

In New Haven Register: Villas on a ridge, New Haven’s Hillhouse Avenue

In Townvibe: Simple Pleasures, an Artful Blend of Modern and Traditional

In Hartford Courant (login required): A Classic Street Ages, But Retains its Beautiful Bones

In New Haven Register: Forum: Yale, Pearl Harbor bridge projects show branding matters, money follows

In New York Times: Everything and the Kitchen Sink

In New Haven Register: Millennial Meme Housing Sprouts in New Haven

In Hartford Courant (login required): “Christmas in Connecticut” was Perfect for War-Weary 1945 American Moviegoers

In Room One Thousand: Sixty Panes of Faith

In Behind the Walls: The Not So Tiny House Movement (Part 1)

In AIA: It’s not the Media: It’s the Work

In New Haven Register: Quarantining Architecture

In New Haven Register: Weeds on New Haven’s Oak Street Lawn

In New Haven Magazine: Back Yard Forward

In New Haven Register: Ultimate Gesture of Architectural Modesty is a Buried Building

In New Haven Register: Tulips, Architecture Students & Bubbles that Burst

In New Haven Register: Flood tide of rental housing could change New Haven’s landscape

In New Haven Magazine: Still by the Sea

In New Haven Magazine: Preserving the Past for the Future

In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes: Boy Was It Worth It

In New Haven Magazine: From Family to Farm

In The New Haven Register: Ultimate Gesture of Architectural Modesty Is Buried Building

In The New Haven Register: Yale’s Evans Hall: Overdressed for Success

In New Haven Magazine: Cubed

In New Haven Magazine: Finding Design

In The New Haven Register:  Pearl Harbor Bridge in New Haven Extension of Greatest Generation’s Legacy

In Hartford Faith & Values:  An Elevator on Orchard Street

In The New Haven Register:  Are Neighbors More Neighborly when there is Greater Density?

In New Haven Magazine: Lawyers In Love

In Ink Magazine:  Architect Duo Dickinson: Celebrating 35 Years of Good Design for Everyone

In New Haven Magazine: A House of Homes

In The Source:  Duo Dickinson, Architect at Large

In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes:  On the Indian River

In The New Haven Register:  Aesthetically inconvenient Mudd Library faces death sentence

In Connecticut Magazine: Elements of Surprise

In The New Haven Register: Real Icons Aplenty in New Haven

In The Mercurial: Erosion Revelation

In Architecture Boston: Post-Modernism and Intelligent Design

In Design Bureau: Steve & Frank

Archive: Real Life Survival Guide

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WATCH:

On WTNH News:  Madison Architect Sheds Light on Solar Solution for Homeowners

On Common Ground with Annette Ross:  She asked “Where is Architecture?”, I answered

On HGTV:  Mercedes Home Diaries       Password: mercedes

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The REAL/IDEAL Collision

November 19, 2016

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When the Real of Michangelo’s mind, a vaulted ceiling and paint attempt the Ideal a pretty cool thing happened. But that is the exception.

The Real/Ideal connection is more often Collision than Jesus.

When the Real college admission for your Ideal child is not Harvard, when the Ideal spouse has Real issues, or just when your Ideal self runs aground on Real life the results are often terrifying because humans ha. The election was too Real for many as Ideal results were not there for just over 50% of voters.

But sometimes the collision of Real-Ideal works: at Yale Ivory Tower Ideal met Homeless Housing at a design studio I critted last week: it worked to get perspective for the Ivy to spread into the street.

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In my calling, architecture there is an extreme collision. Before the explosion of technology has enabled virtual reality to feel pretty real, I and other architects had to build things to make the a Ideal of Design live in the Real of the world – as I did for our family:

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But that’s costs real money. And once done exquisitely brutal judgment for an unchageable physical reality. Cyber buildings are never finished: a click can correct any flaw forever and instantly: and without the Real of a site, or a budget or weather there is only the Ideal to deal with.

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But for non-architects, the Ideal home often means grabbing at the straws of memory and hope to cobble together a home of images, a quilt of features that cover all the bases of defendable desire: a home of aspiration, which is not hope, which may be real, but is clearly not authentic:

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(www.mcmansionhell.com)

But the Real of Virtual can create sad results, even on its own terms. This built thing, by Paul Rudolph is exquisitely real:

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But the Ideal of computer generation often defaults to the extreme limits of human capacity – this is the same function, in the same town, with a larger budget, just not built:

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Humans are Real, we are here, we love, we hate, we die: but we know, or sense the Ideal. But we are not Ideal. But we want it in our lives: so we build McMansions. We make ways to make the Ideal Real: like virtual architecture – and religion.

Religion is not God. Religion is Real, but it is never Ideal. But we want to be. Desperately, so when asked, I run to be a part of my religion’s state level Reality: https://www.episcopalct.org/events/annual-convention/2016/elections/

My reality, like everyone else’s changes, I would never even think of being part of the Diocese, but I was asked, by a person or two, but more the Still Small Voice I cannot shake.

What makes religion meaningful to me is not The Church, not the Real issues of any human endeavor: the petty, snarky silliness of grind and CYA that makes the ideal pretty hard to find. Unlike the Sistine Chapel the Real seldom lives up to the Ideal. But God finds me without the mimicry of the Ideal that organized religion efforts, often so unsuccessfully, because, for me God is Real – every day, often at the least Ideal moments.

Confusing Loss & Losing

November 11, 2016

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About half of America is in self described mourning – many in very fearful, tearful mourning. No one died, but those who are grieving feel the loss of something in an exquisitely tender, personal, and yet very, very public way. I am old enough to have been present for 16 presidential elections. I was old enough to remember perhaps 13 of them. But this election was extreme.

It was between the most mockable freak who has ever won a nomination to run for anything since Jesse Ventura and perhaps the most Establishment-based candidate since George HW Bush. And the Freak won.

Mr. Outside beat Ms. Inside, and yet freakier, lost the popular vote. Trump’s bizarre unsuitability for anything except being a Celebrity did not matter because Hillary was fresh out of the crock pot of 30 years of creating the mess about half the country has basted in – largely without voice save in the last 2 off-year elections. It was epic weirdness gone nuclear and real.

But this piece is not about politics. It’s about the sweep of extreme emotional sharing of loss – best crystallized by John Pavolvitz in his blog. http://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/11/09/heres-why-we-grieve-today/

“Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated.”

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When the loss of a potential first female presidency is thrown in, and the fact Donald Trump is a walking spew of uncontrolled oversharing of every and any political thought, conspiracy theory and schoolyard insult that pops up in his cranial Magic 8 Ball, this is as weird an election as I can think of – and, hey, I got an 800 on my American History Achievement test (and a 5 on the AP).

Every campaign’s results angers many: riots at the ’68 Democratic Convention, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, W, and Obama were loudly loathed, insulted, hated on every level, including the personal variety. Some folk have always taken politics personally. But this year, this week, is different.

Cultures tend to personalize the public – especially upon death. This is reasonable for heroes like Mother Teresa or JFK – but even those passing with pop-presence make for vapor-thin extreme mourning of the distractions in our lives. People deeply mourned Princess Diana’s death and elevated Michael Jackson to saintliness upon his passing. And now, the same depth of insight and breadth of exposure of a Trump tweet can share every emotion into stratospheric overblown self-indulgence.

The Internet can make news out of a picture of your dinner. It can wreck a Wiener, exalt a blubbering fan girl – some say it elected Trump.

The aftermath of this election is different. Worlds of “correct” thinking and prediction became folly. Trump’s obvious tone deafness was mirrored by our “thought leaders”: polls, commentators, political scientists were completely deaf to over 50 million humans, sprinkled about enough states to garner 300 electoral votes.

The national angst of a lot of Hillary voters has been blasted to every cell phone with deep pain, anger and most distressing to me, grief.

The depth and nature of their expressions take on a personalization and emotional intensity that signal a loss of faith. The grieving of so many may snowball as it rolls down Facebook Mountain into an avalanche, but the feelings, and what motivated them are real.

Of course everyone wants to matter, and breast-beating works for that – as does judgmental piety or prejudice. While narcissism is always present in every internet act of uncontrolled pontification, here the swell of grief is based on a large order perception of tragedy.

“Fear” is a universal bonding platform that makes all things threatening. Tragedy usually begats one of two responses: despair in the now or faith in a better future. Despair has won for many, and faith is simply seen as folly. And that mirrors a large order slide into where we become faithless but empowered in emotional expression.

First and less important is the loss of faith in the Constitution. The Founders were excruciatingly clever in creating a freak-limiting format – even with one party governance. With more than a score of Amendments, the Constitution has proven it can accommodate losses of faith.

But what makes the expressions of grief, hopelessness, personal injury and tragic loss so disturbing to me is that it deeply confuses losing and loss.

Losing is the bad side of a calculation. Your team has lost, you lost a job, maybe a romance is lost: all have the ability for redemption or replacement.

Loss is permanent. It is a thing or human you valued gone, forever. Loss in this election could be the final crushing of the “Hope & Change” that rendered more votes than any other candidate in history (a voting level that indicts both of this year’s candidates.) Missing in all this sense of deep personal loss is the reality that there is another election in 4 years – not forever. I still count four year old underwear as “new”.

The deeply sad reality of so many, so publically, so inconsolably bereft, over a presidential election means a great deal more to me than as an obvious indictment of Internet Over Sharing Vanity Engorgement. This gut-wrenched mass of mourning have lost something beyond the election.

Humor is the first casualty of losing and loss. Jokes about death happen at the wake, not in the hospital, so I am sure that will return.

What seems skewed, in the largest vector I can perceive, is that many, if not most, in our culture have no backstops for the moment’s consequences. If something goes well – triumphs are screamed into the Internet ether. But there seems to be nothing under the feet of the bereft.

There has been a slow continuous loss of Faith in the last generation of Americans. Knowledge, and its offspring, technology, elevates humanity from the miseries of disease and oppression. But it’s empowering distractions push us to have faith in knowledge, versus Faith in what we cannot understand.

I know culturally we have absorbed Kubler-Ross/Kessler’s Five Stages of Grief. Here, the glimmer of Denial is overcome by 300 electoral votes – but is alive in a petition to invalidate the Electoral College. Anger is there, as it always has been in politics. Bargaining seems off the table. Depression is so prevalent that Acceptance is nowhere in sight.

So where does that leave us? Some are still grieving, but the entire culture is losing faith in institutions – and, more significantly, we are sliding into the loss in the Faith that passes all understanding. Instead we are skating upon an electronic web, with nothing below us. When what we want does not happen, or we are threatened, or tragedy strikes we are connected to each other – as are all the grieving Hillary supporters are now.

But absent Faith, connecting often only makes for pain greater in the multitude of group depression: private angst becomes public hopelessness with no underpinning purpose or foundation of hope.

We confuse losing, where events betray our hopes or remove barriers to fear, with loss where love is broken, where we are separated, forever from part of our lives. No one has died in the 2016 elections, but grief and mourning is filling the InterWebNets. If a greater Faith was there for more people (versus fewer and fewer) there would be less desperation, less focus on the pain of dashed expectations, less fear of potential consequences simply because God was there before, during and after every event in this world. For the faithful, anyway.

Atheists would say people are overcoming a mass delusion, that only measurable, verifiable reality has hope for each human, multiplied by our common sense of purpose and values.

But as this election shows, more and more humans do not have a central purpose other than survival and personal expression. There is little to believe in when the facts as we know them fail us – unless there is Faith in a purpose we cannot understand.

If facts were the source of all legitimate faith, Hillary Clinton would be our next president. But the same belief beyond evidence that projects a Donald Trump into the presidency for some also can give all of us the understanding that losing is not loss.

Before the election, almost everyone understood, really knew, that Hillary Clinton would, of course, be our next president. That faith in knowing was killed, and the resulting mourning, grieving and sense of loss has no context other than its own pain, absent some greater Faith that seems farther away with each day.

Adult Children

November 6, 2016

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I recently encountered 2 abiding conundrums: one, a cliche: “You are only as happy as your least happy child.” was felt when our sons experienced the inevitable vicissitudes of  being in their 20’s.  The second, harder to accept at 61, is that I am only as happy as my childhood allows me to be.

That childhood has become a meme. If you have watched Mad Men you know the Greatest Generation was good at 3 things: Saving the World, Making Babies and Drinking. Their largest product, the Baby Boom, grew to feel that they were the hope of the World’s Saviors: We Boomers all had the empowerment of our parents’ triumphs over the Depression and Hitler with none of the Survivor Guilt.

The Boomer combination of narcissism and dysfunctional upbringings created a huge groundswell of self-imbued redemption boondoggles. We saved the world too, but from sexism, homophobia, racism and limitations on lust. Oh, and Nixon.

But the “Me Generation” “finding ourselves,”, whether in yurts, MBA’s or Transcendental Meditation had some hard-edged realities beyond the obvious narcissism.

Lots of babies born in a wash of PTSD distracting alcohol has consequences. Millions of MidCentury children like me found themselves in circumstances both intimate and terrifying. The hard-and-fast sanctity of marriage and cast-in-place societal roles and protocols meant each family was its own country – sovereign and exclusive. The ravages of Greatest Generation near-death made perspectives beyond the trials of war and deprivation complicated. When the moral imposition of Prohibition simply failed due to its own impossible overreach the entire country was flooded with an emotional solvent – booze – at the height of the Depression.

Drinking in the wake of Prohibition’s Epic Fail had no limitations – no seat belts, no Surgeon General’s Warnings, no sense children were anything but “resilient”. I know this because my family had 3 “resilient” children, and a very successful father and enabling mother. He was never drunk Before 5pm, but almost always was After 6pm. He was an extremely smart, industrious, capable man – Before 5pm.  https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/extremity/

He was not a happy drunk. His early life was not easy, https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/final-solutions/ and its impacts were never examined enough to give my father enough perspective to modify the anger he showed to anyone that he felt deserved it – After 6pm. Being the youngest I saw my other siblings reduced to “failures” in raw and loud verbal assaults, https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/siblings/ and my mother called far worse – as loud as a human voice can be – usually after we went to bed – after 8.

Janet Woititz (in the photo above) wrote “Adult Children of Alcoholics” (a group coined ACOA) in 1983 https://www.amazon.com/Adult-Children-Alcoholics-Janet-Woititz/dp/1558741127. Hers was a startlingly obvious argument: extreme parental behaviors affect young children all the way into and through adulthood. But not too many paid attention to the book’s early presence. But with 100 million Boomers having grown up in the ethanol-infused MidCentury, the market found the book, and by 1986 it was on the NYTimes bestseller list.

I opened my office in 1987, my landlord referred me to a cleaning lady. She was in her mid-20’s, seemed a little sad around the eyes, and was a Wesleyan graduate. Being WASP, I did not pursue why a Wesleyan grad was cleaning offices. But we talked one Sunday afternoon as we toiled in the office alone.

I have no idea how it came up, but I noted my father was a very high-functioning alcoholic. She nodded, and said, “so were my parents”. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds and we both went back to work.

A week later, the Monday after her next cleaning Woititz’s book was on my desk, with a cassette of an electronic version of Pachobel’s Canon. Before the Death Threat of Middle Age made early AM workouts necessary I was always the first person into into my office. I had seen a synopsis of it in Time Magazine, but holding the book, and hearing the odd tones of mechanically rendered heartbreak on the office stereo, I silently cracked. My staff then arrived we went to work.

Like my Dad, I am high functioning.

Around turning 30, I was licensed as an architect, building our house, started my own practice, designing many things for many interesting people and writing a lot – all rotating around a life-saving marriage to a fellow high-functioning WASP. But despite all our resume check-off’s we both knew that the essence of life, for us, was having children.

Delaying the Prime Directive of Parenthood till mid-30’s to serve our Higher Functions, we had 2 healthy boys within 26 months. They were, as all babies are, perfect vessels waiting to be filled. Devotion to protecting their complete vulnerability from any threat, real or imagined, set my late 30’s old brain reeling.

Normally the parents of new parents are the gateway to perspective. But our parents were either dead, due to their MidCentury habits, or not very good sources of how to raise children given how they raised us.  https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/mother-confusion/

After the birth of our second son, with a fully running about 2 year old, my mind flashed on Woititz’s most essential truth, that children of alcoholics “guess at what normal is.”

In my arms were 2 children that had no other function in their lives other than to be protected. In every way. Every moment. And I realized, because of the two love sponges who had blessed our home with their invasion, I realized that I was broken. Not tragically, but fundamentally. In every tangible way I was completely protected by my parents: food, clothing shelter, education, things – all in great abundance, freely given. Unfortunately the receiver of gifts determines their value.

So, growing up, the inevitable After 6pm screaming anger rendered all those protections ironic. There were no tragic aspects in my family’s MidCentury lives, but every protection existed under the threat of the provider. Our lives in MidCentury Mad Men Westchester were either in anticipation of After 6pm, or Before 5pm planning for the After 6pm Events. Eggshells got crushed no matter how lightly tread upon, pins and needles drew blood: but more for my siblings and mother: I learned to avoid ire via performance.

But having gone into my late 30’s with two new babies, I found that I had no method for coping, or any way to understand the fact I did not always have to cope. Underneath extreme overcompensating helicoptering I was a 6 year old parent.

I came to see that while I was good at performing,  I had never, ever, lived without a sense that everything could become After 6pm – even years after my father’s death. Now. Like all those ACOA’s in Woititz’s book, each gift, blessed event, act of grace was received by someone who clearly had earned none of it, and in fact did not deserve any of it. And nothing achieved was much beyond forestalling the discovery of my own very failed state, perfectly preserved in a part of my brain that will always be living in After 6pm.

My second conundrum was revealed when 3 fellow ACOA’s shared a brief moment several weeks ago. I was recently with a 75 year old and 40-something year old – like me, both fathers of wonderful children, both married to immensely lovely humans. Both had a childhood not dissimilar to mine. All 3 of us have had no tragedy, no health limitation, enough money – all 3 are “High Performing” – work, extracurricular and human achievements galore.

Basking in the glow of the 40-something year old’s exquisite 2 year-old running about our feet, we compared family notes. As we talked of booze and yelling in our pasts, the 75 year old, a dear friend, says to the 40-something year old who I barely knew: “30 years ago Duo gave me Janet Woititz’s  book” – the 40-something year old said “What book is that?” He was young enough that his awareness of his personal blindspots and tender bits did not need revelation: the ACOA reality is now just another part of the cultural miasma.

Then the 75 year old then said something to the 40-something year old that, once again, cracked me: “Duo told me, when I was your age, that he knew he would never get over it, and neither would I. Ever. And he was right.” High Functioners that we are, we all knew that “not getting over it” just meant that our 6-year old mind was never going away. Ever.

You are only as happy as your unhappiest childhood, but you can know that you are loved – you might not feel lovable, ever, but Love is as real as the night terrors I have most every time I sleep. I know, upon awakening that any love I have is God’s Grace, and that I have nothing to do with it: and that’s probably why I can, mostly, accept it.

 

 

 

 

 

“momentum”

October 26, 2016

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What is momentum?

Soon, we will all hear pundits and political scientists declare that this or that candidate, policy, party or demographic has “momentum”. Its a tidal surge of inevitability, a groundswell of overwhelming support: it is uniquely human. Animals can stampede, but that is in fear, fish can school, birds can flock – but that is instinct. Momentum is often expressed as a fact when it’s merely desired – like the long gone “Joe-mentum” of President Lieberman’s campaign.

Momentum is often cited in sports commentary when the “analysts” have no clue as to why any given team is succeeding. I have sat in scores of stadia with my fellow fans hearing “momentum” cited as the key to either the favored team’s success or their opposition’s ability to control the game.

Ignorance abhors a vacuum -so reasons must be found for things like momentum. But like gravity, momentum is felt, but it’s reasons are elusive. One son felt it during a pick up performance of Beethoven’s 7th at his conservatory https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wq9Gu5N42HQ . The other son felt it during his last game when his team went on a 35-0 run against a favored opponent in a Division 3 bowl game https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CiPpoG6SteI.

I was reminded of momentum’s mystical powers when a Yale coach told me how Underdog Yale came out against Big Dog Penn last Friday with a burst of momentum, only to see that bubble burst with a critical fumble and 42 points followed the transfer of said momentum to Penn. If momentum was quantifiable, able to be understood or defined it could be replicated at will, versus found, and lost, by miraculous spontaneity.

You could say Western organized religion has had 2,000 years of momentum. Huge waves of evangelism followed tiny origins in Christianity. A guy preached for 3 years, got killed for it and now billions believe He was more than a man – with no videotape.

A few hundred followers became thousands – with no benefit to the believers until the cult of personality became a sweeping wave of momentum – to become billions. Now momentum in the 21st century seems to be shifting, in the First World, to something other than belief in God.

Jumping on the bandwagon are the equivalent of sports analysts who trying to suss out how religion has lost its Big Mo. Michael Paulkovich has written “The Fable of Christ” that “proves” the nonexistence of Jesus. http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/paulkovich.html Biblical historian Joseph Atwill is convinced that Jesus was a fiction created by dovetailing to the writings on a Roman Caesar – Messiah via plagiarism….http://www.corespirit.com/ancient-confession-found-invented-jesus-christ/

I find the deciphering or devining of “momentum” and it’s loss by those who have never experienced it to be a lazy exercise: it would be as if we stopped trying to understand the reason gravity exists because we can measure it to a level sufficient to predict its effects and use it. Momentum may be inexplicable, but ascribing reasons for it based on superficial observation is about as thoughtful as racial prejudice.

Musicians nor football players understand momentum either, but some have felt it, versus observed it. That may be insufficient to us who have not felt it so intensely. We have all felt inspiration, we have all been in love. Individual devotions are all around us. I had a great game in a 21-0 loss in 1972 – but the sweep of humans acting in uncoordinated but completely unified concert, with nothing but common purpose to focus the effort has eluded me.

I do see it sometimes, the shift from doing a job on the field or concert hall to being a wave of humans in unison, but momentum is not a “reason” – momentum is a result. Belief in God is not reasoned. It’s undeniable. Belief in sacrifice is not logical, but the momentum to faith has swept much of this planet for 2,000 years.

Those obsessed with fact-checking Jesus might as well fact check colors. Faith is as real as music: unnecessary, inexplicable but undeniable. Of course many base belief in tangibles: miracles, the poetry of the language, the human stories of the early faithful. Those are real too – until proven otherwise.

But if I had to justify believing that Franklin & Marshall would beat Delaware Valley 3 years ago, I could not, and neither could the team. They took the field and something happened. Bleacher Creatures all around me, having seen more games than me, declared, like Joe Lieberman, “We have the Big Mo!”.

But declaring a reason for belief was not on the minds of the F&M Diplomats that afternoon. No one sight reading Betthiven’s 7th at Jacobs School of Music 5 years ago thought about why it sounded near perfect – they were all just swept away by it.

Finding that momentum is unjustified did not work for Delaware Valley’s football team 3 years ago. They experienced to other side of it: like any number of warriors in untold battles, for some undefinable reason sometimes the strategies are insufficient to the tasks on the ground.

The tasks for Paulkovich at Atwill are easy to define: invalidate an ancient set of facts that sprung a world wide sea change of belief: but the idea that a strategic analysis overcomes the facts on the ground of overwhelming personal transformations – whether by musicians, football players or the faithful is like telling those those players they should not be playing that well.

Momentum is felt first, rationalized later. Just like Faith.

Books & Homes

October 23, 2016

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LISTEN TO A GREAT HOUR: https://soundcloud.com/wpkn895/home-page-duo-dickinson-w-rod-richardson

Everyone lives somewhere. Everyone is in a place they have feelings about: their home. Love. Hate. Hope. Fear. Our homes should be a point a pride, but many people feel let down about where they live, especially in a down economic time, where there are fewer choices. Some homes are so dysfunctional that they become a symbol of failure and impotence – the place that should be safe harbor can become an ongoing struggle to pay for, keep together or ultimately have any control over.

Into this place of dream homes and nightmares, architects have stepped into the fantasies, missed opportunities, and aspirations of those desperately seeking their place to call home – not just as designers, but as writers: offering up their work, and others’, in books that help demystify, inspire and offer a depth of insight no HOUZZ webpage can hope to provide. In studio for this show was Peter Chapman, Executive Editor at Taunton Press. Peter has been my editor for 2 books, and has been the editor for uncounted books on homes, home design and the techniques of building homes. He was also the editor of books on homes written by the two architects who are guests on the show.

Dale Mulfinger is the founding partner at SALA Architects http://salaarc.com in Minneapolis, Minnesota – since 1983 the firm has created award-winning projects, mostly homes, but Dale has produced remarkable best-selling books on Cabins as homes and local legendary architect Edwin Lundie.

Jeremiah Eck is the founding Principle of Eck MacNeeley Architects http://www.eckmacneely.com from Boston. Jeremiah has lectured extensively on home design at the Harvard GSD summer program and his books on architecture are both beautiful and touchstones for architects and homeowners.