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March 27, 2018


I was in a room of architects yesterday.

These are the architects who have done enough, then cared enough, to do enough more to seek a letter: “F” – Fellow. It is important for those who care, but only those who care.

I cared enough to do this task last year, at the request of other architects on the committee I am now on, and now talk where I once listened. They spoke of becoming a Fellow as a way to assess why you are an architect, have done something hard, with enough to show for it, that strangers, who are Fellows, might agree to give you that letter.

That cause and effect struck me.

The desire to be mired in, with the others around you, in the things you care about seeks recognition, but maybe, inevitably, forces you deal with why you sought so much.

When asked a few years ago, I was 60. I had only been in the AIA (which does this) for just the decade that allows you to try. I did not think of it as anything but another competition, which I do enter, and lose more often than win.

But soon I knew, that at 60, and 30 years on my own, and 40 years designing things, maybe I could learn something.

I learned how much I failed in all of this.

Of course I have built, written, done and said enough that I cannot in any postured feigned humility say I am a failure in this one place.

But in gathering the built, spoken, written, done things of my life I saw what I had not done.

It is Holy Week for some of us. A time about thinking about 2,000 years ago. Even the hardest studies know we do not know much, but not much is known about anything then, now. Words, mostly written scores of years later, rituals, but one undeniable fact: a guy was killed by the state.

I am guessing in this week, the laud of his followers totally into him, the hatred of others, then the imprisonment and torture, Jesus had to think about what the hell he had been doing the last few years and what had gone on the 30 years before that.

Break points force us to think. Birth, death, graduation, marriage are not Facebook Selfie Opportunities, they are pivots, just like getting the “F” after an acronym “AIA” that I mostly never use.

So I meet today to look at a place for a homeless housing shelter with people who used me to vet another place closely enough that I spent perhaps $10K getting ready to apply for a grant that they never should have applied for in the first place. I should have forced the issue, before I put the work in 7 years ago, but time was short, I had the staff, and…no. I failed.

But I am with them again.

2,000 years ago most everyone thought the bad place they were in would miraculously flip into the Biblically promised Rapture, when justice made the weak anointed and the powerful punished.

But that did not happen then either.

But as it turned out last year, I did become a Fellow. It has meant nothing to my career. But I did look at my life because of its offer. I now see those around the table with me at the Fellows meeting and see a couple of hundred years trying to make things better where we have control.

Now, in silence, I think of 2,000 years ago when control could not happen for most, because it was absolute for others. But no one can create a Rapture. No one can simply “do” a life either.

Life is given, to all of us, even the Fellows, even Jesus. I forget that life is not a “given”, not a reasonable expectation, or a just reward, like being a Fellow. In the hardest insight of a transactional life, I realize, most every day, that I have earned nothing beyond things like the letter ‘F”.

But I still know I fail, every day, especially in Lent.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 27, 2018 9:01 am

    I looked at my life as a function of turning 60. Didn’t need the old boys club to spark that. Also not renewing my AIA membership this year, no longer interested in paying for that worthless “blessing”.

  2. August 1, 2018 9:15 am

    it is a conundrum: painted by others’ brush, or simply walk away: I kinda did both – we both have, you after membership, me before…

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