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June 27, 2020

Pedestals are what humans make to put what is above us. The icon set there is focal, if not reality. Reality, it turns out, is complex.

Humans want many things, but they are often in conflict. Generations after those who fought the Civil War fought it, those who did not fight it made pedestals for those who did, to create icons. As Italian immigrants to America missed the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria by 400 years, they made pedestals to who they felt embodied their own American Heroism.

History is not what we make it, it is what it is. Like gravity, simulating a reality with a cantilever that appears effortless just handles the same weight as a column would at the end of it. History is not changed by making pedestals or removing sculptures from them. History is just there. Just some choose not to address parts of it that are too painful, or made up.

Increasingly we either have naked pedestals or removed sculptures. Everyone wants safety, but everyone also wants freedom, too. Everyone wants justice, but everyone wants protection as well. We want to embody our best selves but can not deny our worst fears. We want to control, but in the end, our end, we have zero control.

I try to make things that have what life gives us, not just the parts we can control. Flat roofs simply leak – so are they roofs? But if a pitched roof is rubber stamped from all the other roofs everywhere around it, is it thoughtless? Thoughtful pitched roofs are hard: to express the compass, the weather, wind and water, and decades of extreme wear, roofs have unending excuses to justify leaks or dumbing down to become what has been before, elsewhere.

Why can’t roofs be both safety of use and freedom of expression?

Why do we need pedestals of self justification to support our rationales? Pain is part of history, as is joy. Being human is the opposite of being perfect. To be human is the essence of adaptation in response to failure. Why hold anything up to a standard of the perfect and distort what our pedestals venerate?

History is not composed it just is.

History is the deeply flawed, not excused, not reinvented – history just is. Fallingwater is a wonderfully expressive building, but it leaks and sags, because it pretends that water and cantilevers will not feel the effects of gravity. All those pedestal toppers, like the perfect bridal couples atop wedding cakes, are, at best, hopes, not the complicated, misunderstood, often painfully flawed people that they represent.

But we want perfection.

We want leakless flat roofs, cantilevers without gravity. We want Fallingwater.

But it leaks and sags. What is left are our pedestals, our feet of clay, our recognition of the unavoidable gravity of history that makes either posing righteousness or retrospective righteousness telling partial truths.

Because we cannot eliminate what we feel is not safe, nor can we assume freedom is only ours and nobody else’s.

It’s complicated.
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