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The Lure of What You Cannot Have

September 8, 2020

When hormones kicked in, there was that person.

You were young, but not infantile, just not grown up. And she was was beautiful.

But impossible to even talk to.

The lure of heaven is that you are alive on earth. When you are unable to connect, you want connection. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

We are in a season of “Can’t.” This weekend, we are taking a legal trip to do what I do for my life’s work, and hoped to connect to a distant friend. But now his life’s mission meant that connection to others was not possible as the risks of COVID made it officially prohibited.

I cannot sing. Oh how I love singing.

My mother desperately wanted Ross Perot to be President.

But many architects are in extreme devotion to the impossibly extreme. Insanely expensive, fully impractical, unrelated to gravity, context or humanity – just exquisitely human in its impossibility. Or the Time Travelled to Perfect Replication of antiquity, completely in worship of what was, in complete disregard for today.

I know that the deeply religious in most anything – science, football, opera – and the allure (beyond its beauty) is its impossibility. Being a “fan” is not the devotion in some. Watching in suspension to appreciate what is before you is not devotion.

Intellectual creation of rational justification is only necessary if you cannot have what you love. I can not justify working all Labor Day Weekend on Tiny and Large Things that are trying to get built: no hearings, meetings, permit application – just what I do.

Doing and wanting are not exclusive, we created children, we had a stellar dinner Friday, there was church in church Sunday. By wanting and not being able to do has a grip on our perspective.

My mentor introduced the early 20’s me to somebody saying “He is in heat to design something.” True that. But having had thousands of things to help create in the 40 years since, now that desire is devotion. And entitlement. And jealousy. And failure.

What you can not have is a safe devotion. You cannot lose if you can not play. Fantasy Football offers playing without risk. Even the lowest playing any effort has failure.

But if failure happens in devotion to the impossible, is it still failure. Ross Perot was never possible. College football was never possible for me, despite the movie “Rudy”. So I did not fail trying to play in college.

Half of those who we enrolled in the best architecture school in America (mine in the 1970’s) did not get the degree they tried to train for. Were they failures – or was the school a failure for picking those who probably should not have been admitted?

We are filled with impossibilities in our lives: singing together, hugging, even shaking hands. They become hugely desired in their absence.

We now have an impossibility as President. Those who wanted an impossibility made it possible, now another impossibility looms in 7 weeks: re-election. Getting what you want is the essence of empowering. But we never know before we get it, that what we wanted is what we should have.

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