Skip to content

The Props assist the House

March 11, 2023

16 of 40

The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter –
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life –
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness – then the scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul –
Emily Dickinson

An infamous architect, George Costanza, screamed “Worlds Collide!” when the compartmentalized constructions of a TV series life crashed into each other to make a good show.

I am an architect. I am an Episcopalian. Six years ago, I wrote in silence during Lent. For four years ago, I started using Emily Dickinson’s words as a prompt in that annual devotion.

Emily wrote 1,799 poems. I have written with about 170 of them. But this morning, stumbling to connect, I tripped over “One of the 10 Best Poems on Architecture”. Yes, one is by Emily Dickinson.

Who knew?

Building is but the extension of humans. No other making remakes itself every time. The beauty of the nest, hive, dam is wrought directly from the genome. Humans do that too, but our genome explodes the design.

Humans try to make things – invent, validate, project, justify, express. Buildings do that for us. Just like food, or dress, humans go beyond need to delight. The reason for delight, for beauty, is the stuff that God has given us.

When you are fully created, making nothing of your self before what you have been given does what the gift was given to do, it is very easy to forget that none of us made ourselves.

We were given everything.

“The Props” go as unseen as the foundation. The House explodes in “plank and nail” and we know that we are the carpenter that “Hath the perfected life”. In our building. In retrospect.

Without the things we are completely ignorant of, let alone responsible for – gravity, material, mind and, yes “Soul”, there is no House. There is just the rest of the world we have been given to see. We may each “support itself” by our scaffolding of education and justification, but our facility was not earned.

We want, I want, desperately, to be the carpenter of my house. But the props, the scaffolding, cannot be wished away. The can be removed, but they are still there. Although architects try, very hard, to forget them.

Even Frank Lloyd Wright, himself the focus of a very small religion worshipping his deity, acknowledged God: found by him in the excruciatingly beautiful Nature he lived to channel. “Nature” is a benign aesthetic perfection, easy to subordinate to. There is a different, harder, perfection, that demands understanding, versus worship.

2,000 years ago something happened. Humans were trying to build their House, and the props and scaffolding were wrecked. But that murder built the House that life could not.

Think about it. I do.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: