Friday, March 12, 2010

A Room With No View, or Praising God in a Box.

[It's taken about a week to work on this...]

So the Oscars were last night (what was up with Zac Efron's hair?), and honestly, I watched it because it was slightly better than all the other drivel that was being broadcast at the same time. I wonder if the execs in the higher echelons of television have decided not to care about quality of programming, since we don't clearly. The same ratings exist now with worthless "reality" programming than the quality shows that were on the air not even a decade ago. Since "reality" is much cheaper, why not? And on most channels, 3 minutes of programming is followed by 3 minutes of commercials, with the result being that I have forgotten what I was watching, and thus, wasted 6 minutes of my life. But I am off track for what I really wanted to talk about.

I am curious why, when people build structures to live their lives in, they often construct them in manners totally opposite to their purpose. When I went to church, some years ago, the Baptist church I attended had been constructed many years before, added onto, and consisted of many staircases, small rooms, winding hallways, so much so that you could easily get lost going wherever your goal was. The rooms were small, ill lit by windows, and contained uncomfortable chairs and an hvac system that sometimes barely worked, keeping you too cold or too hot. Going to a place every weekend where you were lost, cold/hot, and uncomfortable, is hardly a way to spend a Sunday morning talking about faith, philosophy (which is what they should have been discussing), and Eternal salvation. I would much rather have spent the day talking about such things outside, under a tree, in the places where God is present. I would have rather kept notes on a slate made of wood and stone, and sat on the ground or an old tree stump, than in the rooms where we sat, much like chickens in a coup or cows in a stall. If a church building is to be about God's word, let it be built openly, where the vaulted roofs and the bright, plain windows would let the light shine in, and let prayers and praises float out into the heavens. Have the small rooms contain places for individual study, with comfortable chairs, and the lines of the roofs slanting up at angles to eternity. Man was not meant to worship in a box.

Nor was he meant to work in one either. Take how corporations make the buildings that they work in. The laborers sit in tiny cubicles, taking orders and mindlessly slugging away at their desks, dreaming about their calendars of Hawaii or whatever screen saver is currently showing pictures of paradises unknown. The windows on their world are unobtainable, unreachable, except for the pixels on the screen. They do not see the outside world, where the results of their labors are felt. There is no outward goal, only the struggles of what they do, day in and day out. The CEO might have windows in his corner office, overlooking the fountain and the forests outside, or overlooking the mighty cities that are the results of their success. Would that everyone could have an office that overlooked New York City, or Atlanta, to see the magnificence of what human beings can accomplish, when their dreams are realized through hard work and prevalence. Suddenly the minor bounces in the stock market don't seem so bad. The future, the window for which everyone peers outside at the unknown, is brighter, when the present is gazed at for what it is. But no one looks up to the heavens anymore, to the Empire State Building, to the complex construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, or of the Peachtree Tower (which my dad helped design the sprinkler system.). Instead, they see the ground, with their head held low, looking out for the cracks in the sidewalk, the mud on the streets. How can you look down and still look forward at the same time?

Corporations don't make their employees work "outside the box," literally, they are working inside them. Look at the plans for Google Inc., and their headquarters, and you will see the many windows (pun intended) and the open places, in which they work. Tell me they are not successful, when they can take a photograph of every square mile of the Earth, and allow us to travel along those paths and peek into every nook and cranny of our planet. How marvelous! You should try walking along the highway going from Western Canada to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and into Alaska. Such peace and tranquility, such openness of space. Such potential of creating a world where man and Earth can co-exist and thrive together, bringing exhalation to man and God alike.

If you ask me where I would want to live, I would describe for you a cabin located off of highway 212, and Lake Sinclair. A quaint fishing log structure, with maybe one or two rooms, a kitchen, and an overhang for parking the car under. That, and if there was a T1 line to the internet (because I am living in 2010 and not the 1860's, as Thoreau did), I would be all set. Or perhaps in a studio apartment overlooking the Porterdale waterfalls on the Yellow River, atop the Mill. But that's my love of old buildings. The reason I love that building is the tall, open ceilings and the large windows overlooking the river. I would enjoy that.

If you ask me the least favorite place I would want to live, I would tell you the old Napier Hall at Georgia College in Milledgeville. Quite possibly, in my opinion, the worst piece of architecture ever built on Earth. It would be more suitable for prisoners, who would never see the outside of the world again, than college students who are trying to expand their minds beyond the microcosms they live in. It was a box of stairs, small rooms, musty odors, and nothing that signifies the freedom a college student feels when he or she leaves home. Absolutely disgusting. And the Earth breathed a sigh of relief when it was torn down some years ago.

Many years ago, when I was in high school, we'd all rush away from those cement block prisons on unairconditioned cheese wagons to the relative freedom of our neighborhoods. Why they couldn't build public schools with a little more reflection of the growth that was expected inside I don't know. Heritage High School had, for years, these windows in each outer classroom that had been halfway painted over so that only a little light comes in, but you couldn't see anything outside. And the inside classrooms were just boxes which could have been Gas Chambers for all the comfort they gave. Today classrooms are made a little better, with some exceptions. If I were to teach someplace now, just based on Architecture, I'd go to Union Grove High School in Henry County, Georgia. Brilliantly designed, with clear light streaming into the wide hallways (Hall C at Heritage was so narrow, you just wanted to take a steamroller between classes and get rid of the people lounging around and totally blocking the arteries of the school.), and a cool round entryway with the gym in the center of the school with the rest expanding from the atrium next to the offices. Great style and function!

But I digress. During the summertime, after we've slaved away in these buildings, I'd go outside, hoping to find someone to play with, away from these boxes we call homes. But there'd be no one out. Everyone would be inside, playing their Playstations and watching TV, when the weather was nice and warm and people could be out playing and enjoying life. It's like I've said before, I've always yearned for the days before there were all the electronic distractions, when kids would go out after their chores were done and stay outside all day until supper was ready. The nostalgic times probably never existed the way they are painted, but the stereotype must have had some truth to it. Those times are long gone, and part of me wishes that some cyber-attack would destroy all these gadgets, these artificial windows into pseudo-worlds, so that we would all have to go outside and play again in the parks and streets. But the swings remain empty, the slides vacant, the local swimming holes become homes for the frogs and fishes, but no kids swinging out on ropes and jumping into icy water.
I'm gonna post this part of the blog and finish it later... honestly, on the days I've had off, I've done my grandmother's taxes and then spent the rest of the time trying to explain to her how I did them. I'm tired, and want to sleep.

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