Architecture, Community & Identity: A Planetary Perspect

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Architecture, Community & Identity: A Planetary Perspect

Postby RonPrice » Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:24 am

Being a part of the community is not simply a matter of learning new skills, new attitudes and new values, but also of fielding new calls for identity construction. This understanding of identity suggests that people enact and negotiate identities in the world over time. For identity is dynamic and it is something that is presented and re-presented, constructed and reconstructed in interaction. And like the tension in violin strings which are the basis of musical harmony, life in community also possesses a tension with which we must play in harmony. Of course, this is not always so and it is certainly not always easy. Often only noise is produced and interpersonal tension. This is true when one writes, when one talks and when one lives and works in community.

The individual experience of power derives from belonging, but it also derives from exercising control over what we belong to, what we participate in, what we read, indeed, an entire panoply and pageantry of activity. Each individual is heterogeneously made up of various competing discourses, often in conflict and virtually always possessed of contradictory scripts. Our consciousness is anything but unified. In many ways wholeness or integration is not so much a goal as a battle, at least some kind of perpetual balancing act of dealing with unstable forces, forces which we must try to reconcile or they will tear at our psyches. This tearing is often so subtle, so pervasive and so continuous that we come to accept it as normal and hardly notice it--and if we notice it, we have trouble dealing with it. It's like a noise in the background which goes on and on and on.

These unstable forces may also cause us to withdraw and, like a planet slipping from orbit and following the dictates of its own centrifugal momentum, become ultimately so remote from the magnetic attraction of the sun that it flies irretrievably into remoteness. Some might call this tension, interpersonal ineffectiveness, mental fatigue: there are many words for it. This can happen to both individuals and societies. Inner conflict is not so much a disorder as it is the first law of human psychic life and is part of that principle of polarity at the centre of life.

The Australian critic and raconteur Clive James made a pertinent point in this connection when he compered an ABC FM Radio program about Australian orchestras in concert. He said that large countries like Australia and the USA don't have identities. They are too diverse. I think the same is true about individuals. They are also diverse over a lifetime to have a single identity.

What I say below about my books, my writing and the Baha'i community I have been part of for over half a century, applies equally to architecture and architects in/from a planetary persepctive. There is now a great wealth of literature available to the Baha’i community, both in-house literature and the burgeoning material now available in the marketplace. My book(indeed anyone's literary product) occupies a small place, possesses no particular authority and competes for a place, for space, with a print and electronic media industry of massive proportions. In order to survive and do well in most of the print and electronic media a writer, an architect, indeed a host of other professions and roles, must develop the ability to put things simply and effectively, in a manner that everyone can understand.

Such a writer often has maybe a minute and a half to two minutes if he is talking on the TV, if he or she is to impress a potential client, to explain a complex subject in a series of short verbal expositions or visual impressions if he is involved in an interview; even a book, if it is to find a large readership in the mass circulation market, must be as simple as possible.

Many academics and intellectuals are so steeped in academic jargon that they are unable to simplify their material. I hope my book is not an example of this academic problem, the problem of someone who could not pull off the simplification process. I’m afraid simplicity and brevity are not marks of my literary style. So, perhaps, I will fail here. Time will tell.

I knew of a senior academic who was asked to appear on a local TV station. She showed up with six or seven books and they had little pieces of paper stuck in the books for purposes of quotation. The whole interview was over in less than two minutes; she never read any of her quotations and she was frustrated that she just couldn’t make her points. She didn’t understand that if you’re going to play in the media ballpark, you have to play by their rules, not your own. I like to think that this book, this autobiography, has allowed me to have my six books and their quotations and that the role of this book does not include a two minute TV summary or an interview of ten minutes on an arts program. On the other hand, I could probably write a ten second autobiographical-ad grab, summarize what I’m all about in one or two minutes and be interviewed for any appropriate length of time. Maybe it will never happen before I die.

There are many different kinds of self-referential writing. I have incorporated some of them in what is for me a surprisingly large work invoking Whitman's "I am large, I contain multitudes,” as an appropriate presiding spirit for the genre. Whatever largeness I claim to possess, it is the same largeness we all possess in relation to ourselves. We all must live in our own skins for all our days and the sense of our largeness--or our smallness for that matter--is a result of our bodily manifestation, our physical proximity to self. In the multitude of methods and genres of studies of Baha’i history and experience, teachings and organization, autobiography is either tentatively acknowledged, invoked by negation or simply passed over in silence. It is one genre that is, for the most part, conspicuous by its absence from any bibliography. This has begun to change in the last decade or two. This piece of writing is part of that change.

The mechanics of constructing the past, my past, my real historical memories and contemporary, homoeostatic dynamics of the Baha’i community are closely intertwined in the formation and ongoing formation of the metanarrative that is Baha’i history. This is inevitable. For history’s first historian, Herodotus, there were no official versions. What mattered to this Greek historian was the local nature of his information, in all its complexity. Some local, some idea of the past of a polis was a shared possession, rooted in cult and a complex ongoing tradition. For me, on the other hand, there is an official, a written history and it is this history which matters. What also matters, although in quite a different sense, is the local, complex, ongoing, nature of my information, the personal, the complex, the individual, the local, story. Much of my poetry in this autobiography has a similar emphasis to Homer's and the poetry of many another poet in the sense that it is about: "the poetry of the past." I use poetry to help me navigate the labyrinth of personal connections, -isms, and the historical nexuses which often seem too complicated for me to find my way through. I hope readers find here a lucidity that helps them cope with the complexity they find in both their community and their personal life.

I have probably gone on at too much of a tangent here...and for that I apologize and so I will bring my wandering pen to an end at this point.-Ron Price, Tasmania :arrow:
RonPrice
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Thu Oct 28, 2004 12:56 am
Location: George Town Tasmania Australia

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