Monday, June 20, 2011


I have described this very ordinary but intensely living quality of buildings and places in the first few chapters of THE TIMELESS WAY OF BUILDING. This quality includes an overall sense of functional liberation and free inner spirit. It makes us feel comfortable. Above all it makes us feel alive when we experience it. I add pictures of a few examples here, so that we have an image in mind of what this “ordinary” life is all about, both what it really means and what it looks like, as a structure when it occurs. Like biological life, it has a typical appearance. It is rather rough, not manicured. It is comfortable, rough around the edges, smooth as if it has been rubbed together. This kind of life is the ordinary life which is not connected to high art or fashion. It has nothing to do with images. It occurs most deeply when things are simply going well, when we are having a good time, or when we are experiencing joy or sorrow – when we experience the real.

The freedom which arises when life is at its most spiritual, and also most ordinary, arises just when we are “drunk in God,” as the Sufis say – most blithe and most unfettered. Under these circumstances, we are free of our concepts, able to react directly to the circumstance we encounter, and least constrained by affectations, concepts and ideas. This is the central teaching of Zen and all mystical religions. It is also the condition in which we are able to see the wholeness which exists around us, feel it directly, and respond to it. The association with bars is not entirely silly. Drunkedness, no doubt evil itself at times, also releases our ability to see the truth more clearly. The Romans said in vino veritas. When we have some loss of inhibition, our freedom to act and react is often truly increased. 

Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order, Book 1 - The Phenomenon of Life, p.p. 37-38.

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