Enlightened busyness, not escape

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Iris path at a shrine garden in Nara, Japan

Shopping arcade in Nara, Japan

Benedikt and Cline point to those experiences where we are pulled out of mazy wanderings and into confrontation with the sensuous and thick materiality of things, the earth, with our busy values and patterns of life, and with the once-only-here-now of our own mortality.

But these experiences do not sum up reality; they offer striking access to the very happening of a reality that has other dimensions within a complex and mediated process that is more than the here and now. Encountering the once and here now materiality of this tree or building or tea cup is not the same as encountering the full mediations and interweavings of the ecology, the economy, and social connections that also are the building. The tensions and complexities of our life are part of what is in the moment. They are not to be put aside but held lightly within a spaciousness that exceeds them. We have to find a way to allow spacious awareness and non-attachment to pervade a networked life with media and virtual reality.

A "retreat and encounter" strategy can become elitist; it may not address enough people where they are. It could be a long wait for architects and planners to be converted to Benedikt's design practice that grounds us in mortal materiality. He is right in pointing at vernacular buildings as often achieving this, though we might consider some of the the professionalized work of, for instance, Aalto, Ando, Kahn, or Moneo in this regard.