How much built is too much for the natural? How much before it’s unsustainable, even destructive in a permanent way? I don’t know, but I think the answer’s in the rearview mirror.
Still, I’m not about to say that all built things are bad. There are amazing things too.
the deck and menu and beer taps at Katy Downs on Commencement Bay
the towers that a kid stacks with Qwirkle tiles or Superstructs
the Space Needle
conspiracy theories (which are an insult to the word “built” and the word “theories”)
new apartment globs where the rent for 1-bedrooms starts at $1,400
and that’s just a start
A poem, of course, is also built no matter what Percy Shelley said about Winds of Spiritus and Inspiration. He’s not the best writer in the Shelley family anyway (although “Ozymandias” was right on target, and that poem never gets old). No, the best writer in their household was Mary. She wrote figure-8s around him, and around me too; I couldn’t write Frankenstein either. But I did write this parable recently:
The Wizard and the Carpenter
A man was building a house.
He’d fired the bricks and quarried the stone.
He’d even gone nights without sleeping,
weighing Lumber versus composite wood,
composites or bamboo? then finally decided on wood: It seemed
There was a Master Glazier at the top of a mountain,
so he climbed it up through the ice-fog
where under ice-blue skies he learned the chi of window installation.
After he’d plumbed it, he’d roofed it
into geometric proofs against the weather,
turned wires into constellations,
room by room.
Then the doors lived easy on their hinges.
Then the floors were laid, then the furniture settled,
when somewhere a wizard pushed a button
and made his whole house disappear.
“Oops,” said the wizard,
and: “I’ve never seen that happen,”
and: “Normally no one would push that button,
not unless you requested it…
Well, somebody must’ve, and this isn’t my department,
they’re at lunch, they’re in a meeting, they’re
in a building hidden in the fourth dimension, so
contact them to initiate a Look-See because
no one can really look into this because
my phone is melting, there are
bandits here, I’ve been signaled
that a meteor’s about to disconnect me
so why don’t you just go ahead
and build another house.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“No. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Not an upbeat New Year’s kickstart, I guess—not unless your resolution is to think less highly of “apps” and “upgrades” and those VR blinders—but I really do mean to be hopeful. There are many good kinds of everyday building and, therefore, so much to celebrate: a snowman, for instance. Or a stack of dishes after dinner. Or even just a handful of CD cases: Alex the Astronaut kicking things off, and then The Kinks and James Brown next.