Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


I just attended my first charette. "Charette" is a French term for a meeting of the minds on architectural design issues. In this case, it was a meeting of all interested people at the Emerson Waldorf School to discuss what we're going to do with our beautiful wooded campus for the next twenty to fifty years.

It was an intersting process. Firstly, because the meeting was almost entirely about process. There were hardly any concrete decisions along the lines of "put this building here." Rather, it was strictly a philosophical and organizational discussion about how we make those decisions: what criteria do we use to evaluate a particular building plan? What formal process should we follow for making those decisions and then executing on them?

So what did we learn? Mostly, that making a new building happen is fiendishly complicated. A maze of poorly thought-out, poorly-documented county ordinances and rules, which are interpreted differently every day of the week, threaten to scuttle your plans at any moment. There is an eternal tension between the design ideals of the Waldorf pedagogy and the financial expediency of the moment: it seems like we can never afford to build exactly the building we would like to have. The immediate needs of the community are clamoring for a specific solution, and yet you know that whatever decision you make is going to have repercussions for the next fifty years. And getting enough consensus out of the community to make all these things happen is well-nigh impossible. It makes my ass tired just thinking about it.

I have decided that this is the ultimate test of leadership. There is probably enough vision, good will, volunteer labor, and money among the whole community to get these building projects done. But it is going to take some extraordinary leadership to coalesce all those forces into a plan that actually happens. All those things that used to sound like empty corporate phrases -- like vision, and shared values, and organizational will -- are suddenly very relevant. Building is one of the few things that ordinary people attempt to do that cannot possibly be done alone. And yet ordinary people do it, all the time.


Blogger Ed Sonny said...

I make it point to visit your blog eery once in a while. I like your writing and I like what you write about...random topics.

Thanks a lot...keep on writing. I will be there to read.

5:38 PM  

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