In The Phenomenon of Life, vol. 1: The Nature of Order, Christopher Alexander asks, “Can we find any recurrent geometrical structural features whose presence in things correlates with their degree of life?”
He identifies fifteen features that appear again and again in things which have “life”–whether that thing is a sketch by an Impressionist, a wooden door, a Norwegian storehouse, a Japanese tea bowl, the Golden Gate Bridge. Or natural things, like a giraffe’s coat, palm fronds, a spider’s web, Himalayan foothills, muscle fiber.
It’s not always easy to understand, but just looking at all the illustrations is a wonderful exercise. I’m a word person, not a visual person, and this book really did a lot to help me understand how to look at objects.
I love schemes like this, that seek to identify the different elements of very complex wholes. I love taxonomy–and dividing people into different categories–and lists of all sorts.
“I believe, then, that the characteristic or moral elements of Gothic are the following, placed in the order of their importance:
I don’t really know what Ruskin is talking about. But just this set of ideas, put together, makes my mind race.
How about you? Does Alexander’s scheme ring true for you? Do you have similar lists that you love?
I had a great time seeing my friend Adam Gilbert. If you've ever wanted to make your life healthier--by eating better or exercising better--check out his program on My Body Tutor--"no more excuses."
Are you interested in launching a group for people doing happiness projects together? These groups have sprung up all over the world, and one of my favorite things on my book tour was to meet some of the groups. Intrigued? Email me, and I'll send you the "starter kit." Read more here.