Dearest Ralph Waldo Emerson,
I write to you through the gaping gulf of time, as your thoughts have bridged this gap and touched my soul. As you yourself wrote, “There is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had well-nigh thought and said.”
This you wrote in 1837 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, yet here I am, one hundred and eighty four years later, worlds away, a female architect in the high tech heart of the Middle East, I read your words and identify.
Dear Mr. Emerson, you wrote of the state of society in your day, in which its members are all amputated bits of man, but never a whole man. You recalled various professions and how in each one, man metamorphoses into things, rather than a thinking professional. The priest becomes a form, the lawyer a statute book, the mechanic a machine, etc.
The situation has worsened. In today’s world in which technology and science are moving at light speed, and are at the forefront of society, man has become even more disconnected from the wider world than ever before, in spite of – simultaneously – being more aware of the world and its minutiae than ever before. My brother, an electric engineer at a top, behemoth high tech company sits all day manipulating microchips at a scale of one to one hundred nanometers (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter). This is mind boggling.
Working at a much larger, ganglier and less impressive scale of centimeters and meters, I have worked in architectural firms who actively seek to belittle and narrowly focus each architect to specialize in one specific area, so as to render the firm more efficient and waste less time in training all the architects in all aspects of their profession. In this way the firm becomes home to many “walking monsters,” a good finger there (fire regulations expert), an elbow (residential planning), a foot (structural expert), a stomach (draftsperson) but never a man, nor an architect.
However, there are those that acknowledge the advantage to Man Thinking, or to the architect who is able to dabble in all parts of his/her profession, so as to give and be a more whole, wholesome being/architect/person with a wide view to the world, as opposed to having just a narrow, amputated view. I am now in such a place, where value is place upon each architect, each person, to actively know, think, be, create. All this in the most wide, unpredictable, original and individual way possible.
While you, dearest Emerson, spoke to The American Scholar, I hear your voice speaking to The Universal Architect, The Global Man and Woman of today’s world, in 2021.
You are right. It is most disgraceful to be predictable, to be part of an un-thinking mass, to copy-paste! Being human is Thinking, Creating, Yielding that peculiar but unique fruit which is just ours to bear on that specific odd plot of land which begs real thought, original planning and not more of the same…
Thank you, Mr. Emerson, for this reminder.
Architect at Yoma Architects and student of English Literature at Bar Ilan University, Israel.