Friday, 15 November 2019

The Architecture of Happiness, by Alain de Botton

I am reading a fascinating book right now about how the spaces we surround ourselves with affect our spirits and how our values are reflected in architecture. The author asserts that we are attracted to architecture that reflects the characteristics or elements we don't have but want. People bored with routine and dullness and rigidity are drawn to the flamboyance of Rococo or Louis Quatorze; those seeking communion with the sublime are drawn to the upward-reaching Gothic, etc. You can tell what a person lacks by what they find beautiful or compelling.

I am drawn to Japanese and Scandinavian simplicity -- clean lines, smooth curves, uncluttered space, hushed colours, natural light and materials. Does that mean I'm lacking in calmness and serenity? Well, yes, probably. It's what I crave, so therefore I must not have it. You don't crave what you already have. So if I moved into such a space, would I become serene? Well, maybe at first. But sooner or later I'll have a bad day, clutter will start to creep in, laundry will go unfolded, a glass will be left on the counter, and papers will accumulate on the bare surfaces. Because I'm still me, you see.

What I need to do is clear the clutter of my mind, cultivate serenity here and now. Address the space and pace in which I currently live. Then maybe even my 1970s suburban side-split will start to take on those peaceful characteristics I want. I picture my current living room sparse as a monk's cell, with just some cushions to sit on...

No, I'd throw my back out trying to get up off them, and Brio would shed hair all over them, and the electronic vacuum would get hung up on them...

I need a house with no dog hair, no dust, no need for a vacuum...

But that would mean a house without people or pets, and that would be unbearable. So I guess my suburban side-split remains creatively chaotic and open and generous and undemanding.

Maybe its traits will rub off on me! Let's hope.

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