One of the interesting things here at Arcosanti is the continued interest in what it represents. Even though it is not clear to some what all the hoopla is about. My own view is that if we live in the past too much we run the risk of being nostalgic. For an organization that claims to be very concerned with the future of humanity that can be problematic.
Also the idea is why do people stay here? Is it for the views? The social mix of people who come here from all over the world? To build an Arcology as a solution to the problems facing humanity? To document and promote Paolo Soleri’s past glories? Is it for the architecture? Is it because many who stay here fear that they can’t (or possibly a more charitable views is that they don’t want to) survive out there in the real world?
We are a diverse mix of people and so there are many reasons why we are here.
Yet I think the challenge is not to be overcome by the pain of expectation and of what should be.
It has to do with the fact that it is sometimes not clear why Arcosanti is so special to people because we live it everyday and many times struggle with the idea of living amongst a group of people for such a long time without really acknowledging its a community.
Consider that for many years the prevailing “memetic jinjo” coming out of the mouths of Cosanti Foundation operatives was that “Arcosanti is not a community its a construction site.” It was jarring to me every time I heard that I had this vicerial reaction to that kind of thinking. For me it was a denial of the idea that to live well for any period of time among a group of people it cannot be anything other than a community and be graciously acknowledged as such.
Now we seem to have evolved past the need to remind people that the people living and devoting their lives to Arcosanti are not really a community of people. However, there is still lacking a real understanding of the unique conditions here and how to facilitate something meaningful at Arcosanti that improves the quality of life here.
I often say to people that the reason architecture inspires is not so much about the architect itself but about the shared memory of an experience in viewing inspirational architecture. Pierre Teilard de Chardin was a major early influence on Soleri. Chardin expressed some metaphysical views that were very similar to Carl Jung in relation to the idea that we do have an imprint on our world by developing rings of shared conscious experiences. It is through these experiences that we have intuitions and make what are called telepathic links with one another.
The challenge is of course that we do not really acknowledge this power flow through our lives. The idea is that there are cross-cutting influences in our lives and the power of the consumer culture and its ideological drivers are still great even here at Arcosanti.
Despite this or more precisely because of countervailing influences the Arcosanti metaphysical or metaphysics is denied. The idea of magic in our lives is denied and so the routine takes over to the point where it becomes stifling and even dismal. To acknowledge this reality is problematic because in society we are supposed to say everything is fine or at least OK (which of course is short for okey dokey).
So the problem with keeping an open mind in relation to community development is the premise that you can still have a real community while denying the idea of the role of spirit in creating and sustaining community. I mean something similar to what Jung and Chardin were talking about…That we though our spiritual essence are somehow sharing something important with each other as well as the planet and the universe on a more holistic and unconscious level. To deny this is to deny the very elemental elements of life and at a fundamental level to pretend a very basic life building block is not only unimportant but nonsensical.
So for me those who deny the spiritual essence of all things and our interrelationship with them is denying the very life force that sustains us. It is that we deny this life force that we become depressed, we are cut off from the link to the universe and to our fellow kindred spirits.
The result of the above is hardly surprising. When we are not holistic beings acknowledging on some level the completeness of what we are and what we are a part of in terms of the larger whole, productivity and effectiveness in our lives becomes distant like a mythological vision or dream. We can only wish for it, like we as children wish for Santa Claus to give us presents.
The reality is that without the spirit of community in our lives we descent into a darker world which is driven by shame, denial and pretending. We lie to ourselves and we lie to each other because we often don’t want to face the shame of what we are, what we have become. So we turn to drugs and addictive patterns of behavior to keep us complacent in the dismal and uninspiring realities of our where we are in the moments that we seek to get away from. But each moment is as dismal as the next and so much of our time is spent getting away from the memory of the now and the past and focusing on some unrealistic future vision.