Tuesday, 28 July 2015

There was once a country where the craft of building was in a sorry state. In that country lived a man who had already perceived this in his youth, and thought it a great folly. He had therefore busied himself with travelling to many other countries and observing how they made buildings there. He thought long and hard, and made experimental trial, of why some methods made sound buildings of all sorts: houses, fortifications, bridges, dams, and other constructions also; but others could scarcely build a hut that would withstand the procession of a single year’s seasons.

Having throughly grasped the art and craft of sound building, he resolved that he would do whatever lay in his power to raise his country’s practice of architecture to the levels he had seen elsewhere. He sought even to surpass them, for he had learned that an art must always grow, that every thing that is known was once newly known, and that for every thing that has been discovered, another lies ready to be discovered.

He pondered how to bridge the gap he perceived between how things were and how he wished them to be. He knew that even a king’s decree did not have the power to turn his “should” into an “is”, and that a journey however long begins with a single step.

He began by writing down all that he knew, arranging it as a more coherent and comprehensive whole that any of the practitioners he had studied and conversed with had yet conceived. Having ordered these matters in his mind, he decided against putting out a book that those who needed would neither read nor understand. Instead he began to give talks in the public square, free for any who happened to pass by. Some came and left, and some stayed. Thus did he set about finding those who were able to understand what he had to give, and out of their number would emerge the few who could not only understand, but apply that understanding, and then pass it on as teachers themselves. For a true master is known by this: that people come to his students and ask, “Please teach us.” Fewer indeed were those who could add to his body of work, or remove from it that which they could prove unsound.

As time went on, he attracted a great following, although his admirers of latter days studied his teachings with little assiduity. They preferred to discuss building techniques with each other, often citing with reverence what he had taught, yet only perchance informed by it. But the best members of his school from time to time established their own schools in other places, and he himself withdrew from the meetings that he had founded, to further his work in other ways.

The school continued for many years afterwards, but its members became dissatisfied. “Something is missing,” they said. “Why does our Teacher no longer come here? Why do His greatest students neglect this place?” They did not perceive that the school had been founded with a certain intention, which was part of a larger enterprise, and that once that intention had been fulfilled, the real work would change and continue in another form.

Joppa Island, in the Blake’s Sea.

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