Wednesday, July 15, 2015


It is perhaps when our lives are most problematic that we are likely to be most receptive to beautiful things. Our downhearted moments provide architecture and art with their best openings, for it is at such times that our hunger for their ideal qualities will be at its height. It is not those creatures with well-organised, uncluttered minds who will be most moved by the sight of a clean and empty room in which sunlight washes over a generous expanse of concrete and wood nor will it be the man with every confidence that his affairs are in order who will crave to live under--and perhaps even shed a tear over--the ceilings of a Robert Adam townhouse. p. 150

In 1900 the Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki travelled to England and there noted, with some surprise, how few of the things he found beautiful stirred the locals: 'I was once laughed at because I invited someone for a snow-viewing. At another time I described how deeply the feelings of Japanese are affected by the moon, and my listeners were only puzzled...I was invited to Scotland to stay at a palatial house. One day, when the master and I took a walk in the garden, I noted that the paths between the rows of trees were all thickly covered with moss. I offered a compliment, saying that these paths had magnificently acquired a look of age. Whereupon my host replied that he soon intended to get a gardener to scrape all this moss away." pp. 261-262.

--Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness


1 comment:

  1. I saw this post yesterday and didn't have time to respond. I see no one has commented yet, so here goes.

    I notice that when during a crisis, when I am filled with intense anxiety, fear, or other negative impulse, that's when I feel most separated from all that is orderly, beautiful, or "correct". I long for the security of straight lines, for things in their place, for cleanliness and care. I don't know what a Robert Adam ceiling is, but I do know that fears and anxieties make me crave simplicity in my surroundings. I fear disorder in my house so I start decluttering in a feeble attempt to bring order, even it's just straightening the chairs at the table.

    Sometimes when I drive around during those times of trouble and see ordered, lovely homes, with pretty gardens and things in their place, I feel alienated from what I imagine is the possibility of a peaceful life.

    I guess that's all I seek - not perfection, but peace in my surroundings. Thanks for such a resonant post.

    NY Mom


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