Tuesday, April 24, 2012

" ... more right than his neighbors ..."

"Moreover, any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already." 

Henry David Thoreau spoke these oft quoted words in a Concord Lyceum lecture on January 6th 1848.  This address was published in 1849 as "Resistance to Civil Government" and again in 1866 when the term "Civil Disobedience" (a term Thoreau may never have used) first surfaced. 

But how do you know you're right?

Ayn Rand had assertive thoughts about this question and in some senses extended elements of Thoreau's thesis. 

"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me."  Ayn Rand

 "There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil."  Ayn Rand

So it is with art and architecture both of which are interpreted and expressed subjectively and both of which swim in pools of rules. What's "right" in architecture is perhaps never as much an absolute as many would have one believe. Perhaps questions such as "What fits? What makes sense? What respects the past and opens gates to the future? What makes people feel welcomed? What's really new and exciting?" might be more appropriate than "what's/who's right."

The architect Howard Roark's (Gary Cooper) stirring speech in the Movie Fountainhead wraps itself around the conflict between public opinion and personal integrity and creative expression. It's worth revisiting for inspiration about standing up for what is "right."
Yet if everyone feels that they are more right than their neighbors and that they already constitute a majority of one, then what happens to progress and civil discourse and a collective evolution of concepts which assimilates material from the best of minds and ideas to create something new?

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