Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anxious to be Perpetuated

Dear Longing to be Stirred,

My dear, loving reader.  Everyday, they are writing books for you.  Won't you read one I know you'll like?  Not long ago, I read a copy of a book printed in 1902.  Let's pause to let that number resonate.


The book was from the library- can you imagine how many readers had reverently turned each feathery, burnished page?  The corners were worn to near transparent velvet.  The beautiful paper, darkening to ochre at the edges, had a soft laid pattern.  If there were but 4 readers a year, that makes 444 readers.  I joined the other readers, across time.  The privilege was palpable.

The book was written in 1831.  Let's repeat that number, too.


It was set in, and the story began, in 1482.  Shall we?


It is about a building that is celebrating its 850th anniversary. 


Are you ready yet to rush to your library?  To be a part of this astounding and interwoven arc of time?  Let me attempt to further entrance you, by giving you a list of chapters that form a poem all their own:

An impartial glance at the ancient magistracy
The rat-hole
The story of a wheaten cake
A tear for a drop of water
End of the wheaten cake

One more instigation to read this dense stack of 505 pages- a passage from the tome itself:

           "...architecture was the chief recorder of the human race; that during that space
      no thought that went beyond the absolutely fundamental, but was embodied in
      some edifice; that every popular idea, like every religious law, has had its
      monuments; finally, that the human race has never conceived an important
      thought that it has not written in stone.  And why?  Because every thought,
      whether religious or philosophic, is anxious to be perpetuated; because the idea
      which has stirred one generation longs to stir others, and to leave some lasting trace."

Oh, yes, you'll want the author and title:  Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo.  If you feel like over-achieving (and I hope you do!), you might re-read sections of The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr (see my post titled: Divertimento),  and another wonderful book on the philosophy of architecture,  The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander.  These three books will make your living spaces double in size, without hanging mirrors, adding rooms, or knocking out walls.