Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Invisibly Essential

Winnie gave me new photos of the building renovations yesterday.  I looked at them, and indeed, they are very impressive.

However, when I considered placing them on this blog, they fell flat.  Despite the demonstrable beauty of the renovations, I realized the sudden difficulty of making the photos appealing to everyone.  I've encountered this before - when showing space plans, renderings and such - they have apparently limited value when on display.

This poses a riddle -

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is more valuable than a picture?

For the answer, I'd like to refer to one of my favorite books, "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

The little prince is a young man from another planet who comes to earth so that he may escape the abuses of a vain and petty flower, who refuses to show him love despite his constant care and attention.

The flower has lead him to believe that she is the only flower like herself in the universe.  However, the little prince soon encounters thousands of such flowers in a rose garden on earth, and cries when he realizes the treachery of his flower.

He meets a fox, who sets out to teach him the qualities of friendship and value.  The prince then returns to the rose garden, and says,

"You are beautiful, but you are empty, one could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you-- the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except for the two or three that we have saved to become butterflies);  because it is she that I have listened to when she has grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she has said nothing.  Because she is my rose."

He then returns to the fox, who teaches him a final lesson:

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"It is the time you have spent for your rose that makes your rose so important."
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it."

These pictures are valuable and interesting to the degree that they represent something that you and I have created.  The physical appearance of the building means not very much at all.  Indeed, it is the hope embodied in the completed building that makes it valuable - the vision of a bettered society. Saint-Exupery is right - what is essential - about you and me, and about this project at 2345 Lafayette, is invisible to the eye.

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