WISDOM OF THE AGES
As my birthday (October 29) rolls around (something I don’t take for granted), I have been thinking philosophically about whether long life results in wisdom. I certainly was smart when I was younger, but my younger self had trouble knowing what was truly important, or how to make sense of problems or issues as they arose in life or at work. Now, I am a facile problem solver.
I really don’t understand ageism. For some unexplained reason, people look to the young for new ideas. My take on youth is they think everything is new – even if it’s been done before – because it’s new to them. I remember being in architecture school thinking I had just come up with a novel idea, just to find out that a famous architect had done something similar. At first, my reaction was one of disappointment. Then, after looking at the architect’s work, I was proud of myself – and I could “build” on both the famous man’s ideas as well as my own to develop the idea to the next level. Steve Jobs didn’t really invent anything. He took great concepts and made them better. Let’s mimic that.
I have learned to suggest to architecture and interior design students (for whom I am a guest critic) the names of other designers who may have gone down a similar design path as theirs. I do it NOT to make them feel bad, but to encourage them to look at design precedents in order to develop their own ideas to an even higher level. It is so important for young architects and designers to study art and architecture history, not for the purpose of getting a good grade on an exam, but for the purpose of building on or rejecting that which has come before.
I also encourage young designers to look more carefully at the built environment. There is so much to learn from the real world! Step away from the computer and pay attention to your environment. There is a great source of knowledge and inspiration everywhere you look. If God is in the details, it can be a religious experience!
I have found that I really enjoy mentoring people of all ages. Somehow, it’s easy to read other people’s situations, without the emotion that clouds those same issues when we are confronted by them ourselves. I think that mentoring enables me to work out solutions for others, and perhaps get better at solving these issues for myself.
So back to the topic of age and wisdom. I have been paying attention to the world around me for over six decades, and I’m not ready to quit. I’ve seen a lot over the years, but maybe not “it all”. I love a challenge, whether technical or aesthetic. Want to try to stump me?
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