For me, beauty is valued more than anything — the beauty that is manifest in a curved line or in an act of creativity.
St. George Utah Temple
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The oldest operating temple of the LDS Church, the St. George Utah Temple was the first temple completed after Brigham Young and his followers were forced to flee Nauvoo, Illinois. Completed in 1877, it was designed by Truman O. Angell and took nearly six years to build.
The temple itself is made of the red sandstone of the surrounding buttes of St. George, in southwestern Utah and plastered white. Originally just over 56,000 square feet, a renovation in the 1970s doubled its size. The temple has a total of 18 sealing rooms (not all are being actively used), more than any other temple in the LDS Church, where “bride and bridegroom are married not only for this life but also for eternity.” The St. George Utah Temple is the first temple where endowments for the dead, proxy baptisms for the deceased, were performed.
(Photo by Michael Whiffen/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
Communing with Beauty
by Rita G. Patel, guest contributor
"Beauty and Its Possibilities" by Rita Patel
I once saw a simple fish pond in a Japanese village which was perhaps eternal.
A farmer made it for his farm. The pond was a simple rectangle, about 6 feet wide, and 8 feet long; opening off a little irrigation stream. At one end, a bush of flowers hung over the water. At the other end, under the water, was a circle of wood, its top perhaps 12 inches below the surface of the water. In the pond there were eight great ancient carp, each maybe 18 inches long, orange, gold, purple, and black: the oldest one had been there eighty years. The eight fish swam, slowly, slowly, in circles—often within the wooden circle. The whole world was in that pond. Every day the farmer sat by it for a few minutes. I was there only one day and I sat by it all afternoon. Even now, I cannot think about it without tears. Those ancient fish had been swimming, slowly, in that pond for eighty years. It was so true to the nature of the fish, and flowers, and the water, and the farmers, that it had sustained itself for all that time, endlessly repeating, always different. There is no degree of wholeness or reality which can be reached beyond that simple pond.
Not only is the description both vivid and beautiful — conjuring up a lovely image — but the emotion from actually seeing and being with this beauty in nature is profoundly powerful.
If I am open, moments where I can deeply see, feel, and be are available in all sorts of so-called common places and interactions. And what happens is that I don’t just observe with my senses and my mind, but I commune with the beauty of it in my heart — that is where it happens, where I actually feel it. The feeling doesn’t stay but the feeling about other things afterwards is always affected. And the more I experience this beauty the more I realize that it does not disappear but is always present. Available to connect to when I am available. A wonderful thing to wake up and remember and make a habit.
"Radiance belongs to being considered precisely as beautiful; it is, in being, that which catches the eye, or the ear, or the mind, and makes us want to perceive it again."
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Architecture Students Design the Future of Israel
by Janine Rayford, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
When Hagar Admi thinks about the political future of Israel, she thinks in terms of blue prints. Admi, an architecture student at the Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education in Haifa, contests that art, specifically architecture, is inherently political.
"It’s all about society in architecture, as you plan for people,” Admi interjected at a discussion on coexistence through art, when photography and animation students explained how politics are not a factor in their work. “It’s not just art. Everything in Israel is political.”
For the Tel Aviv native, design and architecture is about planning for the future of Israel, whatever that may be. She and fellow architecture students are working on a project that directly addresses the possibility of a two-state solution.
"Designs take into account what could happen, what should happen," said Admi.
The project, focusing on the Israeli coastline, allows design students to engage the social and structural implications of Israeli politics. The coastline community may become home to a major railway station, connecting settlements to the cities.
"The way that politicians divide Israel, it doesn’t work. They just draw a line, they don’t employ architecture."
Admi rejected the political apathy of some of her fellow art students. “When you put up a building you plan something, it’s going to stay for a really long time. It has an effect on people’s lives. I think that architecture can actually change things. Maybe I’m naïve?”
Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.
One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure
by Colleen Scheck, producer
I was watching television news on the couch with my 10-year-old nephew last weekend and was captivated by a segment that profiled the work of Dan Phillips, a 64 year-old man from Huntsville, Texas who builds low-income houses out of trash. Yep, trash.
The segment has stuck with me in a few ways during this week’s production activities. Phillips’ work reminds me of the kindred efforts of Rural Studio (one of my all-time favorite programs), and it has resonance with our upcoming program with environmentalist Bill McKibben, specifically around the theme of human vitality and community in our changing natural world.
It also sparks thoughts about education and vocation raised during Krista’s interview with Mike Rose (to air in January). In that last way, I was struck by the difference in approach between Phoenix Commotion (Phillips’ initiative) and Rural Studio. Rural Studio trains highly educated architecture students to build homes from salvaged materials; Phillips employs unskilled laborers as apprentices and teaches “anyone with a work ethic” how to build. The result is the same: affordable homes made from recycled materials that are both functional and artistic, sustainable and unique.
I dug around for more info on Dan Phillips, and found a great slideshow of his work, as well as more photographs via Flickr. This is the kind of tangible activity that gives me hope, for our planet and for our humanity. My nephew, whose face was buried in his iPod Touch during the entire TV segment, looked up at the end and said “That’s cool.” I didn’t know he’d been listening.