Breathing Exercises

Refuge and Prospect

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A Pattern Language Revisited

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We’ve come to a stage in our journey foretold in the ancient scrolls …. Way back in 2009, I wrote an essay about Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. The book lists a multitude of patterns, each a way of thinking about design when making human-habitable spaces. The patterns are applied on a grand scale: from laying out a city to laying out the furniture in a living room. Alexander’s brilliant madness is that he builds a case that anybody can make their own spaces. From design to build, we’re qualified, and he will show the way.

A different kind of pattern language

A different kind of pattern language

One pattern in particular struck me (and inspired the essay). He instructs us on how to design our own house by spending time on our plot of land, enjoying it with family and friends, and after we’ve discerned the shape of the space we want to live in, simply to hammer in stakes where the corners will be. Outside expertise is not needed, and may be counter productive at this stage. The organo-hippie simplicity of this really appealed to me, and has been at the core of my philosophy of how to build anything (like this here community thing we’re doing), but it isn’t the end of the story. Because Alexander follows the chapter with an essay centered on a technical formula intended to make sure your columns are properly spaced, ensuring that the structure will withstand the test of time.

This is where we’ve come to. We have spent ample time discerning the shape of the thing we are building, and we have a sense of the life that it will contain. Now, the task is to build it well, perhaps to seek expert opinion from those who have experience and knowledge about such things. We want our project to last as long as it needs to, to survive storms, and to be here when people need it.

See the original essay on (Low) Tech Writer. It’s worth reading because it is one way of describing what we have been doing all this time, and what might be next.

“If technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, then there is a time and a place for it in all aspects of our lives. Technology can be a lifesaver. However, apply it too early in a design process and it cripples our products and projects, our homes and communities. They become cold and rigid–we fear any imperfection in them. They will be impersonal and homogeneous, ill-suited to our unique context or environment. You can see the results of an overly technological architecture everywhere you turn in suburbia: homes built according to some remote architect’s bland, marketable standard of what a beautiful home should look like … and when such “homes” are planted on a typical suburban half-lot, these mini-mansions look like part of a demonic plot to destroy a neighborhood. The best thing you can say about them is that they won’t fall down in a storm ….

“Let’s adopt this as a (low) tech writer principle: let individual or community wisdom, forged-in-context, dictate the unique shape of your house, project, product, or organization. Take time to listen for, intuit, and live with the implications of the designs you are working on. Only after organically discerning the shape and scale of a new project should you consult outside “experts” (or formulas). These may aid in developing levels of structure efficiently, but such expert witnesses will seldom have your local, contextual perspective, and so should not under any circumstances be allowed to dictate design.”


Written by dmaddalena

2013/08/25 at 2:08 pm

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A Shelter In Open Places

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More than three years ago now, we set out to explore church planting for ourselves, with no expectations except that God could form a group of followers into a community of meaning for our particular time and place.

During our first few years of gathering, we’ve been patient and diligent. We have been diligent about listening to God and following the steps laid out for us. For the longest time this has meant that we’ve been practicing our community faith in such a way that there’s been little evidence of activity. This is where patience comes in! It has been a challenge. Each of us in turn has had the chance to remind the group to be diligent in following through with our chosen way, or to be patient while waiting to see the fruits of our efforts. Go team!

Even better, our hopes that God would respond and lead us have been largely fulfilled. We have a confidence we wouldn’t have otherwise, and we are stronger for it. Our practice during this season has included, almost exclusively, a focused program of prayer and listening to God that has helped to bond us together, and strengthened us as individuals and as a community. Now, we are leaving this season of intense weekly prayer, and moving into a new season.

To lay a little groundwork for a description of what’s next, let me say that I, for one, set out on our journey with the confidence that if we listened to God and were patient and did what we were given to do, that God would “call” us in a way that matched us uniquely. And we have come to that place, where we get to say, “Ahh, yes! That feels right!” We feel like we can serve a unique and needed purpose in this area. It’s sweet to know where we get to stand, and I love how we got here. It feels to me like God has proven that he knows and loves us.

So where have we come to?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by dmaddalena

2013/06/09 at 9:35 pm

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Brand New

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Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
Born at the right time

–Paul Simon,
Born at The Right Time

This is a Brand New blog full of brand new words that describe a brand new, never-been-seen-before community of people gathered to live the Christian Life together. Of course there is Nothing New Under The Sun, but try to think in absolutes when you’re looking at a new born baby. Like I said: totally unique in the world. Brand new. Exciting.

These thoughts are here to be considered by people exploring what it means to be a part of a community of consequence in the world as followers of Jesus, though anyone who is stirred to respond is welcome to the discussion. The title of the blog – Breathing Exercises – is meant to evoke the small contribution a parent makes to the astounding miracle that is the beginning of a new life, (which, if it’s not obvious, is how I am thinking about the birth of a new community). There is not much else to do but learn to breath, because it’s coming.

(And may I point out that in my metaphor, it is the community that’s new-born, not the members, who together get to parent the new thing that happens when they come together.)

The blog itself exists at this time because there is a community of people, here in California, beginning to gather and explore these things. Read along to be a part of the conversation and feel free to comment to register an opinion, but know that the real conversation will be happening in person, not so much by remote control.

Written by dmaddalena

2010/11/06 at 1:32 am

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