Building Our Greatest Structure
By Lisa Grazan
While many people love to study architecture, it's always been the architects who have held my fascination. To me, architects are left brain / right brain maestros; the epitome of artists in balance. After all, their creations demand not only aesthetically pleasing exteriors, but also mechanically flawless interiors. They're big picture visionaries with a mastery of brick and mortar principles.
I'll always remember my first encounter with an architect. It was the spring of 1992 and I was an associate attorney trying to hold my own in the first complex litigation case of my career. We were involved in the discovery phase of a very large construction litigation case in which the anchor tenant of a huge downtown skyscraper was suing the Madison Avenue architects for their "inferior design". The anchor tenant was also suing the general contractor and the various engineering firms for numerous alleged structural and mechanical deficiencies. While these target defendants pointed their fingers at one another, they also pointed their fingers at the bevy of sub-contractors on the project who were joined as additional defendants, one of which was my client.
The deponent that day happened to be one of the structural engineers who worked on the skyscraper in question. In attendance at his deposition was the lead architect who was clearly gauging the room and the players before he would be sitting on the "hot seat" later that week. Although everyone knew the lead architect was in attendance, he was nevertheless trying to keep a low profile, ignoring everyone else and speaking only to his attorney.
During a lunch break, with my eyes cast downward, hurriedly writing out questions on my legal pad I would ask the deponent that afternoon, I felt someone approaching as I heard them say "Excuse me" and when I Iooked up I saw the lead architect standing before me. "Yes sir?" I eagerly replied, having absolutely no idea what a Madison Avenue architect would have to say to me. "I noticed you're left-handed!" he excitedly exclaimed. "Yes, I'm a southpaw", I answered with a grin. "So am I !" he replied with delight as he flamboyantly flung his brightly colored floral-patterened tie over his shoulder, much to my (and my colleagues') surprise. He went on to tell me that we (apparently referring to me, him, and all the other "south paws" out there), have a tendency to have the most accidents in our homes. After we concluded our small talk, I began to muse, "Huh. How about that. . . . Architects are just like us, even the Madison Avenue variety."
And all these years later, thinking about it now, aren't we just like them? Aren't we all architects in one form or another? Whether it's building our career, or constructing a brand new life after retirement, whether it's mapping out the best ways to raise our children, or drafting up a blueprint of how to master a new-found hobby. Don't we all have some kind of visionary goal in our mind as we work through the mechanics of how to turn it into a smoothly-running reality?
As an attorney, my ultimate vision was winning for my client. The mechanics of my work included negotiations, depositions, questioning witnesses, and cross-examination.
As an author and a writer, my vision is to connect with my readers. The tools I use are my experiences, imagination, and words.
As a holistic health counselor, my vision was to bring balance and harmony to my clients' mind, body and spirit. I utilized the right vitamins, supplements, oils, herbs and foods.
And isn't raising children the same as well? The vision of raising children to become strong, adaptable, independent, happy and successful adults requires the tools of listening, patience, setting an example, advising, guiding, and correcting them.
"Whatever good things we build end up building us" - Jim Rohn
Indeed they do. Building my career as an attorney has built me into a better communicator. Building my audience as a writer has helped me to clarify my thoughts. And building my career as a natural health expert has honed my skills of listening and observing. Just like learning how to cook inspires creativity and raising a family teaches us time management on a whole new level.
"The most creative act you will ever undertake is the act of creating yourself" - Deepak Chopra
Generally speaking, we all strive for the vision of good health. The mechanics we use everyday to support our vision may include decisions about food and exercise. After all, it's the food and exercise that develop into physical strength, agility, flexibility, and stamina.
Our visions of happiness and success depend upon the thoughts we think, the right actions we take, the company we keep, the words we speak to others and to ourselves. Those are the tools we use to create a peaceful disposition, a compassionate heart, an understanding ear, a world view that is healthy and a personality that is joyous. We decide whether we stay in our environment or leave, whether we let conflicts fester or resolve them, and which relationships we jettison or nurture.
We become that structure we've built brick by brick, choice by choice, and end up being an example of strength and soundness both inside and out.
"The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built" - Frank Lloyd Wright
Just like Wright's own creations, we are our own animated version or organic architecture; a living, breathing example of how we interact with our own "landscape". Do we live in harmony with our surroundings, our jobs, our co-workers, our family, friends and communities? Do we leave organizations that we've joined better because of our membership? How is our relationship with ourselves and with others? Do we enhance our surroundings and others we meet along our path?
"The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in the human psyche" - Cesar Pelli
There's no one better to comment on our desire to reach the sky than Pelli, the Argentinian architect known for designing amazing skyscrapers. Beyond a literal interpretation, doesn't reaching for the sky mean that we all strive to become something better and to stand on a higher plane spiritually? Doesn't it mean that we want to create the highest version of ourselves? It's well beyond a glamorous facade. It takes strong inside mechanics to stand tall and straight with a solid foundation.
Oh, maybe our plumbing or circuitry may fall into disrepair after a while. Perhaps our structures will sway in the wind at times and maybe a crack or two will appear in our facade. We may show signs of weathering, and we may be slower to absorb shocks as time goes on. Our mortar may have eroded a bit, our parapets may be crumbling, and our turrets may lean ever so slightly one way or the other.
Nevertheless, we become the structure that we've built, not only the facade, but more importantly the inner mechanics. Build your structure so that it absorbs shocks, doesn't crack under pressure, can still stand tall in the face of storms, and which remains standing tall no matter what comes its way.
We're all called upon to be visionaries as well as skilled tradespeople, to build our best selves, to be that work of art in balance, and to continue reaching for our skies.
Copyright 2021, Lisa Grazan. All rights reserved.