Enjoyro...Paolo Soleri

Paolo Soleri


live your life


The Urban Ideal: Conversations with Paolo Soleri

by Paolo Soleri, edited by John Stromeier

Berkeley Hills Books, 2001.

- 1973 -

The past is not all false, not all fraudulent and negative. It's also an accumulation of great wisdom and respect for life, the ability to cope with routine, and so on. (72)

I think one reason is that technology is an over-simplifying kind of device. You turn to technology with a complex problem and it "peels off all the dirt," so to speak, makes it easy to do. We become so fascinated with the process of problem solving, with technology as a thing in itself, that we fail to notice whether the answers we are getting are positive or negative in terms of human values. (74)

We're always talking about the wealth of this country, but are we really so rich? Powerful, yes, but the rich life escapes us. (75)

There's something in the family that we can't find anywhere else, and it's very simple. It's your father and your mother. They are biologically identified with you, and you can't get away from that. If they didn't exist, you wouldn't exist. Anybody else or anything else could be different to you, but not your parents. (76)

You have to have a deep change of heart or the environment can't do very much for you. We're not setting up something that is sufficient, but we are setting up something that is necessary. We're creating a setting in which a change of heart might come to birth. In other words, it's not sufficient to build a "perfect" environment, and then expect a "perfect" society. You could have a "perfect" environment and an awful society, or vice versa. But an inspiring environment might help. It's up to social planners, politics, economies, to do the rest. (78)

Anguish might mean destruction. But sometimes, in some circumstances, and not very often, a man is able to transcend his anguish. He can do so only at a given moment, in specific circumstances. The next time he has to start again. Each time you act, you can act as a fool, as an artist, or as a saint, but you have to do it day by day. (79)

And there is no limit. No matter how much you do, there is an infinity that hasn't been done. An infinity waiting to respond to the touch of your anguish. The more you know, the more you grasp, the more you imagine you could know, the more you sense the limitless gap between the possible and the real. God is in this somehow. The element of anguish becomes the trigger for a larger expression of beauty that is compassionate, as compared to the beauty of nature, which is dispassionate. A landscape is beautiful, but it doesn't have the compassion of man in it, the thing that comes from his consciousness that distinguishes somehow between good and evil. I think the dilemma of being good instead of being evil is part of the anguish out of which beauty and God are born. (79-80)

The battle against entropy is the battle against evil. (80)

If there is any possibility of synthesizing everything, of transforming the whole universe into God, then I see the gap between this possible God and the existential situation in which we find ourselves as the shape of our human task. (80)

We are each one a marvelous example of frugality. The God of this life has been able to do so much with so little. We are astonishing examples of frugality. Within the immense machinery of the cosmos we are infinitesimal particles able not just to be, but to grasp the immensity of it all. (80)

We might be much more optimistic if we realized that where we stand is not even at the birth, but at the conception of something. (83)

A working system is one that helps me decide, willingly, that i am going to respect and take care of what surrounds me because I have a reverent feeling about it. (89)

- 1973 -

Evidently, in order to develop life needs challenges, and the challenges very, very often deceive our senses. So the more our senses are stimulated in a varied yet balanced way, the less likely we are to misinterpret what we perceive. And in the variety of information that we confront on the edge between the man-made and the natural, there are challenges that are going to move man in creative directions. (94)

The danger of efficiency is that it is taken as one independent branch of life. It is very dangerous that people tend to make an idol out of efficiency. Then efficiency becomes the aim instead of the means. (95)

What I am saying is that an environmental consciousness is necessary to develop knowledge. If you stop before that, if you tend to be a purely analytical person, I would say that you are still dealing only with information. You are not going to be able to adequately extrapolate full ideas because you persistently try to separate things without being able to put them together again. (97)

- 1982 -

In general things are happening in positive ways if the degree of complexity of the total system is improved; things are going badly if the degree of complexity of the total system is diminished. (105)

I think the epitome of economy is not to be found in what we call the economic world. It is to be found in the aesthetic world, where a very tiny amount of energy, a very tiny amount of material, does very powerful things. (117)

If I were superintelligent, superwise, and superloving, I would say, well, I feel that I can interfere much more substantially. But since I am not any of those, I have to be prudent. (118)

But the individual becomes a universal person, it doesn't remain just a little creature under a tree. He or she becomes universal enough to understand that even though I have my preferences, those preferences have to be within the boundaries of the preferences of the species. And the preference of the species is not self-destruction. (120)

The reason is that ultimately I believe that anything that becomes known and any technology that we develop is for the sake of the spirit, becuase technology is going to give us the means to manipulate and transform reality. So the power that science is giving us, which we are misusing most of the time, is still a gift of such dimension that we should be constantly astonished. (122-123)

Yes, and my notion is that the more we get into this power of technology, the more we should become wiser and more knowledgeable and compassionate. That is why I always need to connect that with the environmental. This is the reason I believe habitat is so important, because it gives us the pedestal for the environmental learning process, which is almost the opposite of the learning process which is given to us by science and technology. (123)

- 1991 -

The source of our problems is that we've given ourselves the wrong pattern to build upon. The wrong pattern is the suburban pattern. And the American Dream is unnecessarily chained to it. (127)

- 1995 -

Unless we moderate, unless we re-invent the American Dream, then it's not going to be a dream. It's going to be doomsday. Because the planet, for the first time in the history of mankind, appears as one of the main actors in the play. It's limitations are now becoming evident and we cannot ignore the very clear and very substantial fact that we cannot demand from the planet whatever we please. So we need to take the American Dream and frugalize it, to make it into something that instead of being geared to the ends of a materialistic Eden, becomes more oriented toward the inner life of individuals and societies. You might need less of the physical in order to produce more of the mental and the spiritual. (56)

Since shelter is the most imposing activity in which we are involved, if our choice of habitat is the wrong choice, we are in for catastrophe. (58)

But we have the ability to re-orient our greed, to make it into a desire which relates to the family of man, and to the family of all life. (64)

But our living room was the city. I could walk down four or five stories and be in the middle of the city, which offered me all the resources a city provides, including the theater, the library, the university, the hospital, the playground, and so on. And that was available to me as a pedestrian, not as a person who has to enter this magic machine, which is the automobile, and then drive myself to those places further and further away. (66)

To be frugal does not mean to find happiness without ideas and without the aesthetic. You do not renounce when you become frugal. You open yourself to the interior values that are fundamental to the human animal. So to be frugal is not a necessity only, it's a necessity which almost automatically becomes a virtue. (66-67)

- 2000 -

In the present, most of the time we act as political animals, and we like to be correct. That involves a number of limitations, because in order to be correct we have to compromise constantly, and we do, day after day. If we stay with that kind of perspective, our lives and our behavior take a certain form, a certain shape with certain values. (130)

The single family home is quite evidently the most expensive, the most pollutant, the most wasteful, and the most segregational thing we have ever done in our lives. (133)

Our skill to manipulate things is not matched by the wisdom that we need to manipulate so many things. So we over-reach in terms of production and consumption, and we are underachievers in terms of knowledge and wisdom. The price to pay is very high. (134)

Being caretakers, accepting the notion of stewardship, is half of what reality asks from us. The other half is creation. (140)

- 2000 -

I now realize how upsetting it can be when someone comes from the outside and insists on doing things their own way. (26)

I also learned that when you have mastered a method or a technique for doing something, it gives you lots of freedom, so you have to try to be disciplined. (33)

[The Urban Effect is] the impulse of reality towards organizing itself in such an intense, interlocked, interweaving, interacting set of elements that all of a sudden, it creates life and, perhaps, consciousness where before it was only mineral stuff...It is something that from the beginning of life becomes a main presence. It pulls together, and then, by pulling together generates a kind of overlapping so that you might have, for example, closely woven layers of activity. It is an urge toward a condition that is more intense, and richer, and less segregated. (35-36)

I began to think that the only way to implement something like that [Arcosanti] would be to make it real. So I started looking for land. (36)

A young person doesn't know enough to be a legitimate rebel. (37)

Perhaps Frugal Soup is of some interest, too. It is the only ritual we have here, which is not even a ritual. We ahve what we call Frugal Soup once a month. When we have a new group of students, we meet on a Friday. We go outside or we go somewhere and we serve a simple soup and that's the lunch. It's connected with the fact of famine, and malnutrition, and poverty, and so on. The first cup of soup is in silence. The second cup of soup, people can come out with comments or readings, or whatever they might be moved to say. We end up by having all sorts of reactions. So that's the only ritual we do. But we don't require anyone to participate. (41)

Humanity, I would suggest, is the front runner of evolution. We're the most advanced form of life on this planet and thus we have a responsibility. If it's a meaningless reality we live in, it's our responsibility to give it meaning, to inject meaning into it. I call this "the Love Project." It's our invention. We invent love, generosity, compassion, charity - notions that you don't find in nature. You don't find them among animals, although you might see some traces of it. So it's our task to inject meaningfulness in the meaninglessness, it's a battle against indifference. (42)

I suggest that we realize the necessity of invoking a process towards equity. I think that's true because in my model, reality is not benevolent. IT is indifferent. Indifference is the resource we have, so we have to work with it. (46)

I believe we live in a very powerful, very harsh, and very indifferent reality. And if we can begin to work into it, and work into it by way of compassion, of generosity - all those things we invent - that's our greatness. The answer to indifference is to penetrate this universe and transform it, transfigure it, in a way, in the image of ourselves, to improve our image, and at the same time dig into reality. (47)

When you try to improve wrongness, what you do is make it wronger. You make wrongness successful. (47)