The Architecture of Life: Transformation Begins at Home

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Transformation Begins at Home

Transformational Economics II - First post is HERE

To transform the global economy we must begin by transforming our personal economies. After all, most things that are important begin at home.

That includes the current economic crisis, which began in a cascade of foreclosures and falling real estate values.

In the body of our built environment, the home is like a single cell. If you think of all the buildings, power grids, public works and transportation systems on our planet, all the things we have built in order to maintain our complex societies, our homes are the most basic unit in the “body” of human society.

Like a cell membrane, a home allows nutrients into our vulnerable inner worlds and keeps toxins – like nosy neighbors - out. Like a cell, our homes contain thermostats and other features that maintain homeostasis, protecting us from the slings and arrows of outrageous weather.

Our homes store our financial energy like the fat on our bodies. For most of us, our homes are our largest investments. Recently we have been forced to “go on a diet” and some of us lost our assets.

Homes are where we most often reproduce and subsequently nurture our young. They are powerful expressions of our identities - as Claire Cooper Marcus pointed out in House as a Mirror of the Self. A well appointed home is an extension of our bodies. It is, as physiologist J. Scott Turner suggests in The Extended Organism, an “external organ of physiology."

Imagine for a moment if the built infrastructure that supports our societies suddenly disappeared. The result would be the same for us as it would be for a colony of termites or a nest of bees…a sudden and devastating die off.

Theorists have long argued about the traits that have made Homo Sapiens so successful. The use of tools, opposable thumbs, the evolution of language and the highly complex social structures we create have all had their day as the seminal first cause…but the most visible evidence of mankind's assent to dominance is our built environment.

From caves to mud huts to castles and skyscrapers, the homes we have built and the public works we have erected to sustain them, are the proof of the efficacy of this survival mechanism.

We and our homes are engaged in an ancient and profoundly interdependent relationship. Like any other animal we evolve in response to our environment, and increasingly our environment is of our own making.

Natural selection and epigenetic gene expression occur primarily in response to our most highly frequented environments and the home is the most intimate environment of man. We build them and they build us back. We are enmeshed in and altered by our relationships with them.

Your own personal definition of home – whether your current habitation meets your ideal or not – likely includes emotional ingredients like comfort, safety, rejuvenation, peace, relaxation and the privacy to escape from the perceived expectations of others.

Despite all the mischief perpetrated by stock traders, hedge funds managers, sub-prime lenders and incompetent government regulators – the stars of the story of manipulation and greed that currently batters us daily - the truth is that those bad actors are mere symptoms of the greed and self indulgence within all of us.

In truth, you and I are the building blocks of the global economy.

This is TRANSFORMATIONAL ECONOMICS II. The third of four posts is HERE.