27 May 2011

(Un)Control Freak

Conventional wisdom holds that some of the best creative activity takes place only when a measure of control is relinquished.  I suppose that is true, even though it runs counter to that which drives many who do what I do for a living.  An architect, I am, and the whole notion of what architects do is driven by control.  Over materials.  Gravity.  Behaviors.  People.  Only through the diligent application of control can most projects of any size make it from conception to actualization.

Some of the most famous architects in history were or are masters of control, and control freaks of some stripe.  Think Frank Lloyd Wright, designing the house and every damn thing in it.  Think Mies van der Rohe and all those variations on the elegance of a straight piece of steel.  Think Frank Gehry and every bizarre building he seems to have produced in the last 25 years or so.

The Bilbao, you say?  All those twisty shapes and non-linear forms?  Surely, those look like they are about to fall over or explode or whirl into fragments!  Ha!

Control.  Pure and simple.  It takes tremendous effort and maniacal attention to detail and purity of idea to build structures such as those.  It takes control with a capital 'C' to create usable chaos.  Billionaires don't keep spending money on something that won't stand up.  And obsessive architects don't want their buildings, however bloblike or non-Euclidean, to fall apart.

Control.  Bah.  They can have it.  Me?   I sick of it.

Control like that can make you brittle.  I've felt dangerously close to not being able to bend without breaking over the past two years, and it all comes back to control.  I was trying so hard to control everything that I gained control over almost nothing.  Diminishing returns, people.  Tired of pouring so much energy into seeing around corners and through walls.  Of working to avoid surprises, so diligently that the life was choked out of life.  Control is overrated.

Does this mean I want to live a life of abandon?  Hell, no.  I've seen too many people do it, in varying degrees.  Sure, it can be a lot of fun for the individual, but not so much for the people who care for that individual.  Chaos, I don't need.

What I do want, and need, is better balance.  I want to shed the anxiety of always trying to anticipate what comes next, that anxiety that makes it difficult to impossible to enjoy the here and now.  It can be done.  It has to be done.  I've managed the trick on a few occasions in recent weeks.  I must say, I have enjoyed it.  It has helped me start peeking out from the shell.  To that end, the view...is good.

Control.  Enough is enough.  I can't live my life if I won't let life live.


  1. On that note:

    Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark,
    in the hopeless swamps of the approximate,
    the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.
    Do not let the hero in your soul perish
    in lonely frustration for the life you deserve
    but have never been able to reach.
    Check your road and the nature of your battle.
    The world you desire can be won.
    It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
    ~ Ayn Rand

  2. I've been exploring a similar question for a couple years now, although rather than 'control' it has been in the realm of 'convention'. How much to follow the convention of the world around me, of my friends, family, of what is expected of me, and how much to do what I feel is right for me in any given moment. At risk of seeming selfish, I've been increasingly leaning in the direction of doing what I want, and the results have been nothing but healthy and positive, for myself and (once my friends and family catch up with what's really happening with me), for all my relationships too. I guess similar to your insights on control, I'm finding the way to have balance in my relations with people and with the world around me.

  3. Something that Mr. Big's dad recently told me...stop trying to control the situation or wait for the shoe to drop - just live life and enjoy it because in the end, you will see that all that anticipation and fear was for nothing and you missed out on the best parts...

    Much love!

  4. As one with several control freak undertones- how else would I be hooked on rhyme and meter?- I nonetheless hope enough wisdom has come with age for me to 'live in the moment' and go with the flow. I enjoyed your pondering here...

  5. Did I tell you we saw Bilbao in Spain? Awesome work, the building was inspired by his watching fish as a young boy...

    I gave up on control years ago with a sick child, and toys which would make their way magically from child's room to living room in a matter of minutes...and I live for myself now...forget the trolls, they like it under the bridges...

  6. It's all about finding a balance and accepting the things you can't control... Some days are better than others in that regard. There's nothing like a good crisis to keep you in the moment (which is what I say when we are in crisis after crisis at work...)

  7. Yes, it is about balance. Trying to control outcomes and people did not get me anything but pain.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...