Paolo Soleri interviewed by Jerry Brown

Part 2 December 8, 1995


JB: Welcome to another edition of "We the People." This is the show that gives you a different perspective on the day's events, on our position in the ongoing culture, which we are all a part. This hour we are going to extend the conversation that we had on Friday with Paolo Soleri, an architect that studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, came over here from Italy after World War II, and has been about constructing and creating a place called Arcosanti, an urban, well it isn't an urban laboratory, but it is a desert laboratory about a type of urban space and the people are there, what I would say a very elegant, frugal and dense, and complex way of being. Before I bring Paolo on, I want to quote something I read by Michael Gardner. I thought it was right on point here. He's the president of the One World Peace Foundation, and it's called "Healing the Planetary Wound." Here's what he says about consumerism: "Consumerism is a virulent form of materialism developed in the United States in which advertising insures that demand is created for products for which there is no real need. We are stewards of this planet. When we become the babysitter who rapes the child, we generate massive social guilt."

Paolo, welcome again to the "We the People" show.

PS: Good afternoon.

JB: Good afternoon. I have been looking over your glossary of terms...

PS: Yes.

JB: And I want to talk a little bit about this omega seed idea,...

PS: Yes.

JB: if that isn't too much to get into, because I feel didn't...you started to refer to interiorization or non-material, and I believe we focused a lot on the material impacts of this type of habitat and building of stuff in a wasteful and destructive way. It was real clear the perversity and the danger of that, and the tragedy of that, but in the course of the conversation as I went back and listened to the tape, I don't think I did justice and allowed to come out your thoughts on, I can say omega seed, I could say spirituality, I could say mind somehow going beyond matter or changing matter itself.

PS: You want me to...

JB: You talk about the shallow conduct of our present societies, and that is related to something deeper, and I want to get at that deeper in this hour.

PS: Well, maybe we shall start with the semantic. Why omega and why seed? Well, omega is the end of the alphabet, or something of that sort, so it would suggest some kind of a conclusion. So as many of the religions or many theologians have been talking about, they talk about a conclusion. That's why the term omega. Why seed? Because any kind of seed, including the human seed, is somewhat a container or the blue print for that which is going to be the organism that comes from the seed becoming involved in itself and development. So, if one could imagine that there is a seed that has a universal scope, one could say bearing a seed over an oak or an animal, you might have what you might call the universal seed, some kind of a cosmic entity which contains all the information about reality. Now the information about reality is the information of what happened with reality in the process of becoming from the very beginning to the very end. So this evolution is the information that would be contained in the omega seed. So there really isn't very much of metaphysical , there is just a notion that information generates knowledge, optimally, and knowledge is some kind, ultimately, has to be self knowledge, which implies that historically omega seed point at the end of things that would be of self-preservation of moment of reality becoming conscious of itself from the very beginning to the very end.

JB: And you see this as an organized process?

PS: It sort of...in my view if we organize in terms of mind and consciousness, we'll be able to eventually to rationalize our processes we are involved in so that we develop a coherence between what's happening within reality and what we are trying to do with reality itself.

JB: Now, if we have a coherence set, that implies that there's a lot more than random out here in the universe.

PS: Yeah, I tend to believe that at the beginning, like the Big Bang, there wasn't a written law or creational act by a divinity, but what I think there was a choice between existence and non-existence. It just happened that existence came about, that when existence came about, it began to change. So that's the moving from being into becoming, and the evolution of things into becoming of reality, but that becoming at the beginning had rules that were co-natural to the nature of beingness, so that would be the natural laws. What we are dealing now is with the laws we have been developing by way of discoveries or invention, as we came up, and the biggest invention being love, as far as I can guess.

JB: Okay, now, of course, we are part of this whatever these rules were whatever started this unfolding of reality, our minds are part of that same unfolding even as we create ideas. And it isn't even clear that we create ideas. Ideas seem almost evolve on their own, as it were, because it's very hard to think...we think them, but they also think us in some sense.

PS: Well, there is a methodology that I'm very much attach to. The methodology of seeing life as a phenomenal high complexity. And let me make a quick comparison between equipment and an organism, and a take a canary (the little bird)...

JB: The canary, yes.

PS: ...and the jumbo jet.

JB: The jumbo jet, okay.

PS: I'm saying the jumbo jet is a very complicated piece of equipment. A great piece of equipment, but its complicated, its not complex. The canary is a complex phenomenon, entity. Why? Because the canary has an inner motivation. It's driven by its own inner genetic guidance, while the jumbo jet is altermotivated being generated by the mind of man. So while the jumbo jet has great complicated machinery, the canary is an immensely complex phenomenon, so that you would need a million jumbo jets to be even approximately as complex as a canary, and that's where the new element comes in, it's the element of miniaturization. In order to have a canary based on the technology of the jumbo jet, the canary would have to be a million times bigger than what it is. That's why miniaturization is an essential part of complexity, and the two in tandem are part of what the inner entity what life is. So any organism is of phenomenally high complexity and high miniaturization. The canary is, while the technology we have been developing, including the technology of the computer for the moment is a highly complicated and very often marvelous kind of generation of equipment.

JB: Yet, okay, but if the mind of man is creating this, you can get this big, this gigantic kind of structure that's all complicated, whereas nature has been able to produce in a miniaturized form, the canary. Now your saying, as we evolve and as are mind becomes powerful...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...that we're going to approach this miniaturization of the canary, as opposed to just extending on a straight line the cumbersome complicatedness of a jumbo jet.

PS: That's right, but again if you compare the units of say knowledge that are part of the jumbo jet, you might say one million of those units. If you look at the canary, you have one or two or four trillions or so of those units. That indicates the enormous gap between the equipment that we generate, including the computer and the living systems, even the most humble living system like bacteria, so that shows that life is of incredible phenomenon, but it is so incredible because of the enormous complexities it is engaged in producing it. Take the human brain, for instance, and we are told that in every instance there are trillions and trillions of events going on within our brain, and that what makes the presence of life and of mind possible. So without this enormous complexity which entails an enormous miniaturization, life is not possible.

JB: Okay, and as there are more people, there has to be a response on the part of human beings in the direction of learning, emulating from nature itself, this sophistica- tion, this complexity...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...which will express itself in miniaturization. It will have to. Nature itself does that.

PS: That miniaturization is in a sense is the physical barometer of the duel complex miniaturization, and, you know, at the beginning of life we are told by science that it is guide in the subparticle realm is guided by (what do you call it)...

JB: The strong force, the weaker force, the...

PS: ...probablism of the sub...

JB: As opposed to cause and effect.

PS: Okay, so then this probability transforms itself into the when we go into the large systems, like planet and so on. When life comes about, there is a new entity, new agency that comes about as the agency of , because ever family of animals or planets are guided by the need of surviving, the producing, so they find opportune ways in niches where to develop themselves.

JB: And your saying this in advance.

PS: This is an advance quite clearly, because it's a break of the deterministic vice in which physical nature is prisoner. Then of come about and we add a new layer of reality, a higher level of reality, which is the layer of mind, because animals are intelligent. I don't think animals are mindful. We are mindful, we are intelligent, and mindful, which means that we are moving into this, again, super incredible realm of consciousness and surconsiousness. We those new levels of reality, what becomes very evident is that opportunity is no longer sufficient. We need something that goes beyond opportunity, and we have it, we call it compassion, we call it love, we call it generosity, we call altruism, and that's what characterizes man among the animals, the animal kingdom.

JB: So, what you are really saying is that love and compassion are the next essential evolving structure that has to be created and brought into being by human beings.

PS: And it exists, but it's fragmentary, it's weak, it's fragile because we are still driven by the opportunistic frame of reference, and naturally we depend on the physical, that is the deterministic and problemistic. We come from eons of development, so within ourselves there are these lies which are very powerful, and the one most powerful of them all is opportunity.

JB: Hold on, Paolo, we're going to take a short break, we'll come right back. You're listening to "We the People." We're talking to Paolo Soleri.

Your back with "We the People." I'm Jerry Brown and talking to Paolo Soleri, an architect, a creator, a designer, an inventor, poetic. We're talking about the omega seed, the stages of determinism, opportunism, probablism, and love. Incredible. Incredible, that is super incredible, if that the direction that we are tending toward. Obviously it's a choice, because there is a lot of non-love or hate in the world.

PS: Matter, the cosmos is pretty large, so we are infinitesimally small, so the mind door is very powerful, it's still a very exaltic kind of phenomenon.

JB: Do you have any sense of other minds being somewhere else in the universe, or is that really beyond your thinking?

PS: Number one, I'm very ignorant. Number two, science itself has made a decision about that. There is a big question mark.

JB: Has not been able to make a decision.

PS: Yeah, has not been able...

JB: Just leave it up in the air. All right, so now you take this force of love, now we apply that to the city of future, and because there is something very practical about this. We're in a context that is certainly not driven by love or frugality...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...or elegance or miniaturization or even mind, it's more mindlessness, materialistic, hyperconsumerism consumption. So now I want to focus this force of love on the creation of the city of the future.

PS: Okay, we have to be equitable with us and realize among the horrendous things we have been doing for, say, a million years, we also did something very grand and beautiful. So we have been moving from a into something which is of a higher order, but still we are prisoners of this very strong drive the ego, so how we go about the matching our ego, the demand, to the demand of compassion. So that's the battle that has been going on for quite some time, and sometimes it seems we are winning, and sometimes it seems we are losing. I think we are on some kind of a losing streak. So, we should pause, try to recapitulate our history and then find out what's the possible steps that might make this life more coherent, and more loving and compassionate.

JB: So the city has to be a school of compassion.

PS: The city is the largest physical entity that we, as humans, need, I mean shelter, habitat. That's not only very, very large in dimension, it's also very demanding in resources, and naturally it's always a question of how logistically we can have this habitat so that you can move around, we can reach people physically, and we can combine our energy to develop what we call a civilization. And that's where the compactness, which miniaturization ultimately becomes again very, very essential. And we are in a phase now where miniaturization is all over the place, including the computer field. The computer is battling to get to a point where the microchip becomes invisible, non-existent. The only information it can deliver is interesting to us, not the container. That means miniaturization is essential for the computer's technology to go beyond the limits in which it is now. And the city is part of this phenomenon of gathering things, getting them closer together so you generate more and more complexity, and by generating more and more complexity naturally you're to miniaturize the system. This is a physical law, we can only say that.

JB: So, the more complexity, the more miniaturization.

PS: Yes.

JB: And when you put human beings into that, you have to have the more compassion, more love.

PS: That should be almost extruded by this combination.

JB: So you think that love and friendship will show up out of the miniaturization. Some people might see it as an ant hill, but your compacting everybody into this highly dense urban space, and they say, wait a minute, I've got to have some elbow room here.

PS: Yes, we need to have a historically also, which means that we cannot go from zero to a hundred in one short week. We start from zero, one, two, three, and so on, so that means that a million years from now we will not exist as we are now. Hopefully the mind going to think this, and maybe will contain the mind, but it might be very different than what we are now, so we should start now to realize the importance of cutting into the gigantic system that we have been building. And suburbia is the most gigantic, Los Angeles, about 2000 miles, or something like that. That's a gigantic vulture, really gigantic and it's too big to be able to work. And why is it too big? Because it's so spread out, so tenuously inhabited that communication becomes very difficult, transportation becomes almost horrendously impossible, and we are getting ourselves into a condition where more and more we need to surround ourselves with what consumers are going to give us and slowly we are suffocating within it, and at the same time we are destroying the environment.

JB: So you have the sprawl and the spread out, and that then links into the hyperconsumer, the buying, the collecting, the waste, and it also then facilitates the inequality, the gross gaps in material accumulation between one human being and another.

PS: Yeah, and we seem to be forgetting that the greatness of the human spirit is interiorization. I mean, what we are able to generate within ourselves, which is the working of the mind, and that goes from any kind of inventiveness, any kind of activity, any kind of dueling and making. With that fundamental notion in mind that the more we build up within ourselves, the more we are becoming a great expression of the mind and of life.

JB: Do you think we can build on that interiorization? I mean, Plato certainly had a powerful interior life, his mind, we can read the products of that mind, and here we are twenty-five hundred years later, we've got a lot of minds, 5.7 billions of them, if you can use the word mind in that way, and are we standing on his shoulders or are we still having to climb up and even approach where he's at.

PS: Well, this kind of evolution into different reality is very, very difficult, so we should keep in mind that any kind of exercise that we are developing into, this groping into more complexity is a very slow process and very demanding, and sometimes it alters and also fails. So we should be again a little more generous with ourselves even though the history of the human species is quite violent, we have to recognize also the beauty and the astonishing things that are coming out from the mind. So, a mixture of humility, and the joy of being alive and doing things should be the right mixture. to kill them.

JB: So you are really looking at materialism as a major obstacle. Certainly thee major obstacle standing in the way of greater interiorization...

PS: Huh, huh.

JB: ...and the city then has to promote this non-material way of being.

PS: And why, because if the bulk of what we do is directed in the wrong direction, it's going to be very difficult to do very much with it, but the wrong thing. My newest slogan that says, that we tend to do wrong things better and better. Naturally, the best example is the gun. The gun was a pipe, then you shoot some lead through the pipe, and that was already a very questionable kind of instrument. Now we have the super gun, and so we made of this primitive instrument better and better design and object, and now we are here 250 million guns or 250 Americans, the most grievous arming of a population against itself, and that's doing better and better the wrong thing. Suburbia is the same. We started with the suburban device which was pretty grim at the end of the Second World War in Levettown.

JB: Levettown began it all. People were very happy to move into Levettown.

PS: But then we glamorized Levettown, and Frank Lloyd Wright unfortunately was part of it the big city.

JB: I guess...go ahead.

PS: We glamorize the Levettown and now we are stuck with this monster that is devouring so much of us and over the planet.

JB: Well this power of glamorizing Levettown, it seems to be just an extension of this glamour, I don't know, this last five hundred years of Western expansion, and today it's going on in the jungles...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...of Ecuador and New Guinea, all over the place, where people who've lived a certain way for thousands of years...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...are, when they see the magic of the gadget.

PS: Yeah, it's the magic.

JB: That magic is so powerful that they jump at it and they give up the structure of their traditional ways, and then they go insane. At least most of them and resort to alcohol and some kind of very passive, non-active, non-vibrant kind of way, and then we think they're somehow indolent or deficient because their world view has been destroyed because of the power of our own magic.

PS: Yeah, and they become receivers instead of being generators. Civilizations has to generate within.

JB: In some ways we're like the natives in the face of our own magic that's being generated around us.

PS: Yes, at the same time I think we should appreciate the value of the magic because it is an incredible faculty that we have homophaber, between the hand and the brain, we are...

JB: Homophaber in Latin means the builder, the man as builder.

PS: The maker, yes.

JB: The maker.

PS: And that's a faculty that is only...unique to the human.

JB: For some reason we don't make the right stuff most of the time.

PS: PS:That's right, and that's because of the magic, because to work out things, to solve little problems it's a wonderful way of spending your time, but fortunately when the technology becomes such to be able to reproduce endlessly, we end up with the shopping planter which is inedible, phenomenon of mindlessness in many ways.

JB: All right, now if we are going to move back this shopping center, we're going to have to have some models here, some examples, some places. Now, what...describe for me some examples, some steps away back from this suburban nightmare.

PS: Number one, if we are...if you believe in the notion of the family of man, we should always try to do things that might become available to all man. Now, evidently, if we go into the shopping center syndrome, or for ten millions of people, we are selfish storing. So on a certain point we should look at the shopping center and say, do we need fifty thousand kinds of things, or could we do very well with five thousand, or...

JB: Probably the average store, the average grocery store, medium size, has about twenty thousand separate units available for purchase.

PS: Yeah, and can you imagine taking a Indian from an Indian village and putting this person in the middle of the grocery store, and there is no way that this person can remain sane. It's an incredible experience, so the magic is really magical. The thing is to see what's black magic and what's good magic, and that's a subject we haven't been getting into as yet, and it's very, very difficult to be able to guide ourselves and remain in a way sane.

JB: Well, what your saying is that we've had greed all this time, but now we have the planet as a player and saying that the greed when combined with modern technology and the increased population...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...is going to destroy the whole human species. So, now we've got an extra reason to get off it.

PS: Yeah, we don't have any longer future that you can say, well, it doesn't happen on this generation, it can happen next time.

JB: Next time.

PS: No, that's no longer true.

JB: Hold on there, Paolo, we'll be right back. You're listening to "We the People."

JB: Paolo, you've got the planet, should be on our side because it's giving us some very unsubtle warnings that it is being abused. I want to push this idea of laborato- ries...

PS: Yes.

JB: ...the city, the city based on compassion, the family of man. You've got another criteria, if the whole family can't enjoy it, then it's wrong. It's almost like the Chinchin imperative, you have to universalize it and...

PS: Right.

JB: ...does it work if it is for everyone? And obviously the shopping center can't work for ten billion people, or even eight billion. So then that means that's wrong, and we have to acknowledge it's wrong and we have to create something different and get about doing that, and so in order for to break the log jam, we're going to have to have some kind of step here. And I want to hear concretely if you can help us describe what that step would be or that laboratory.

PS: Okay, I mean, you're asking me to be knowledgeable, but wise in everything, and I'm not. So, what I'm trying to do with Arcosanti is to set up some perimeters, some ways of organizing spaces so that perhaps by mere guidance towards reorganization of our communities, and since the means of classic , it's a very modest kind of enterprise. But we do have the beginning of a community, a community by necessity is frugal, but it tries to make into some kind of a , because frugality is not the dimming of joy or the reduction of fulfillment. Frugality is, as I say, the ability to find within yourself more, and more, and more by way of coping and acting upon reality, upon the physical surroundings, and the social surroundings, and the cultural surroundings.

JB: Now, if you could start listing some of the traits, some of conditions or the check list of an urban laboratory. You started with frugality, and frugality not as some kind of hair shirt, but just the opposite, a rich interior life...

PS: That's right.

JB: ...that would liberate the mind and make use of its creativity as oppose to crushing it with all the contraptions and gadgets. So frugality would be your first factor.

PS: And actually, frugality goes well with paladin complexity and gathering, so what we are doing at Arcosanti, for instance, number one, we had a gathering not on good farmland, we're gathering on one of the shelves, one of the mesas. So you might call that marginal land in terms of agriculture, so we don't want to go down at the lower level where you can cultivate. We want to keep that for cultivation, and we are up on the mesa.

JB: Number one, so you aren't going to cultivate your own food then.

PS: No, we're not very good at it, but the land is there and we are doing some cultivation, yes. We've been doing that for many years.

JB: Okay. So you're not going to use good land for your habitat, you're going to use second rate land. Was there a second thing?

PS: Number two, we are very small now, so it is very easy for us to say that we like to belong to the habitat, let's say to the town, but we also like to belong to the open landscape, and that's what's happening. We are on the edge between what you might call the manmade environment, the habitat, and nature. And that's really a physical fact, we are really stepping out of our places and we are in the middle of the high desert. That's another point that's very critical if we want to partake both in what you might call the culture of development, civilized development of society and the beauty of nature and the resources that nature can give us in culture, farming, on and on. That's a second point.

JB: Okay, you're in between.

PS: Yeah, we're really on the edge of both of them, so we can partake in both...

JB: Would you say then that you couldn't have an urban laboratory of the new frugal city inside an old city where there isn't much nature around, at least nature is covered up?

PS: Given the condition by which nature has been transformed for a hundred square miles for a city like Phoenix, then you might want to may be also this gigantic system culture into smaller structure but more three-dimensional so that each one of the spots can regenerate at least some greenery around itself. So what you might call urban villages.

JB: You'd carve those out of this immense urban sprawl.

PS: That's right. Naturally you can take the blighted areas first, and then again in terms of laboratory to generate a different kind...

JB: Okay, so now that's an interesting point. The places that have been abandoned, the South Bronx, parts of South Central Los Angeles, parts of Oakland, what you could do is take these abandoned places and regenerate them both with your dense, complex, frugal habitat, and with the nature being right outside the door.

PS: Yeah, reintroducing some kind of farming or gardening, or parks, and so on. But naturally you need the physical unit and you need the human, so not only you have to work on the architectural state of the system, but also on the special you are going to have the system filled with.

JB: Is there anybody working on this in terms of trying to transform a existing urban space in accordance with ideas we are now talking about?

PS: I think in Europe there is quite a bit of that, and also in the States, in San Francisco, Berkeley, I think there was an attempt there, and they did some work about that, but again our priorities are so mixed up. If we invest the money that we invest in oneself playing, say 3 billion dollars in some laboratory work in urban questions, we would gain lots of knowledge and we would begin to transform our habitat. We are not willing to do that.

JB: We would first of all have to have a very experimental bent of mind willing to try something.

PS: You would have to. We do that in every field including medicine. We tend to use ourselves as guinea pigs in order to carry medicine forward and beyond the limits of the tests now. So that's human flesh that we are putting in the grinder. We should do the same thing with the urban condition, knowing it's not the final, highly successful laboratory where new relationship, including the physical relationship and human relationship are developed so that we can learn more. Keeping in mind that there is a learning which comes from history. The history of Europe, for instance, is the history of the making of the city, and civilization.

JB: Yeah, your point there about the experimentation on human flesh. It goes on by the millions because a lot of stuff that's going on in terms of medical intervention is definitely experimental even when they say it isn't.

PS: Oh, yeah.

JB: So your talking about a very...in terms of the human physical impact, immediate. It's a far less invasive of the body.

PS: It's much more gentle than medicine, because medicine has to go to extreme in order to come out with good answers, but now the habitat is the most complex because it reaches everywhere, and it's the most complex, the most costly, involving the most of the planet in terms of resources, in terms of space, so it's a very serious undertak- ing, and we need to learn about it, not to just throw out things that are somehow, some kind of re-collage, and say, well, it didn't work very well so we demolish it. Let's be more systematic.

JB: Are you talking about the building of buildings in downtown areas and then tearing them down twenty years later?

PS: Yeah, the same buildings in a Europe city would work perfectly. That shows the buildings per se cannot give the answers. The answers come from the building plus the social .

JB: Oh, you're saying...now I think I understand...that a lot of buildings have been torn down to make way for modern buildings that if they were in Europe, they would have been left alone and it would have...the space would have been utilized...

PS: What I am thinking of the dynamiting in the early we dynamite something because it was inhumane. Different kinds of society would find that unacceptable.

JB: They'd find a way to use it.

PS: Yeah.

JB: And also I was thinking that as the United States with all its power is pioneering new weapons system, new medical interventions, to the hundreds of billions. The military is 240 - 50 billions right now. The medical experimentation also goes into the hundreds of billions, and here what your saying, you made a reference to a very modest sum for some urban laboratories.

PS: Yes, and but...

JB: Which we probably of the countries are capably of doing and which will have the exemplary effect, just like we're teaching China, in fact General Motors is building cars there and we're even letting contracts for eight-lane roads and freeways, so willy nilly we are already setting the tone, it's just that we're missing the boat on this omega seed unfolding of a laboratory of frugality and interior-kinds of being.

PS: Naturally in order to get to that point we would like to persuade our politicians and our power people that as things are developing now there is no way we can succeed. Again, I am speaking about the family of man, not the 250 or so Americans, because I think that ethically we will not be able to say, well, we don't care about the rest, 250 million Americans are going to have a good time. Well, that's no longer feasible as we know. Resources are not there, the isolation and the segregation of us one chunk of humanity is not going to work, so we have to be slowly realized the and this notion of we of the elected people is utterly a fossil. Cannot do that any longer.

JB: Well, if you just looked at it from the religious point of view, the religions are saying that their is a Fatherhood of God, a Brotherhood of Human Beings, and that would under validate the notion that we are all in one family. Then you have science that we are interpenetrated by the same molecules. That would also validate that we are in the family of man, the family of human beings, and then, of course, the etiology of democracy or equality, of races and sexes, that would also validate the notion that we are in a family together, except we've got these parochial hangovers saying there is a boundary between Mexico and the United States, or between China and United States, and so we're not really rubbing our nose or put our mind in the face of this utter discrepancy between the way we are and the way it would be if everybody was the way we are, which couldn't be, because then we would all be dead, or destroyed, the whole thing would be over. So, I think what, more than just the politicians, we are going to have to get this idea in our own minds and really deepen it and share it. And as we understand it, it can become part of the base, of the philosophical base of where our country, and any country is going, if it can be grasped by enough people at a deep enough level.

PS: Yeah, and I mean we have this gift of democracy that we can give to everybody, and we are trying to do that in many ways, but then we fall short when we say, well, we are the chosen people, so no matter what, America first, and soon or later that has to be understood for what it is and we have to get rid of it, or the family of man is just a fantasy. So in a way we are living a utopian time where we think that we can isolate something and say, this is sufficient. There is nothing so self-sufficient about anything. The only self-sufficient thing is the cosmos. Actually if the cosmos is created by God, even the cosmos is not self-sufficient. Let's forget about these chosen people...

JB: Chosen people, living a lie. Let us come back, we've got to take a break. Paolo, we'll be right back. You're listening to "We the People."

You're back with "We the People" and we're speaking with Paolo Soleri. If you would like to join the "We the People" organization, here's the number of call 800-426- 1112. I'll send you some information and you can decide for yourself. Paolo, I would like to take a few calls from some of our listeners. Let's here from David. Your on with Paolo Soleri.

David: Hi, and thank you for a very stimulating couple of shows. I visited Arcosanti about, I guess, 15 years ago or so, and was really fascinated by it and really liked the concept of the laboratories and so forth. I guess the main concern that comes across to me is, I realize, I'm probably like one of the typical people you think need to change. I like my CD player.

PS: That's right.

David: I like my computer, I like my selection of two or three dozen different running shoes I can get.

PS: That's right.

David: I like it, and I'm not really thinking about it too much, and I'm learning here that it's in my higher self-interest to maybe to thing maybe there is something more important. And there is a cost attached to that that I hadn't been previously aware of, namely, the security of my future and that of my children.

PS: Right.

David: So, I see the utmost necessity to make these kinds of changes that you are discussing, but where my question and concern comes in what is the role of democracy in this and how, I mean, if we need to make these changes, you know, you said something earlier that, in fact I called at the very beginning of the show and was told I had to wait a half hour before, this was the very first quote you said, you quoted somebody's talk about consumerism.

JB: That was me, I quoted Michael Gardner.

PS: And I liked that.

JB: "Consumerism is a virulent form of materialism where advertising insures the demand is created for products for which there is no need."

David: Okay, let's talk democracy here for a minute. That's your view, and that's Michael Gardner's view, and may be it's a more highly evolved view, but what gives us the right and what is the role of democracy in saying to probably the zillions of people out there that will say, hey, get off my back, you know, I like retail. You know, I like strolling through the shopping malls.

JB: Okay, David, let's...thank you very much for that call. Paolo, do you have a comment on that?

PS: Yes, of all the species that inhabit this globe there is only one that says, I do what I like, and it is our species, and naturally, that's an indication of the how far we've gone in evolution, but this notion that I'm conceived, I was born, and I've been educated and I will do what I like it's pretty, pretty difficult notion really to digest, because as I was saying, there is nothing in nature that every said anything like that. There we should have a Bill of Rights, naturally, but they should be matched item by item by a Bill of Duty, or Bill of Responsibilities. If we did that, then we would find out that so of the things that we say, I do them because I like to them, are out of context, and I think the democracy cannot survive with only a Bill of Rights without a Bill of Duties, frankly.

JB: Gregory Battson liked to quote Saint Paul to the Galacions where he said, "God is not mocked," and he related that to the ecology. The ecology is not mocked, so there are duties, there are rules here, and this notion, we can do whatever we want misses that point. There was another statement that Gregory Battson said, I want to share with you, he said, "What is going to be required in the future is more elegancy and less tolerance." How does that strike you?

PS: Probably in terms of...

JB: Sloppiness, muddy thinking, wait.

PS: Okay, because tolerance is something that we need desperately.

JB: We need tolerance at one level, but we need intolerance at another level.

PS: Yeah, but the same thing what xenophobia does to us, it makes us intolerant, because at the end of any discussion on any discussion we say, yes, but...American first, and that's xenophobia. I mean, we might not want to see it that way, but that's what it is, because we cannot any longer say, well, since I'm an American I'm worth ten Chinese, or two Chinese, or fifty Africans. We can no longer do that it's really a leftover, part of the brain that is no longer on top of things.

JB: Yes.

PS: That might costs us quite a bit, because we have pride, we have our history, we love our country, and so on, but my God, we have to go beyond those things at this point.

JB: Well, there is also a manipulation. When caller, David, was talking about I want this, I want that, the people do. The people, themselves, are being manipulated at a very early age through education, through the media, through advertising, through the structure through the way things are organized to get these needs impeded into the mental structure so this is not an accident, it's not like there's one person, one vote in a primordial way here, we are living with hundreds of billions of advertising which is allowed to go along because we let it, but ourselves are manipulated by it, so we've going to have to get on top of it and give people a chance to see undermuddied by nationalism, parochialism, or consumerism.

PS: And by the way, speaking of democracy, we have the greatest disparity now between the have and the have nots in this country, so, in a way, we have the worst example of what a democratic aware society seems should be because if democracy is based on injustice, then I'm afraid it's falling short of what the promises were.

JB: If you go back and look at the Founders, beside the fact they were certainly congenial to the slaughter of the native peoples and could accept the fact, or if they were from the South actually advocated the enslavement of African people, there was a very, a very telling point that John Adams made in a letter to Abigail Adams, he said, "That in this generation we have to teach our children and arts of war so that their children can master the arts of commerce, so their children and master the arts porcelain, and music, and tapestry." The idea being that by the third generation, we will have evolved beyond war and commerce to art, but, boy, I think it must be four or five generations after that and we are still seem pretty mired in the first generation.

PS: of greed are surfacing constantly in these discussions. If we are less opportunistic in terms of the ego, but opportunistic in terms of the species, in the terms of the planet, which means the right opportunist, and if you could somehow thrust into this greed that we are all prisoners of, things would begin to be more democratic I think.

JB: So I see we have to have a laboratory that builds a habitat that facilities the virtues that you're describing and de-emphasizes and marginalizes the vices that are pandemic.

PS: But naturally that would be because of that kind number one would be more frugal in the sense demanding less from the environment, demanding less from society, and so on, because again, the suburban sprawl is the most consumer-oriented, the most wasteful-oriented, the most pollutant-oriented, and the most segregated of all the things we can come up with. The scenario pretty deep in terms of having 250 million Americans saying, I want to be a suburbanite.

JB: Well, Paolo, we have a suburbanite on the line right now. Naomi, let's hear what you have to say about this. Naomi, welcome. Naomi, she's not there. Well, John, then.

John:Yes, there's a man who immigrated to Canada, Giovanie Caparici, and he bought, I think, 667 hepped acres, a former city near Endlopes, and he plans, he's on it for three years, he's trying to get it to become patterned after the Renais- sance city, I believe, in Italy called Padova, and he's named that and he's hoping...

PS: Oh, really. John:and he's hoping to have arts, and crafts, and film and all sorts of things based there, and as a Renaissance city.

JB: Paolo, have you heard of that?

PS: No, and my first reaction which should not be a reaction because I'm too ignorant to know, but my first reaction is that there might be some kind of utopian notion there, because to separate the artist, so-called, from the rest of humanity is a big mistake. The artist is part of humanity so should be immersed in the routine life of any community. So that is why I refuse to call Arcosanti a Center of the Arts. I mean, that's not the intent at all.

JB: So the arts is fabricate...is buildings/

PS: It's also...

JB: That's what art means.

PS: ...living is the biggest art, and actual living means that all part of the population, all levels of wealth, all level of culture and learning should be intermixed, because that's what the urban effect is suppose to be.

JB: You say the art of living, how about the art of dying?

PS: Well, that's a very, very difficult thing to...

PS: Do you think there can be an art of living if we don't have an art of dying?

PS: Well, since I see it not as a pleasant or nice thing, but something very harsh, dying is part of the harshness of living, and that's why my moral thing says that going on to the end. At the end there might be a revelation of reality which is "we are all there resurrected," in a very special manner out of space time.

JB: What I was thinking of when you say an artist can't be removed, but has to be engaged, and that's an art of living, and since we're all going to be dying, that also has to be part of the engagement.

PS: Yes, but the anguish, the basic anguish that we all have is that this notion, number one of being limited in our experience, in our experiment. Number two, not knowing that we are means to something very, very important that we might eventually enjoy, so to be able to re-build within ourself hope and faith, and optimism, that's part of the process of getting anguish directed toward creativity.

JB: Paolo Soleri, thank you very much. I want to end it on that high note.

Transcription courtesy of Arcosanti.


Back to Archive Index