God bless my dreams. Just woke up from another one that I won’t describe (whew!!!) other than to say it involved standing up for what I believe, and backing down when the reality shifted, searching for my pants, and my broken glasses, demurring an opportunity to join the younger generation in a fun outing, stopping to put my lights on while riding a bicycle in the dark against the traffic, and taking that ride past an antiquated “Sidney’s Matzah Factory” where by chance I ran into a former colleague by the name of Whitehair and half exclaimed and half inquired, “You’re in Providence!?” A lot of grist for the dream interpretation mill there, but most important is, as always—what were my first conscious thoughts after such a surreal escapade?
The message is simple, even if you wouldn’t come up with this from these dream fragments yourself. This is my year of downsizing in the physical plane and, God willing growing in the spiritual and emotional planes. (I’ll be satisfied not to lose any ground on the intellectual plane.)
It hit me that “less is more”—a common phrase that my great teacher in architecture school, the late icon of American Post-Modernism, Charles W. Moore dismissed in both word and deed. He lived a personal and professional life dedicated not just to “less is a bore,” but comically to “Moore is not less!” Moore indeed was more. He packed so much into his time and space frame—abundant artifacts in his abundant houses abundantly designed as a stage for his abundant personality that was embodied by his abundant torso. Charlie was larger than life in so many ways that it eventually led him out of life at an early age.
The torah says, “I have set before you life and death. Choose life that you may live.” My quest, this journey upon which I am embarking, is to choose life by downsizing my body, yet I suspect I am also on a path to downsize my entire worldly physical experience in favor of other rewards—rewards of a more spiritual nature. This is a time in my life where as part of my spiritual eldering I must begin to understand the absolute truth of my mortality. That includes the necessary eventual diminishment of many of the physical attributes I have taken for granted most of my life. I don’t mean to hurry that process at all. On the contrary, recognition of the consequences of life itself and certainly all of the decisions and actions I take within each day of this life, enables me to treasure each day and to weigh each decision all the more. Recognition of the consequences of life allows me to slow down the pace, which for 64 years has militated against such consciousness.
Only in recent months has the notion of retirement even crossed my mind. When the corporation I work for put my continued employment into question my response was to fight to reinvent myself in the company and save my job. One outcome of this ordeal was a clearer awareness that someday this job will indeed end. This inspired such questions as, “What will my life be after that and when?” Powerful questions deserve powerful answers. From questions like these flow a stream of related issues touching on my life with my wife, our physical surroundings, our financial planning, and issues after which government agencies are named, such as health, education and welfare.
No doubt my dream was at least in part influenced by the passing this week of another great teacher of mine—an architect of lesser note, but a far greater presence in my life than Charlie Moore. John M. Kahl, Sr. was without question my greatest manager, mentor, coach, supporter, collaborator, and above all friend that I have or likely will have in the workplace. In too many ways to recount here I owe my professional life to him. We would laugh when he would tell me about his imaginary classmate Les Izmore. The loss of a friend like John awakens the elusive awareness of the fact of one’s mortality.
Most of us living on the physical plane become enraptured by the physical trappings of this world—the many sensory pleasures that come from surrounding ourselves with property and possessions, delighting all our senses with food, sex, travel, entertainment—a constant bombardment of physical delight. How well can we adjust to downsizing any or all of that? Can we do it on our own timetable or are we beholden to external circumstances as one by one earthly delights diminish or disappear?
Coincidentally—or not—shortly after I begin this eighteen-month program designed to downsize my unhealthy appetite for food I will begin an eighteen-month program designed to enhance my spiritual growth called Kol Zimra with Rabbi Shefa Gold. I see a great possibility that these complementary activities will feed one another in a very healthy, spiritual, and life sustaining way. Less is more, and it opens a door. I pray that less stuff and less stuffing open me to infinite possibilities on planes where physical attributes and material possessions become of less and less importance.