to an unknown audience
Panes/  /September 30, 2002

In A Pattern Language, the authors at the Center for Environmental Design describe a few hundred patterns—malleable units of architectural form—that have a good fit with our culture and with the human psyche. One of the patterns that struck as odd at my first reading, in 1995, was SMALL PANES. The mere feasibility, they say, of making large panes of glass led architects to use the capability. At first glance it may have seemed that larger panes let us building-dwellers feel more readily in touch with nature. But the group argues that to have a completely unobstructed view of the outside, when you know you are distinctly inside is somewhat unsettling; I venture that it's a bit like car-sickness, where your eyes say you're fixed and your stomach says you're moving. Also, splitting up a large window into small, separated panes allows many different views from different points in the room.

You know that light, deep poem by moody, broody Phillip Larkin where he compares his youngers' libertine sexuality with his own English generation's religious liberation?

High Windows

When I see a couple of kids
And think he's fucking her and she's
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
And thought, That'll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide
Like free bloody birds.
And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

I've started to wonder if the loss of religion is not just a liberation, but is also meant to be a loss of faith (in the sense of optimism), or of comfort, and if the loss of sexual mores is a similarly tragic fall?

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