Thursday, June 10, 2004
Qwan (Unmasked)
I have heard (though I have no real knowledge of this as "fact") that members of many ancient cultures would share their names only with those they trusted. A name is a powerful thing, capable of binding its owner to the will of a possessor. A name is powerful in another way as well: it indicates a personal value, a qualification that the subject is worthy of consideration as a differentiated member of a more general collection of "things".

While I admire the mystic qualities of the indescribable, (such as the proverbial sound of one hand clapping), I must admit that such things, by their very nature, are difficult to discuss. I have found quite the opposite problem with the word "aesthesis", which has a specific meaning, albeit one that is difficult to fathom outside of its Greek philosophical context. Imagine my joy when I discovered a most eloquent description of this term in Christopher Alexander’s "The Timeless Way of Building", a seminal work in the field of architecture.

In this book, Dr. Alexander describes the "quality without a name" that is the quintessential realization of perfect architecture. Many have taken his work beyond the field of architecture, using his "quality" as the driving force for improvement in their fields. This quality (often referred to as "qwan") is precisely what I mean when I speak of aesthesis. Dr. Alexander’s description realizes the challenges of describing this aspect, a challenge I have faced in the past-- but no more, thanks to his outstanding efforts.

I would recommend the book to anyone interested in a spiritual and intellectual journey into the realm of true quality; its expression, realization, and creation. If I have given this quality a name, it is an honor indeed. Regardless, I at least have the ability to provide a reference to what I mean by aesthesis that is both complete and utterly fascinating.

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