I used to worry that there were weird creatures lurking in my room at night. I avoided stepping on cracks, so as to save my poor mother’s back.
But I never believed I would hear a New Yorker say this about a proposed skyscraper: “It’s an abomination.”
Or this: “This is the time to call halt to this. This is the time to stop.”
Excuse me? The city that invented the term skyline thinks it is time to stop?
There is, of course, post-9/11 worry in NYC over instability and tall structures, but some people also “complain about the height and the shadow it will cast.”
Compare Al Smith’s triumphant comments on the Empire State Building’s opening: “A building designed, fashioned, built by the brains, the brawn, the ingenuity, and the muscle of mankind.” Or Walter Chrysler’s declaration on its junior, the Chrysler building: “A bold structure, declaring the glories of the modern age.”
We all know that the tallest, boldest, most profusive and exorbitant buildings are being built in Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Dubai – receiving the baton of conquering libido from an exhausted West. I remember Eric Voegelin saying (sounding kind of like Marx while demolishing the foundations of Marxist millenarianism) in his 1952 The New Science of Politics that he could see Gnosticism as a political movement collapsing on itself, now that it had reached its own zenith of revolutionary totalitarianism. Having penetrated the sky with our buildings, and then the stratosphere to land on the moon in 1969, we were like the adulterer who went all the way in his excitement … only to conclude of his orgasmic anti-climax, “Was that it?” For, anything beyond the moon was merely a curiosity. Penetrating any further has meant nothing to us, culturally, because it is not relevant to us – Mars never claimed dominion over us, and claiming Mars gives us no new dominion because it is useless. If you will excuse the analogy a little further, the penetration meant nothing but excitement when it was pure domination, of ourselves or our restraints, or the God whose praise was stolen. The penetration had meaning in its ability to give life, and in a relation of symbiosis.
It may be healthy, for a time, for the libertine to become the prude. But his real healing will be in undertaking the covenant enabled by his verve, the marriage that follows his libido.
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.