I’ve discovered I’m likely deep in the Block Universe and quite excited about it.
It turns out that time has already been determined. All of the universe: past, present and future exists as a block. I’ve spent the past week or so wondering what one does if there is nothing one can do about what one is going to do!
I’ve imagined this block as a massive milk crate full of bottles; every moment in time is a bottle. If I zoom in on my lifespan, I’m somewhere in the middle of this part of the crate. As I understand this theory, there is no choice whether to go left or right. The future already exists. I’m going where I’m going. It’s a conundrum when you really think about it. But the term ‘follow your path’ makes more sense, ‘find your path’ less so. The ‘universe will decide’ is also more of a sensible proposition than I had previously considered.
Philosophy and metaphysics are difficult subjects to grasp and even harder to try and write in seven hundred words on a Friday morning. We’d have lectures and seminars on such things at architecture school. There was a wonderfully weird chap called Nigel who scared the living daylights out of most of us in our first few weeks. It all started in a strange but understandable sort of fashion as he stood at the front and emptied his black (everything always black) bum bag, item by item, explaining why he carried it and what it did. I only remember his black Mont Blanc fountain pen with a white snow-topped cap. He then marched us around Southsea, stopping here and there, exclaiming the wonders of various seemingly mundane places, things or buildings: some real, some imaginary. The top of the building on the opposite corner of Knight and Lee came in for particular attention. Occasionally, he’d single one of us out for our dumbfounded insights. If anyone became a smart Alec, he’d make them draw the entire contents of a shop window while everyone else either watched or just walked off. He’d be strung out to dry these days, but in 1991, it was character-building – and memorable.
He took us to the Queens Hotel. If you’ve not been, it’s a relatively grand Edwardian hotel with a big lobby, marble floors, and “countless neoclassical decorative flourishes.” We were marched up the steps and, after some preamble about why it was such a special space, made to sit at the back of the lobby and instructed to draw the Indian Prince who had just walked in the entrance door. Not ‘imagine an Indian Prince….’, no it was presented as though he was there. Undoubtedly, some got the idea, but I remember looking around at worried hands hovering over blank pages. Then Arnold Schwarzenegger walked in. Then, Grace Jones. Then Rick Deckard.
What was the point of all this? I remember him telling us we must unlearn how we think about everything – he was very challenging. It was a philosophical version of army boot camp. Remove our preconceived ideas and be open to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. There were extensive talks on the Gardens of Kashmir, Heidegger and Thing Theory, all interspersed with references to Blade Runner – he loved that film. We were being taught to be designers to think differently about what we see, enabling us to explore and realise new solutions to problems. We were also being indoctrinated: Taught to dress, think and speak like architects. Another of our lecturers drove a black Saab and wore black roll necks. And I sit here with a black, German fountain pen (not Mont Blanc) by my side.
I was going to wrap this up with some sort of clever reflection on the Block Universe, after all, that’s how this started. But as I’ve moved through time, hopping across the milk bottle tops, it turns out I’m not meant to do that. It’s just not what the universe wants me to do 🙂 I love this Block Universe theory.
This week’s web links give you a proper explanation of the Block Universe, a nice article talking about Hopper’s Nighthawk’s influence on Blade Runner, Mr Bean at the Queen’s Hotel and a fantastic song. Any comments or suggestions you can get me at email@example.com
All the best
This guy is incredible
Mr Bean visits the Queens Hotel in 1992
Top Gear has architects sussed
A fairly simple description of Block Universe theory.
This is a recipe for the weekend to remind you it’s just about still the summer.
I like this simple and modest chapel conversion.