A home is made of many parts. Let’s list them.
Perhaps most prominent are the walls, floor, and ceiling, but most important is what those parts define: the empty space in the middle. Each of these features can be broken down into their own component parts, but I don’t have enough expertise to name them accurately. I know there is something called dry wall and I look for studs when I hang up framed tube posters, and clearly there is a paint layer in the stratification of what makes a wall. There must be layers to the floor and ceiling as well. But we won’t delve too deep. We are not dwarves.
The other main structural piece must be the doors, the passages between worlds and the various compartments of life—portals between public and private spaces and the spaces defined for specific activities. Again there are a million ways to divide the components of doors, from the hinges to the handles to the frame.
More minor features include storage that is built right into the structure, like kitchen cabinets, and tools that fulfill things that humans need to do like clean themselves (showers, sinks, etc.).
Also important are the systems, the elements that have functions that move energy throughout the home in the form of electricity, flowing water, or air. There are safety systems like fire alarms to protect the home from destruction.
Oh, I forgot about windows! How can you forget about windows? The permeable barrier of sunlight. People are always talking about the windows on House Hunters. Windows are weird, though. They’re structural, but they overlap and intertwine with the lighting and air systems.
Also, counters. Next time you use a counter, notice with gratitude its ample height to accommodate your standing height.
Returning to the empty space. The space is filled with more mobile objects. Tables and chairs and couches and TVs and those small fridges that people get to keep their wine at just the right slightly-cooler-than-room-temperature temperature.
There are plates and screens and technology objects and beds and pillows and also forks. A home without forks is incomplete! I dare you to test my theory.
There are fridges with food and pantries with snacks and various household supplies. It’s a wonder everything can fit inside. “Make the kitchen bigger!” they say on HGTV.
But let me ask you this. To where does the wine flow? Who gathers around the table to enjoy the food that is prepared in the oven or microwave? Who sits on the couch to watch Netflix and enjoys the comfort of the lighting and candles that make a real home?
The people in the home have their own structure and their own systems. Their arms and legs and their circulation and breath. But they have their experience too. Do they enjoy living in their home? Do they find peace and comfort? Is it hard to believe that the home breathes like they breathe, and when they enjoy the home, the home enjoys it too?
Here’s the thing that drives me most crazy in this world.
There are two ways of looking at things.
You can look analytically, in a “classical” mode of thought, and divide things into their component parts and functions. This way of thinking is logical, rational, slow, verbal, mathematical.
Or you can look intuitively, in a “romantic” mode of thought, and see the immediate experience, the whole picture at once. This way of thinking is visual, intuitive, emotional, quick, and it’s what makes people dance.
This is Apollo and Dionysus. Classic and romantic. Square and hip.
You can look at a home as how the house is built. Or you can look at a home as the people drinking wine on the couch.
In most situations, these two modes of thought are separated by an unfathomable distance. There is no bridge between them. You figure out which side you most align with and join that camp. You become an analytical person or an intuitive dreamer.
But here’s the thing that drives me crazy.
In order to do anything great, you need both sides. You need the logic and the magic. You need a way to get your brain to do both. You have to build your own bridge across.
There’s a commonly held belief that creativity is only the intuitive “artistic” side, and that the logic and analytical thinking associated with accountants has nothing to do with it. But it’s not. True creativity comes from the combination of the logic and the magic, the analytical and the intuitive, the structure and the beauty.
You can’t have a home without walls. And a home isn’t a home without the people drinking wine and watching Netflix.
Published 7 September 2015
Kevin McGillivray is a web developer, writer, and teacher from Wisconsin. He writes about creativity, mindfulness, code, and tea.