This continues the photo report of the June 20. 2009 The photos speak for themselves.
Some very poignant and touching tributes were given to Paolo during the evening. One such was made by Ira Murfin.
Alumnus Ira Murfin, author, playright, actor and director, worked with Paolo Soleri for several years as Paolo’s editor.
“The first time I saw Paolo was at a Morning Meeting the first or second day of my workshop. That particular gathering was marked by the presence of a live rattlesnake, trapped in the five-gallon bucket used for relocation to the desert. Those here who have put in their time at Morning Meeting know that such show and tell is not unusual.
We all gathered around – not too close, we stayed back several feet, peered in cautiously, and saw the snake coiled and resting at the bottom, small in his five-gallon prison. It was then Paolo, unmistakable to me even at first sighting in his sleeveless t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, walked by, when someone called out to him.
Without a hiccup in his gait, he turned toward the bucket and approached it, stood with exposed toes against the base and leaned his head down nearly to the rim. Unperturbed, with a look of curiosity and mild amusement, he tapped two fingers against the bucket’s side, twice, hard, as if trying to stir the inhabitant.
Everyone around him gasped, tensed, whispered careful, but Paolo stayed still, smiling down. No response. He shrugged, and shuffled on to the bakery as Morning Meeting continued as usual.
I keep returning to this story of course because the first time you see someone who will become so central in your thinking and your life always becomes a memorable occasion, but also because I think there is something metaphorically quite appropriate about this tableau and it is not only Paolo’s bravery in his approach – there are two things about it that remind me who Paolo is, what he’s done, and how he’s done it. First, it is that willful tap on the bucket, that jolt, and then there is the patient equanimity of his response.
Arcosanti has proved an effective and comfortable container for many of us. But our contentment alone is not what Paolo is after, as instigator he subjects life inside the laboratory to regular jolts of intellectual agitation. To live at Arcosanti is to engage in challenging daily inquiry into life’s organization, and life here within the project is no less subject to such challenge than life elsewhere. Paolo resists the temptation of trendy and reductive labels. Instead of “green”, he opts for “lean”. He is not being obstinate, rather accurate. Arcosanti is an urban laboratory, decidedly urban and decidedly a site for experimentation.
Paolo insists on specific language, he resists complacency and sentimentality when it comes to his accomplishments. If power consolidation were his goal, it would behoove him to simplify his message and fortify his theory against challenge by imposing on it a theological orthodoxy. But that is not his goal. His goal remains to consider the city, and indeed life and then reality, as a whole, a system. Paolo is not interested in making his work current or saleable, he is interested in making work that is, like all great cities and indeed all great projects, radical and in constant evolution.
In this Paolo stands also as an example of the power of quiet routine, of commitment in the long term, patience, and the practice of incrementally working through. To me this is Paolo, a true iconoclast, radical, revolutionary, but at the same time the most measured of men, living a life he himself has compared to the monastic, writing, rewriting, and writing again, approaching and re-approaching key words and ideas, drawing, carving, building, shapes and patterns repeating, working through.
Nonetheless, when tonight’s festivities are through, Paolo will head off to bed, rise early on the morning of his 90th birthday as any day. There are some events to attend to tomorrow, but he will most certainly set aside a bit of time to put down some thoughts, as he would say, about the weekend, or the nature of reality, a new urgent variation on lifelong themes.
What I hope comes through for you in all this, Paolo, is the importance of the role you, both your work and your life, have played in the lives and thinking of so many people, those here tonight, the thousands more who have spent some weeks and months here and at Cosanti over the last half century, and the many, many, many more who have brushed against your writings, your designs, your buildings in one way or another and have found it changed their lives.
Arcosanti affects the life and work of so many more people than we see or know – it has entered the culture, it is irreversibly part of our understanding of the possibilities for the city and our understanding of human potential.
This is what we are here to celebrate, your prototype of life and its container, this example you’ve built and this example that you are, and the fact that, despite the measure of your accomplishments, you persist in regularly delivering new deliberate pragmatic and philosophical jolts to us all.
Thank you & happy birthday, Paolo!”