When we’ve forgotten how to live

Culture:
We’re in an emotional, spiritual, intellectual tizz
because we don’t really know what it is –
without a definition
we’re like a stork with a kneecap condition
a boa with a constriction
and for every attempt there’s an equal and opposite valediction
verging on contempt:
there’s nothing that culture cant surpass
with its formidable ability to disappear up its own arse –
“Its the way we do things around here”
Our way of life,
its collection of code, rule, habit, convention and permission,
our very own road to perdition….

But ontologically there is no such thing
just an IDEA of culture formed under historical conditions
for retrospectively rationalised premonitions,
a means of exerting control,
a drawstring on the pants of humanity,
the romance of a profanity scrawled on the bog wall
an explanation when nothing else at all is to hand –
a phantom of our own creation and justification,
a hollow incantation,
our collected frame of perception
our own personal deception
terrifying when it becomes apparent
that its paper thin, fickle, fragile, transparent
because we’ve hung so much on it being real
it can mean anything we want it to,
farmed, cultivated on demand,
because when we’ve debated, cogitated and obfuscated
but can’t prove otherwise, its irrefutably true:
“Its the way we do things around here”
But where is the dream, the aspiration,
Lost in the stagnation of inertia and a mumbled soliloquy to stability,
conservative drowning in a small sea…..

Culture:
it will always be made, never the creator
never the participant, always the spectator
never the cause. always the effect
as arcane in our affection as in our neglect,
always an explanation in the dearth of intellect –
narrative, sedative, preservative, laxative,
“Its the way we do things around here”
when we’ve forgotten how to live….

Design:
We know what it is, its reach, its power, potential and opportunity
Amid the complexity and uncertainty of an ever-changing world
“Its the way things might be”
It creates situations – environments, experiences, exhilarations,
even nations have been conceived beneath
a sign-pen and crisp white sheaves,
and in the sweeping, twisting curves of its sculpture
it can create the very idea that
bemused, bruised, dazed and confused
we have somehow called culture:

What designer doesn’t hunger for a wicked problem,
a predilection for iteration
(like trying to find the exit at St Pancras station)
fearless of the myopic,
at ease with ambiguity and uncertainty
(and the promise of a BCO regional award for sustainability)
– the ultimate test of what might be….

And what workplace scheme didn’t take a wicked problem head on,
and carry in its appled eye a dream of new ways,
resistance grappled,
its contradictions untangled,
with lots of old panaceas cloaked as new-fangled,
all baggage left at the departure gate
however over budget or late;
and what workplace scheme isn’t named like a new-born
under the heady musk of a burnt orange dusk
with all the promise a pristine life brings –
For what workplace project would ever limply proclaim
lets just have more of the bleeding same?
Who would throw millions at the delight
of different day, same shite?
What Brief would ever come without an aspiration for
communication, interaction, collaboration, innovation,
Whoever thought that design wasn’t going to bring transformation?
Make real the vision of “the way things might be”,
or freeze poetry?

Design:
never the product, always the creator
always the participant, never the spectator
always the cause. never the effect
as prime in our affection as we come to expect,
always the spark in our heart and intellect –
protagonist, evangelist, sensualist catalyst,
“Its the way things might be”
the very reason, we exist….

And if you think culture has played a blinder
and gets your vote
here’s our Graham with a quick reminder
of what I wrote:
Will it be design: driving us toward a promise
A full field of vision, will and determination;
Or will it be culture, frivolous,
playacting in the back seat,
awaiting permission, a figment of its own hallucination
a hollow cheer;
You can vote for “the way we do things around here”
But me –
I’m with the way things might be”

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