I have never once just thought up a truly new practice and then executed it afterwards.
Every new thing I’ve ever conceived emerged from intuitive, nonverbal doing — from groping in the dark, from muddling through, usually under conditions of considerable perplexity and stress.
Only after, if it worked, can I go back and reflect on what made it work, and produce a theory.
I’ve never seen things go the opposite direction.
As far as I know, the only way to close the theory-practice gap is to theorize from practice. And it is less like a closing of a gap than it is paving something substantial but rough and poorly lit.
There is only a gap if theory has been sketched into a vacuum. I don’t think those gaps ever close.
And trying to practice from theory leads to mechanical sterility. It leads to execution of memorized dance steps, or the recitation of syllables from an alien language.
Every important thing I’ve ever conceived has come came to me this way. And every important thing I’ve ever learned has come to me first as a new practical capacity, a new ability to perceive or respond first — tacit know-how — and only much later has it become something I can actually explain.
Maybe a Sartrean formula would be helpful: Practice precedes theory.
What emerges from practice-forged theory is praxis — articulate practice.
I am excited about design as an alternative mode of practical life.
It is a new living tradition, a way of working, self-consciously developed by many diverse practitioners, solving a vast and growing array of real-world problems in every conceivable material (matter, space, time, information, imagination, feeling), for (arguably) the last 60-so years.
It is a tradition that must be appropriated and internalized before it becomes productive in the head, hearts and hands of a participant.
It is the appropriate mode of practice for anyone who works in systems in which humans participate. If you think about it at any depth at all, this category embraces just about all human activity, most of all the governing of people at every scale.
Design is the way we should be approaching life together, but its methods and even more, its core sensibilities, its conceptive capacities, are still largely confined to specialists. In my own life, I’ve found that disciplining myself to behave as a designer has made intractable, incorrigible problems soluble.
Almost anything I do, I do better if I do it in a designerly way.
But what is this designerly way? It is not methods. It is what animates these methods. It is a faith.
More and more, I am realizing that the purpose of my life is to illuminate and activate the esoteric underpinnings of design practice.
Like all faiths, design has a visible outward form that can be looked at — an exoteric expression — and an inward, esoteric being that cannot be looked at, but rather is seen from.
The reason I have been so quiet lately is I am returning to the sophia perennis. I want to do for design what esoterists have done with traditional religions — illuminate their transcendent unity. To this end, I am focusing on the esoteric depths of my own faith, and studying Kabbalah.
But just to preemptively address on obvious and important objection: I am not in the slightest interested in making design into a religion. I am just trying to invest our practical lives with religious energy. We cannot continue on with this vacuous, stressful, tedious slogging. Our oil-dependent economy depends even more on another rapidly depleting fuel source, will-power. Our will-power tanks have been sucked dry are emptied even of vapors.
We sit before our screens, commanding our hands to move and type out words, but they refuse to do what we say.
We need an alternative, renewable psychic energy source. But we cannot tap into this source as long as we continue to insist that all new sources conform to our current sacred theories of power. These theories possess us and will not release us until we pay the price of our redemption.