I stumbled upon Frank Lloyd Wright’s manifesto a few years ago and found it a curious list. I printed the document and tacked it to the bulletin board near my desk. From time to time I would look at it trying to puzzle what it meant.
When I quit my job last year, like lots of other scraps of paper, the list was thrown in a box, maybe one that came home with me, maybe one that went to the shredder. But, I apparently had saved an electronic version of it. I didn’t recognize the document name; FLWList meant little to me. Once I opened the file, though, I remembered this.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Manifesto
(for his apprentices)
1. An honest ego in a healthy body.
2. An eye to see nature
3. A heart to feel nature
4. Courage to follow nature
5. The sense of proportion (humor)
6. Appreciation of work as idea and idea as work
7. Fertility of imagination
8. Capacity for faith and rebellion
9. Disregard for commonplace (inorganic) elegance
10. Instinctive cooperation
Some points are easy to find agreement with. Honesty. A healthy body. An eye to see nature. A heart to feel nature. But others still puzzle me. What did he mean by the courage to follow nature. Why does he pair faith with rebellion? Are the two opposites to be held in balance by the other? If so, isn’t skepticism a better choice than rebellion? What did he mean by disregarding commonplace elegance? I’m not sure what he means by commonplace elegance. Isn’t that an oxymoron? I don’t know if I regard or disregard the commonplace. By finding the uncommon, by seeing something extraordinary in the ordinary, are we disregarding it by rejecting the status quo, by looking beyond what is obvious, to see what may be hidden?
Maybe this is all a shorthand of sorts that only made sense to Wright and his apprentices. Still, I like to ponder lists like this. What about you? What questions do you think about when you read FLW’s manifesto?