Is that what hell is like?

I recently had what I would define as two successive spiritual dreams. They both related to how one approaches life. They are important.

In one dream I was in the hold of a large ship with other men I recognized as strong builders, sailors or craftsmen. I had determined or been chosen to design a new sloop; a nimble fast sailing ship to set out on the seas of life with. The men were eager to help and encouraging but sober, men who had “been around the horn”. I sensed they were all most able and willing.

I understood that they would help me and sail with me for a season…

I was a little apprehensive as I had never designed a sailing vessel before (I am not a nautical architect ) but I was confident that I could use my skills and training as an artisan architect of buildings to do the design work.  The dream ended as I determined to find a nautical architect to consult with; I would find the best around to help me design this new vessel.

The second dream was on the following night.  I had traveled to Palm Springs to visit some family friends on an annual visit from Minnesota.

It had been sabbath, and I had a busy but restful day visiting and touring the area. At the end of the Sabbath just at dusk I had taken a tram to climb 8,000 feet from the desert to the San Jacinto Mountains.

Although I had determined before my trip to abstain from alcohol for 22 day’s (I was 12 day’s into this period) I decided to have a hot toddy at the bar. Come on, it was vacation, sort of-  still Shabbat ; kinda of ( I tend to abstain from drink, during the week).  It was well below 28 degrees out! I had some time to wait before the next tram down the mountain.  So I imbibed I went with the flow, not my intended course of action!

This was not a big deal as an adult.  I keep my drinking in check by these occasional periods of abstinence. I had been told once “if you feed the monkey he gets stronger, starve him he gets weaker.” I love and often quot the statement “it’s not if you have a glass of wine or two the question is does it have you ?”  So I track all my habits carefully.

Our habitual behaviors make us or break us. How we approach our decisions about what we do, when and how and why we do things defines our life- our experience of the journey . The tumultuous seas of life can challenge us. In a large part the results of our travels are determined by how we respond. Do we hold our peace -keep present and engaged in the troubled and calm waters?

That night I had another dream.  A very different one.

I dreamed I was in a large building. I am not sure if it was a city, a hotel or convention center.  It was not lovely, nor well designed. It was rough and un-finished, under construction so to speak. There where bright and dark places, orderly and confusing spaces.  Some colorful other dank and dirty. People where coming and going without order, floating in and out without acknowledging me or others.

I discerned I was floating through my life as well. I was in this place without purpose. It was not as if we where wrong or bad, just un-productive, not organized; not intentional. I could feel I was floating through my life as the others about me floated.

Bob Dylan sang once; “Most people don’t live or die most people just float.”

The actual results of this way of being was chaos and disorder. People would come and go and do something here and there on the building. Each on their own without communication or interaction- no intention, no context, no interdependence-. no discipline. Certainly no submission to a plan or any ordering principles. As an architect I know any successful building requires a good plan, and people willing to follow it.

The space we where in reflected no kind of organization it was visually convoluted, it looked and felt chaotic and somehow threatening. Architecture actually is the ordering by principles of materials and systems of construction. The architect makes the plans the contractors utilize the methods and means of construction to excuse them: to build the plans.

I watched about me,  as people came and went.  Some seemed mindful of doing things others not.  Some focusing for a few minutes and intently working but then just, stooping, walking away with things unfinished.   All where active without coordination, communication or a singular intent.

I felt both fear and discomfort it was a very awkward place to be.  I was suffering here. I felt afraid because there was no consistency or predictability. There was no plan or purpose to things.

I then awoke.

Is that what hell is like?

Are you floating or sailing on the sea of life?

(These images by Todd Eberle are of Frank Gehry’s first Yacht design “the Foggy”.  A world renown architect and avid sailor Mr.  Gehry at 80, was commissioned by  Richard Cohen to design her.  Richard a long time yachtsman wanted to build a large racing boat. After agreeing to work together, the two old friends brought in Germán Frers, an Argentine naval architect known for designing some of the most elegant fast sailboats in the world. Note the controlled chaos in this design, the reality of disorder actually provides the real beauty and ingenuity. But it is not disorderly it honors the complexity of things with carefully crafted and composed elements of order and disorder. A most purposeful design.


foggy at sea 2

gehery on board copy

hatchway foggy


First Published as “Are you floating or sailing on the sea of life” 3/17/2018

2nd Publishing as “Is that what hell is like”.

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