13 April 2009

windows: of criticism and the path to completion

Humans are critical by nature. We rarely pass up an opportunity to criticize something, be it architecture, art, or fashion. In fact, criticism is big business.

Among the most popular television shows (ever) is American Idol, which is basically an excuse for America to gather around a TV to criticize people who are vastly more talented than any of us watching at home.

Sports are tremendous criticism drivers. Who blew the game? How did the coach botch the plan? In our absurdity, we have countless television channels, radio stations, and internet sites devoted to re-hashing the performances of young men who either shoot, kick, throw, or swing at various balls.

Ever heard of FoxNews? CNN? Talking heads argue all day as to who is right or, more often, who is wrong. Often, the talking heads get so excited in criticizing each other that it is easy to forget the issue they were debating in the first place.

And yet, as ugly and divisive as criticism can be, I find it to be at the heart of all improvement.

Beautiful architecture, for instance, doesn’t just happen. New York’s Chrysler Building didn’t just leak out of a draftsman’s pen. Prague’s Dancing House wasn’t finished after one draft. Beauty is labored over, criticized, re-designed, labored over again, re-criticized, re-re-designed and eventually made complete.

If we are wise, if we truly desire to live out our full potential, we have no choice but to surround ourselves with a community that can breathe truth into us, no matter how painful. We have no choice but to ask those who love us where we fail, where we fall short, and where we miss the mark.

In wisdom, it makes sense for us to invite criticism, ask for input, and then seriously search out ways to improve. In wisdom, it makes sense to have people see in us what we cannot see in ourselves. After all, no one looking out a window can rightly see what that window looks like from the outside looking in.

If we are to be beautiful, if we are to achieve the fullness that was designed for us, we are going to have to be willing to be labored over, criticized, and re-designed.

All on our path to being made complete.

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