Architecture, knowledge, and the misnomer of Junk DNA

I’ve been thinking, of late, a lot about architecture and the creation of new knowledge. Knowledge is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all have it, just in limited amounts and in different arenas. We either trust this knowledge or we don’t. All too often, we can feel intimidated by the expression others give to their claimed knowledge and then tell ourselves that we lack what they have, whether or not this is true.


A few weeks ago, there was a piece in the Wall Street Journal by E.O. Wilson, a retired biology professor, who expressed the belief that too many aspiring scientists turn away from their profession because they believe they lack the advanced mathematical skills necessary to be successful. Wilson posits that there are many disciplines of science where less than advanced math is required and that should such math become necessary you can get help by collaborating with experts in those numerical fields. He mourns the fact that people can cut themselves off too early due to fears that they lack the talents they need to be successful.


As for architecture, well, of course you need math and engineering skills if you want your buildings to stand in a 3D world. But the art of design and construction extends far beyond mere buildings. One of my favorite films of late is It Might Get Loud, a documentary about three extraordinary electric guitar players. In this film, one of the players, The Edge from U2, is described as a “sonic architect,” a term which riveted me. I started thinking about architecture in an entirely new way.


So, what does architecture and varying levels of knowledge have to do with re-booting? When you think about it, we’re all architects of our own lives, aren’t we? In order to construct the existence we desire, we need to assemble the foundational materials—this depends, mostly, on what our parents provide us in those formative years—and then go about building the world in which we inhabit. Which is where something like “sonic architecture” comes in:  #1, it may never have occurred to us that we could do something entirely different with the form we’ve been working with and #2, even if the possibility does occur to us, we may fear we lack the “math” skills to make this new form sturdy and strong.


I take courage from the words of someone like Dr. Wilson who assures us that there are manifold opportunities for success in fields we may previously have considered far beyond our ken, as well as support from theoretical experts who only have too many equations and no place to test them out. Further, look at what The Edge is doing with sound! The term “sonic architect” completely up-ends the traditional definition of what architecture is about, and yet, it remains faithful to the concept of design and construction.


So, how might you be doing this in your life? What glimmers of creativity are showing themselves to you, but you currently lack the expanded vocabulary (and confidence) to try them out? I know they’re there for you. I’m confident you can tap into them to build your life as you can envision it. It’s a bit like the whole topic of Junk DNA: not for a second, do I believe that anything in our genome is a “waste,” or there simply to fill space—we simply haven’t reached the point in our scientific explorations to see and understand why the stuff is there. Junk DNA is a complete misnomer given to it by people who didn’t understand and couldn’t envision a reason beyond what they already knew.


I recognize that I am rambling, somewhat, in this post but these concepts are hard for me to articulate! I guess what I’m trying to suggest is that when wrestling with where you want to go from here in terms of your life, remind yourself of these new definitions and assurances by experts that you needn’t have mastery in all these fields in order to succeed. Help is available to those who seek it. You have the power and ability to expand and redefine commonly used approaches to fit the parameters of your life. And, none of the time you’ve spent up until now has been a waste—your experiences are not junk—you just need the eyes to see.


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3 Responses to “Architecture, knowledge, and the misnomer of Junk DNA”

  1. Julie Says:

    Great job. Rett! Really well-said and thought provoking.

  2. Architecture Can Revitalize And Bring Economic Advancement | LAND sds Sustainability Voice Says:

    […] Architecture, knowledge, and the misnomer of Junk DNA ( […]

  3. helenga Says:

    Great post! Often times rebooting is about seeing the same things with different eyes and this is a good reminder!

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