In This Marked Place
17,000 years ago, a spiritual being, filled his or her mouth with pigment mixed with saliva and blew it through a hollow reed over their hand on the cave wall. The single handprint left on the walls of the Axial Gallery in the Great Hall of the Aurochs is one human's marking his or her place in history.
The Caves of Lascaux
There is indeed a deep spiritual, evolutionary connection between the Sculptured Fused Glass Wall of the NORTH SHORE UNITARIAN CHURCH and the Magdalanian Caves of LASCAUX.
How have humans developed and learned to live within, survive, exist and adapt to their ever-changing environments over the millennia, given what is currently thought to be known about evolution today? And how did this impact the design of the NORTH SHORE UNITARIAN CHURCH?
Along the pathways of our travels through ancient lands and historical archaeological sites, often nestled amidst modern bustling cities and villages, we slowly became aware of the scant surviving segments of civilizations all but lost in the dusts of time. As architects we marveled at the genius of Greek and Roman architecture, engineering, and city planning. As lovers of poetry, painting, sculpture, music, dance and history we were overwhelmed at what emerged before us daily. In hundreds of museums, galleries, churches, palaces, villas, chateaux, SACRED SPACES and SECRET PLACES, we attempted to experience with all our senses the incomprehensible amount of creative beauty and work produced by human beings across the millennia. Our cups runneth over each day.
What lingers today in our minds is a sobering, somber realization. Each and every civilization, culture and society throughout the recorded course of human history that utilized economic power, violence, war and military might to control and rule its people has perished and disappeared from the face of planet Earth. There have been no survivors, just archaeological remains and museum artifacts at best. And the very remnants of those remarkable civilizations are the very same built environments, artistry and creative achievements that so moved us spiritually and emotionally.
How could ancient Imperial Rome, the most powerful, influential civilization ever developed on earth, vanish ... after existing for nearly 1000 years? What happened to the Mycenean, Minoan and Golden Age of Greece cultures? And what will happen to our world of today?
And yet, those early NSUC founders had profound faith in their dreams and visions ... the never ending Search for Truth, the belief in the individual. That was our inspiration; that told us our mission.
Since the dawning of time, all life, all living creatures, human and animal alike, have had to learn to cope, and live in harmony with Nature, and the natural environment. Those who could not, or would not, for whatever reasons, perished and simply vanished. Human recorded history and pre-history, as most recently discovered in the Southwest region of France, along the Vezier River in the caves of LASCAUX, Font De Gaume and Cap Blanc among others, combined with the geological and archaeological findings around the globe, bear witness to this stark reality of truth, beauty and the evolutionary life process.
For it is in the coping with and blending of the natural and Built Environments that the human being has had the greatest challenge of existence and sheer survival across the recorded pages of history. The evolution of the Built Environment mirrors an ever-changing concept of the human place in the natural scheme. We believe that it is this Built Environment, in loving, respectful harmony with the natural environment, that now poses the greatest challenge, threat, and opportunity to the human species!
For human beings now are the true endangered species, joining the spotted owl, mountain gorilla, butterfly, as well as the thousands of other living organisms that have already vanished, FOREVER, from the face of our planet. The human being now has the technology to alter the balance of Nature with, or without the consent of others. As one recognizes the violence humans have done to each other, and to our planet, Earth, we must consider the responsibility and accountability we all have for our actions, and in-actions, teachings, works and words, not only to ourselves, but to our grandparents (in the historical sense) and to our children and grandchildren (for their future) to restore and preserve that natural order. This was a part of the NSUC leadership thinking process and programming discussions during the conceptual design phase.
We believe that there are, indeed, SACRED SPACES and SECRET PLACES in what we call, THE CREATIVE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT, and that they can truly nourish life, stimulate and fertilize the mind and body to grow, develop and expand upon that human potential that lies deep within each of us. The beauty and mystery of life dwells in all those little details that surround each and every one of us in our daily pursuits. No one wishes to be swept away with the broad-brush stroke and thinking of master planners and builders. We desperately need and require those soft, gentle, nurturing little details in our daily lives, that will also encourage us to grow, develop and open our cosmic minds to the entire world of sensory experience, heighten our sense of personal awareness, and enhance our search for peace, harmony, laughter and love.
What is The Creative Human Environment ?
Are there Sacred Spaces and Secret Places ?
Why are these questions important to us ?
From ancients shall we learn: not new ways, but ways too commonly forgotten, from societies and cultures all but lost in the dusts of time. They more often cast eyes upward to a worshipped sun, and learned that lights of the sky could in many ways enhance their lives. They felt, perhaps, a greater kinship with their surroundings. And so they built, with woods and stone and clay; with sensitivity. They gave to us an understanding of how to blend structure with the most lovely of what is beyond, how brightly the sun will strike at a given hour, what perspectives to best provide, and a respect for the endless potential of Nature's simplicity.
A few years ago we purchased a book written by Riane Eisler called THE CHALICE AND THE BLADE. In this profound text Riane re-interprets history, archaeology and anthropology from a woman's point of view rather than the male perspective that has dominated most written historical documentation across the ages. It was stunning to say the least. For it clearly showed the extraordinary differences in how females and males visualize the world. While Sir Arthur Evans described what he saw upon the ancient frescoed wall as a warrior bearing a barbed spear to kill his invisible prey thus claiming masculine power and prestige, Riane Eisler looked upon that same image and re-interpreted it as a gentle human bearing a shaft of wheat representing fertility and family. The list of such examples in her book, from all historical ages is mind boggling, and has proved to be threatening to the male's centuries old domineering perch.
Riane also writes ... We are approaching an evolutionary crossroads, that never before has the course of history been so critical. ...We say, our Built Environments must be created out of love, gentleness, warmth and understanding of human life, nurturing, soft, embracing, stimulating, challenging to the inner Spirit and in blended harmony with Nature.
High-Tech in the jargon of our modern vocabulary, must serve our human needs, not dominate them.
We know that men and women in Pre-historic times and even up through early Minoan civilizations, lived together in peace and harmony, and in partnership with Nature. They built, and planted, and cultivated their lives, celebrating as well as worshipping the natural cyclical rhythms of Nature and the nurturing powers of the universe.
Their shelters ... their Built Environments ... as ours, are only expressions of their beliefs, history and technology. What we build can confine us or free us; starve us or nourish us; cherish us or destroy us. The real ultimate challenge, as temporary tenants of our universe, is to live and love, work and play, with empathic expression of our essence as human creatures of Nature. What we create will forever shape our lives. The individual, the family, are and always will be the strongest and most stable voice among us, and to whom the small details mean the most, and from whom they will be created and nourished. History has continually shown that small groups of people, thinkers and leaders ... not large corporations ... nor even governments, can, and usually have changed the course of the world. The early founders and leaders of NSUC could be considered as such. Unless the human being chooses to act upon visions and dreams, searching for truth, we may as well quit.
We must pay homage to Nature; provide vistas of its wondrous beauty; assure its presence in our daily lives, and forever be graced by the joy of dawns, the peace of setting suns, blossoming of spring, palettes of autumn, sun streaked gardens, quiet green woodlands, soft falling snow, the pattering of rain, great gray moving storms and white clouds moving over blue-blue heavens.
Albert Einstein wrote, The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical ...this feeling is at the center of the true life, religion.
It is fascinating and simply quite wonderful to constantly realize that each individual in the world is truly unique, one of a kind, that hears, sees, feels, learns and perceives in his or her own special way, yet is truly interconnected to all of life, past, present and future, in an evolutionary process that simply continues on, regardless. The common thread that does indeed bind us all together ...supports and nourishes life ...is our natural environment, without which, we would all perish and disappear forever. How does that relate to the North Shore Unitarian Church?
Can our Built Environments as they have been created and constructed, really impact or influence our daily lives and outlook upon life itself ?
How does the human being react, respond and relate to the spaces, materials, colors, textures, light and feelings of that which surrounds him or her? Is there really any effect or does it matter at all?
Do the sights and sounds of chirping birds, soft falling rain, or the rustling of leaves have any nurturing or healing effect upon the human mind, body and spirit, or have our senses become anesthetized to what is all around us?
Why do we generally feel "good" on a bright sunny morning, when we awake and open the drapes to see what joy awaits us each day, yet "gloomy" when it is dreary and overcast?
What is it that allows us to be exhilarated by experiencing thunder and lightning storms, become somewhat mesmerized by the sounds of shifting breezes or swirling winds, and even speechless at witnessing a snowy blizzard or a radiant sunset, awesome and incredible powers of nature?
Why do our contemporary city dwellers use the phrase "escape to the country" for those weekend retreats? What is missing in their lives the other days? And when we are under the weather ... laid up with a cold or the flu, or recuperating from any illness ... healing ourselves from within, why do we literally feel better, look better and heal better, when we receive all those hugs, kisses, warm smiles, touching and massaging, family and friends to see and share with, home style meals to eat, surrounded with sunshine, flowers, birds, sky, trees and our gentle nurturing natural environment, filled with music, and art, all holistically intertwined?
There are and should be ---SACRED SPACES and SECRET PLACES in our lives as a part of our CREATIVE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT.
But it is also about YOU. And how YOU can ensure that nature and your creative human environment will forever be a part of your lives in spite of all the roadblocks, speed bumps, obstructions, ill-begotten, ill-conceived, over-reactive rules, regulations and restrictions others might or have already placed in your way. One of our early mentors, a sage of sayings, often repeated one of his most poignant words of wisdom to anyone who was under his influence. "The sooner one understands that he or she is the only person that has the power, potential and capability of changing, altering or enriching his or her life, the quicker the process can begin!"
And yet we seem to give such little credence to the deeply spiritual, emotional and psychological impacts these Built Environments have upon our entire beings, especially in today's fast paced, technological and electronically oriented life styles being led all around the world.
From this background was spawned The North Shore Unitarian Church with Bob White's Fusions in the Sculptured Fused Glass Wall.
The Sculptured Fused Glass Wall of NSUC
6 who made an impact on this church:
Harry A. Paine
Georgia Lloyd Berndt
Rueben and Ruth Van Leuwen
Georgiana MacArthur Hansen
They were inspirational leaders.
"No tenements for some and castles for others.
All property is property in man.
Society shall give man not his daily bread ...
but a chance to earn his daily bread."
Dr. Rev. Cheatham was a short, slightly chunky and balding individual, in his early 60's, dapperly dressed in a 3 piece pin stripe Ivy League suit, and wearing tiny half rim spectacles clipped to his nose. He looked and sounded just like the proverbial professorial scholar he was ... and that one would expect to hear at a solid, conservative, old world, traditional university lecture. We were a little apprehensive as he began his presentation with what sounded like a simple question he posed to the congregational audience after a really terrific pot luck dinner, which the Unitarians are known for
"What is the role of religion and religious education in our society today?"
What followed for the next 15 minutes blew us away. Our minds were infused with his incredibly challenging words. He answered his own question without waiting for anyone to offer a reply.
"The role of religion and religious education today is to open doors."
He spoke of how humanistic spiritual values could truly enrich lives through the sharing of knowledge, love, understanding and compassion for one another. Opening doors to the beauteous potential of life, that could otherwise remain shut, was paramount to him. Dance, music, sculpture, poetry, painting, gardens, fountains and nature should blend harmoniously, as a melodious, seamless symphony, into one composition with any architectural, spiritual environment that could be created for this church community. But most importantly, he also strongly emphasized that ...
"it must reflect, embrace and nurture the gentle human spirit, not dominate, dictate to, or suppress it. The individual should always remain more important than the institution," he concluded.
That was the temperament of the atmosphere into which we were catapulted to commence our creative efforts and work. We have never forgotten those impressionable words nor those people. Somehow, within the creative chemistry of life, prodded by those inspirational people and proclamations, first conceptual design drawings were produced in a few weeks. What followed, in retrospect, is hard to believe actually happened.
Harry Paine, chair of the building committee, thought it would be a good idea to meet in members' homes in small, intimate discussion groups to gain feedback and input from each member about the concept drawings. Thus began a continuing ..."Unitarian thought-provoking" ...2 year process! It was a distinct privilege. We met with and got to know each and every member of the church in their homes. Across that spectrum of time we also became deeply committed to the process itself ... The Search for Truth. It was a formidable, formative experience for all. (Years later we were part of a team that produced a film, "Capturing Our Legacy" for NSUC . It was a series of filmed interviews of 33 of the original founders and members that were still living in the area. Bob Gand, in his delightful words captured for posterity said ... "Some of us Unitarians have an opinion on anything and everything; some of us have two".)
Members and lay leadership spoke of honoring history and tradition, the individual beliefs among all the members, accepting and tolerating differing ideas while still being able to live together in peace and harmony. Many recognized difficult challenges would most likely be encountered in trying to blend the diverse spiritual, religious or political / philosophical arenas of thought processes, which would also be very difficult to precisely define or even describe at best. They all wanted to reach a mutual understanding, acceptance of, respect and reverence for one another and their natural environment.
Therein lies one of the critical points of our conviction about why the created environment is its most successful, pleasurable, and fundamentally necessary to sustain and nurture life, when it uniquely merges the needs of nature, man and woman, and thus allows the human spirit to thrive.
When the North Shore Unitarian Church was designed created and built, humans had not yet landed on the moon; space exploration was still to be launched; the Hubbel space telescope did not exist; there were no computers, lap tops or cell phones. Einstein had postulated a theory that our known Universe was expanding at an enormous rate of speed. He then had reversed himself hypothesizing it was actually contracting. But it is possible to look back through the lens of time with all of the modern technological bag of tricks to aid mere mortals as they continue to search for the truth about human existence. The universe is, in fact (as of today !), expanding at an even greater pace than Einstein had originally surmised. The Search for Truth is the Truth.
Thus, in a real time sense, all living creatures are but a small cosmos of that larger cosmos in which all life exists ... infinitesimally small, but living as an integrated organic part. And during our own brief lifetimes, over the past few decades, through the scientific lens of the contemporary electron microscope, researchers have come to conceive of and theorize that all life, all matter, all things, as seen today, are simply space and energy, atomic particles, electrons, protons, and neutrons, whirling around each other in pure space, probably much like that same mysterious environment, or space soup, the STUFF, that originally spawned our universe and ... us all.
If all this is true, then it might be possible to say that the human body and mind are nothing more than pure SPACE and ENERGY, just as the Cosmos. Maybe that concept is what poets have been struggling with throughout the ages, and why people are so intrigued with Shakespeare's memorable and magical words:
...We are such STUFF as dreams are made of ...
We firmly believe that the stimulation and nurturing of the human being’s entire sensory systems, thru the impact and imprinting upon us of ... “The Built Environment” ... Art, Architecture, Landscape and our Natural Environment, living in loving harmony, together with humans, with a deeply profound respect for and Reverence of Nature, can open latent potential and provide us the vision.
SACRED SPACES ... SECRET PLACES
THE CREATIVE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT
SACRED SPACES ... SECRET PLACES.
We need them in our daily lives, to study ourselves; to try to understand our mission; our goals; our
... ” We live only to discover beauty.
All else is a form of waiting. “ .
In This Marked Place
Editor's Note: The following is Suzanne and Ron's recollection on how the physical and spiritual beauty of the caves of Lascaux so profoundly impacted them and reinforced their belief in the deep connection with the Sculptured Fused Glass Window Wall.
In October, 1988, National Geographic published a remarkable 18 page illustrated story about the caves paintings found at Lascaux entitled, “Art Treasures from the Ice Age: Lascaux Cave”. It was written by Jean-Philippe Rigaud, with simply stunning photos of the original 17,000 year old paintings shot by Sisse Brimberg, world renowned photographer. We were awed at the sheer beauty and technical brilliance of what those Cro-Magnon people had been able to create over 17 millennia ago. In studying the photo images and reading the story, we became fascinated ... almost mesmerized at how these early human beings had Marked Their Place in the annals of history. It was the first time that we had become aware of these unique treasures and we vowed that some day we should go and visit them to experience for ourselves those precious recordings of human achievement.
We began researching the libraries and museums to learn as much as we could about pre-historic caves and their pantings. "Treasure of Prehistoric Art" by Andre Leroi-Gourhan, published by Harry N. Abrams in 1967, ISBN Number: 0810904268 / 9780810904262, Library of Congress Catalog Number 67-22851, turned out to be the backbone of our research, study and knowledge which was acquired for our library. We also learned that Lascaux I was closed to the general public for a variety of conservation reasons, but that the French Government had constructed an exact replica of a small portion of the caves underground and adjacent to Lascaux I, in the same area of Montignac, Les Eyzies in the Vezere Valley, and named it Lascaux II. It was possible to visit this replica, open to the public by prior reservations with guided tours. So we did in 1991. What happened next was extraordinary.
Lascaux II is an absolute exact replica of Lascaux I in every small detail. Incredible is not adequate to explain our visit to this outstanding accomplishment. Further impregnating our minds was the realization that these people had not only Marked Their Place in the annals of history, but to us that there seemed to be a direct connection between Lascaux and the North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, Illinois that we had designed and built almost a quarter of a century earlier. The sensuous forms and shapes of the Sculptured Fused Glass Wall, especially integrated with Bob White's fusions, almost seemed like an extension of Lascaux II. And those early leaders of the church had also Marked Their Place in the annals of history. What must the original caves be like we asked ourselves, the guides, curators and local historians in the region? They all reiterated to us that the original caves were definitely closed to the public, but that special permission might be able to be attained to enter the caves for researchers with a valid rationale.
Upon returning home in June, 1991, we prepared a series of letters sent to numerous government officials, agencies, directors, conservators and curators of the Lascaux caves requesting permission to visit the original Lascaux I. To support our request we included many photos and drawings of the North Shore Unitarian Church explaining our reasoning of why and how we actually experienced that spiritual connection while being immersed and embraced within Lascaux II. We wanted to experience the original spaces and study the actual 17,000 year old cave paintings to further understand and verify if there could be that spiritual and physical connection we believed existed. Also included were detailed drawings of the sculptured shapes and the recessed lighting design patterns in the Sanctuary, inspired by the star patterns in the overhead night sky at the church's latitude, part of the Orion nebula. All this reflected the cosmic Search for Truth that existed among this Unitarian Universalist congregation at that time.
During that time we were able to find and get in touch with Sisse Brimberg who had retired from her profession with National Geographic and sent her copies of all the letters, drawings and our requests. She was so intrigued with the concept that she graciously offered and gave us a number of large color prints from her original photo shoot for our study and use. The large photo used on this site of the Axial Gallery and Great Aurochs is hers and used with her gracious permission. This photo alone has been a profound inspiration to us and many others along the way. Thank you, Sisse; you have captured the very spirit and essence of Lascaux. Your own work is extraordinary.
On 8 October, 1992, after many phone calls, fax transmissions, questions, answers and more questions, we received a registered letter and permission to visit the original caves of LASCAUX I. It was signed by Jean-Michel Geneste, Directeur du Centre National de Prehistoire et Conservateur de la grotte de Lascaux. We were to present ourselves at the Grotto at 16:00 hours, Tuesday, 22 June, 1993 with the letter and would be personally guided through those wonderful caves. It seemed that the French Ministry of Culture in Paris, Norbert Aujolat, in the Ministry of Culture, Perigord Region, and Francois Cachin, Directeur de la Musee de France, along with Jean-Michel Geneste had somehow agreed there might be some relationship. Astounding. We arrived as directed and were allowed about 2 hours in the caves to see and experience what we could. Our spirits and imagination have been forever changed ... energized. However the caves are now in grave peril. They are now closed
In May of 2006, TIME magazine wrote a cover story
on their plight. Read article
The International Committee for the Preservation of Lascaux responded to the content in TIME and subsequently updated their response to bring further awareness of this irreplaceable piece of art and history.