‘I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.’
- Seneca

Architects must seem a strange breed, they work long hours, take on huge liability, having emerged from seven years of expensive training only to be paid less than a bricklayer. It is a life full of stress, so why do so many people want to do it?

Perhaps architects enjoy the tension and pressure which comes with the job. This starts early at architectural school where, as a student you enter a culture of doing ‘all nighters’ before important crits. Many people are rightly trying to end this way of studying because they worry about the mental health of the students, and it is hardly an efficient way of working. I feel the intention is undoubtedly worthy, but I suppose because I never really took my studies very seriously, I actually really enjoyed all-nighters. You’d have music playing, you’d be smoking and drinking your way through the night, everyone would be there, in short it was like a party, but you actually had something to do. As I never liked nightclubs, the all-nighters became an important part of my social life. In this way I developed a way of enjoying stress, which I view as an essential part of the profession.

A while ago I was at a wedding and I heard a sermon that really stuck in my mind. The priest made an argument which rested on the assumption that animals are happy in their natural state. ‘Has this man ever watched David Attenborough?’ I thought to myself. I am no zoologist, but from my limited knowledge, life for animals in the wild is anything but happy. Think of the gazelles on an African plane, they are constantly looking around fearful of a leopard appearing from nowhere and ripping them apart, limb from limb, while still alive. This would be an extremely painful death, which brings to mind the worst of medieval torture. This way of dying is a common occurrence for a gazelle, and it is probably happening right now.

The gazelle who wakes up in the morning and thinks…

“…..life is wonderful, how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world, blue sky…..again! Don’t you just love these crisp mornings! Why are you lot looking around all the time, the leopards won’t bother us today, don’t be so pessimistic. Relax, enjoy yourself….”

Gazelles do not think like this for the simple reason that all those gazelles are dead. They are what is known in leopard circles as ‘low lying fruit’. This is why all gazelles who live to any age are constantly worried about their imminent death.

We should not feel any less sorry for the leopards, they have to catch these gazelles who are impossibly quick and if the leopard does not catch any for a while he or she will be too weak to chase them and so die of starvation.

What does the gazelle, the leopard or the architect get out of life? Is their life worth living or are we doing them all a favour by bringing them all to the brink of extinction? ….I would argue not.

Nietzsche asked a similar question with this theory of eternal returns. The question he poses is, would you, with all the suffering of your own life, live it all over again exactly the same. The answer must be a resounding loud YES!

The struggle, not happiness, is the joy of life.

Francis Terry

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