The Sum of our lives and the variety of experience


New Year’s Eve is just an arbitrary date on the Gregorian calendar but still makes as good a time as any other to stop and take stock of our lives (past and future).  To that end …

This video (via Studiocanoe for Atlantic video) represents the most arresting concept I encountered this year – neuroscientist David Eagleman’s supposition of an afterlife spent re-visiting all the moments of life re-sorted according to type.

Watch this video (really – PLEASE WATCH IT – this four minutes you will not regret spending) and consider what our sum our lives might be like without its daily variety.

As a designer this fills me with wonder and not a little horror.

In David Eagleman’s imagined afterlife, how many years would be spent in desperately unoriginal, poorly lit buildings?  How few hours in the truly beautiful spaces of the world?

Any architect would dread a hell or purgatory made up of endless big box stores and grid-ceilinged offices, lit by flickering fluorescents.

Making Sure that Sum of our Lives is filled with Variety

How can we counteract this?  As individuals, we can fill our lives and daily experiences with a wild variety of different spaces and places.  As designers, we can create variation between and within every new project – pepper each new restaurant or house that moss designs with bright and dark rooms, high and low ceilings, grand gathering areas and cosy nooks off to the side.

I am reminded of Annie Dillard:

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

I take this as a strong reminder to seek out infinite variety in my experience.  It is unlikely that this sum of our lives is really what is waiting for everyone – this is merely a fascinating thought experiment – but, even so, it serves as a wonderful reminder to make every moment count.