Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The true purpose of structure

with 3 comments

The Unfinished Span by Otto August Kuhler

The entire physical world is most properly regarded as a great energy system: an enormous marketplace in which one form of energy is forever being traded for another form according to set rules and values. That which is energetically advantageous is that which will sooner or later happen. In one sense a structure is a device which exists in order to delay some event which is energetically favored. It is energetically advantageous, for instance, for a weight to fall to the ground, for strain energy to be released—and so on. Sooner or later the weight will fall to the ground and the strain energy will be released; but it is the business of a structure to delay such events for a season, for a lifetime or for thousands of years. All structures will be broken or destroyed in the end—just as all people will die in the end. It is the purpose of medicine and engineering to postpone these occurrences for a decent interval.

J.E. Gordon, Structures

Written by nevalalee

August 17, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. Well, that’s positive.


    August 17, 2014 at 10:26 pm

  2. Gordon is only telling it like it is — something requiring considerable insight and, often, nerve. I often wish I could ask our decision-makers, as they open up the Great Barrier Reef to dumping, or subsidize timber companies to _encourage_ them to fell old growth forest, or close down the sustainable energy projects, “How long do you think our nation should exist? For how long should our land remain habitable?” I mean, how long is enough? Gordon’s remarks pertain to a built structure (I have this book), and one corollary is that you cannot build it to last a season and expect it to last a millennium. The same is true of nations and ways of life. Sometimes it seems like everything is a metaphor for everything else.


    August 17, 2014 at 11:02 pm

  3. “Sometimes it seems like everything is a metaphor for everything else.” Especially engineering.


    August 19, 2014 at 7:31 pm

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