Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Symphony of Community

Once upon a time, in far away Japan, a man had a dream. He dreamed he walked amongst tea trees on a cool Tokyo morning. He came upon a courtyard. Empty and still, it seemed to be waiting. He sat on a honey-hued wood bench, letting the fragrance of quiet peace fill his lungs. Clean air rushed in, his thoughts bright, his eyes now closed. Then he saw children. Walking in pairs. Sitting under trees. Running after one another, one playing Bach on an old cello. The man sat a long time, he saw nothing more, but heard. First the cello, then a warm voice speaking to a small one. "Yes, well, today we will discuss your idea with the others." Another voice, then another came, until the voices fell into each other as if written on a musical staff, ready to become a symphony. The man didn't try to understand the music, he knew what it meant. He knew what to do now. He would make this place happen. He would build a school.

The Eishin school in Japan is architecturally gorgeous. Honey-hued wood, plenty of natural light and meandering garden pathways between buildings placed strategically on its 18 acre campus. The faculty, students and staff all had input in its design and creation. This 1980's school-wide project, designed to build a deeper allegience to humane principles and create a new school culture was the brainchild of the then vice-principal of the school, Mr. Murakoshi. I'm not sure if he came up with the idea in a dream or if it had simmered in his conciousness for many years, but the initial vision was his. He shared his vision with architect Christopher Alexander, and so the Eishin school exists, almost exactly as Mr. Murakoshi envisioned it.

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