So long, Frank Lloyd Wright

In the past few months, my normally quiet Second Life has been changed somewhat by the spotlight of public recognition, due to a rather epic build I completed in July: a reproduction of Fallingwater, the famous Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpiece.

Others had built Fallingwater in Second Life before I did. My build drew attention for a few reasons. It was very detailed and accurate; I read everything I could find, spent weeks studying photos of the house and visited it in person to understand every detail of Wright’s vision. I challenged myself to a higher standard in the prim work and texturing. And perhaps most importantly, I recreated not only the building, but the surrounding landscape. Wright intended for Fallingwater to be a home in harmony with nature. How can you leave out the nature? Isolating the house from the landscape of which it is an integral part misses the point. Others had placed their build on top of a hill, or on a beach, or had ignored the palette of lush woods and dark slate, the shape of the sheltering ravine that rises around it, or the iconic soundscape of nature and rushing water.

My efforts paid off in an experience for visitors that helped them really understand what Frank Lloyd Wright was all about. It was so rewarding to me when people told me that, inspired by their visit to my build, they began for the very first time to take an interest in and appreciate the work of this great architect. That was worth the price. Donations never did cover the cost of keeping the sim open. Despite the fact that I really couldn’t afford it, I delighted in providing hospitality as more and more people visited Fallingwater each day. I would pop in to find couples having a romantic dance, people meditating by the falls, or just hanging out by the big fireplace in the living room. Everyone just loved being there, and I loved that they loved it. I think I achieved my goal of transparency: I didn’t want people to look at the build and see my work, I wanted people to experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision as if they were transported to the real place in First Life. Like a window, I wanted them to look through me, and see him instead.

Five months of enjoyment came to a sudden end this past week, when I was informed that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation had issued a Cease and Desist order insisting that all reproductions of Wright designs be removed from Second Life. Although it was not directed to me personally, it shortly became clear that I would eventually face legal consequences if my exhibit remained. Rather than risk a lawsuit, I removed the build on Wednesday, amidst much protest and righteous anger on the part of those who loved the place.

The actions of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation are among the most shortsighted and misguided I have ever witnessed from a nonprofit organization. Of what was I guilty? Being inspired by a visit to an historic home and the genius of a legendary architect. Learning everything I could about it. Freely sharing my excitement with others. Educating people about the design principles that made it so remarkable. Celebrating and taking delight in the ability of human beings to create such marvels. Apparently, despite their stated mission, these things are contrary to the goals of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, who seemed more concerned about lost income than with the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright.

It would be easy to be bitter about all this. All I did was build something wonderful, not for any personal gain but to inspire and educate others. The result was to get shot down and squelched. Who wouldn’t be bitter? Well… me. You see, I have a choice. I can choose to be indignant and angry and resentful. If I were, those feelings would be completely justified. It would also surround me in that negative energy that, over time, eats away at one’s soul. But that’s not the only choice. I can also choose to forgive. To continue to give, to help, to build, to let go of the negative crap and embrace healthier, positive attitudes and actions. It’s within my power to choose. And I choose the good.

In his 1968 booklet, “The Silent Revolution,” Kent Keith advised, “give of your time and effort because you care and want to give, not because you are expecting glory and prominence in return… Do things because you believe in them, and the simple satisfaction of having achieved them will be enough.” He goes on to admit that helping others often results in being attacked and mistreated by those you are trying to help. “And yet,” he says, “a deep concern for people makes it possible to understand that attack with compassion, and to keep helping.” This means having compassion for everyone, not just the people who are nice to you. The price is high, but well worth paying.

Dr. Keith went on to propose ten “Paradoxical Commandments” that later were adapted by Mother Teresa and posted on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta. These words have been much on my mind the last few days, so I will share them here:

People are often illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may cheat you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give it anyway.

In the spirit of these wise words, I will now turn away from the public spotlight and return to a quieter life. I will turn away from anger, blame and resentment. I will focus on giving and loving, and on building people up, not tearing them down.

Something wonderful came to an end, for no good reason. But building Fallingwater was worth the price.


You can read more about the actions of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Prim Perfect and some of the reaction from other residents.