Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Bridge: thoughts on society's debates

Downtown Des Moines Iowa

The bridge was unique. The bridge was beautiful. Lots of bridges are. Engineers seem to have a silent competition for who can design the most unique and beautiful bridge. This one ranks quite high on my list.

 All bridges serve the same purpose. Bridges help you overcome an obstacle that is blocking your progress. Sometimes the obstacle is only slowing you down. Sometimes the obstacle has you completely stopped.

I am not an engineer. I have no training in the technical art of engineering a bridge. My observation is that bridges are always about balancing opposing forces. There is always an element of stress/pulling and an element of compaction/compression in a successful bridge. The beautiful bridges use a minimum of material in this balance.

This bridge has a deck that is pulling down on the steel cables. The cables are pulling down on the arch, compressing it. The arch is pressing down on the riverbanks with the full wieght of the bridge. In the mean time the bowed deck is trying to swing into a straight line under the arch but is stopped because the concrete deck cannot be compressed enough to make it fit. The whole thing becomes a beautiful bridge that has balanced opposing forces.

All of this seems to be a metaphor for our current society. There seem to be several opposing forces making themselves known. These forces are all asking, "How do we get over this obstacle that is before us?" Currently, the only available answer seems to be for one force to overcome the other. I wonder if we, as a society, might be better advised to see if we can find a way to use these opposing forces to build a bridge across our obstacle. A bridge that combines our abilities to pull with our abilities to resist, and in so doing make a way forward that has great strength and beauty. A bridge that can speed the passage of those who come to this obstacle in the future.

I don't have that design yet. Do you?


No comments:

Post a Comment