Thursday, September 9, 2010
Leonardo da Vinci once wrote, "The highest happiness becomes the cause of unhappiness..."
Might this quote be applied to the building of the Hoover Dam? To many, the dam represents a kind of highest happiness, particularly regarding its artful design, it's reach into the sky at 725 feet. It was an amazing feat in the 1930s when it was finished, and remains a landmark of the North American continent.
However, when understanding that this dam changed the Colorado River permanently, changed its course forever, marking the evironment in ways that can be considered destructive, the dam is nothing to be proud of. To some, it is seen an actual cause of unhappiness.
Therefore, would Leonardo da Vinci support the idea of building the Hoover Dam today? As a means of controlling what once was a river prone to flooding, he may have seen the dam as productive. He may have seen it as a means to Southern California obtaining their highest happiness of irrigation and abundant water supply.
Yet, he also may have supported those who believe to tame a river is a means of destroying it and the environment, albeit slowly. He may have taken a progressive look into the future and perceiving factors such as silt build up, salinity factors, use and pollution of watersheds, he may have, given enough time, discovered another way to control the river.
I'd like to think da Vinci would participate in viewing the ecological factors of this dam, (knowing first what would cause unhappiness instead of the other way around) and demonstrate through his art, his power of observation, an analysis that would extend beyond immediacy or profit. In other words, I would like to believe he'd find the elements of the river sublime, of the highest happiness. And thus any project that would change its course would be in effect, reverently considered.