P is for Creating Your Version Of Paradise

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People love to create their own versions of paradise. They may aim to do this by creating a garden, room, book, relationship, community, work place or whatever.

Christopher Alexander describes how people can shape buildings in which they feel at ease. This can lead to them experiencing a sense of harmony and fulfilment in their lives.

Other people create other versions of paradise. Parents aim to create a loving family in which children can grow. Teachers aim to create an inspiring environment that enables students to shape their future lives.

Good leaders are positive and predictable. They aim to create a stimulating culture in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

Looking at your own life, when have you aimed to create your own version of paradise? You may have chosen to create a beautiful garden, a lovely home, an encouraging relationship, a stimulating sanctuary or other kind of inspiring environment.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation when you aimed to create your version of paradise.

Describe the specific things you did to create the environment.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of creating the environment.

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Some people aim to create a physical paradise, some a psychological paradise. Some aim to create a combination of both.

Some create paradise in their own heads. Alice Herz-Sommer, for example, survived concentration camps through the help of music.

Alice said: “Music is God.” Music was her daily passport to paradise. The video below is a trailer for a documentary about her called The Lady in Number 6. Here is the official introduction.

Music literally saved her life! “The Lady in Number 6” is one of the most inspirational, uplifting stories of the year.

109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor in the world shares her views on how to live a long and happy life. She discusses the importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life.

During the 1960s and 70s I visited many therapeutic communities that aimed to create a version of paradise. Different communities had different kinds of environments. But most aimed to give people the chance of shaping fulfilling lives.

The places I visited included Finchden Manor, Steiner Schools, The Henderson Hospital and Peper Harow. Some people gained from being in such environments, whilst others did not make use of the opportunities.

I also visited schools that created environments in which students could develop. Henry Pluckrose and his team at Prior Weston School in London’s Barbican, for example, created a state primary school that built a worldwide reputation for excellence.


Prior Weston enabled children to master both social and educational skills. It encouraged them to express their individuality through the arts – such as poetry, music and acting. Every year students went on scores of visits to local buildings, theatres, museums and work places.

The results were impressive. The school attracted a waiting list of students and visitors from many countries. Eventually it had to limit the visitors to 4,000 a year.

I first heard about Prior Weston on the BBC radio programme The World At One. It was introduced as a school which ‘everybody liked’. Students and parents were so enthusiastic that the presenter pleaded:

“Please tell me one thing that is wrong with the school.”

Prior Weston was successful because the staff believed in the educational – rather than engineering – approach to running a school. Whilst it was important to deliver certain results, these could be achieved by treating students as individuals. Henry believed in the following principles of learning.

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Some years ago I wrote an article about Henry’s work. As a result I was contacted by former students who described the debt they owed to Prior Weston.

Some had been inspired to become teachers. They incorporated the ideas into their own approaches to encouraging students. You can read more about Henry’s work via the following link.


Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a situation when you may want to create your own version of paradise?

You may want to nurture a garden, create a sanctuary for animals, play music, renovate a house, encourage a person, write a book, create something beautiful or whatever. How can you take these steps?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation when you may aim to create your version of paradise.

Describe the specific things you can do to create your version of paradise. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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