Nov 21 2003

The Sublime world of James Hubbell

Published by at 8:15 am under Videos

“Sorry, I’m busy tomorrow, but you could come up Sunday or Monday,? the voice on the phone said. “They need me in Tijuana.” “Also, we ought to talk sometime about another Peace Park project, linking North and South Korea,” he said, to continue a “string of pearls” – community parks he has built in China, Russia, and San Diego.

One might think that this person was independently wealthy, or supported by some large organization. Who else could have the luxury think in such generous and idealistic terms?

The voice, however, was Jim Hubbell’s, from a cell phone standing on the ashes of what used to be his home. The recent fire destroyed 10 acres of what used to be a home, office, studio,
all personal possessions, 300-400 sculptures, windows, paintings, models and the tools that that he used make them. In four hours, 40 years of energy and creativity in one of San Diego’s most magical places disappeared.

He had no insurance. Not only would insurance companies not assume the risk of his art center, but the premium seemed better spent gathering students and furthering peace.

Spending time doing work for the poor in Tijuana and thinking about a peace park in Korea was typical of Jim. When he first visited the devastation he said,  “I’m not going to give this any grief.”  Losing everything in a fire, he has turned this into an opportunity for rejuvenation, to create an international center for art and peace.

If biologists studied Jim’s DNA, I suspect that they might discover a gene which allows him to metabolize beauty. He thrives on art, whether he is expressing it in his words, physical creations, or in that child-like twinkle in his eye. He sees his job as creating mystery, leaving observers to discover their own sense of jubilation, peace, and wonder.

Jim has had many profound effects on me.

I read his thoughts on Architecture of Jubilation and soon found myself reflecting, “My 18 month-old granddaughter can be jubilant just running around on a lawn, why can’t I? When I mentioned the starkness of a retaining wall, and he suggested, “Why not build a rock wall along here, letting it dive into the slope over there?” We did, and it is now one of the highlights of our front yard.
I was sitting quietly one day in a room which Hubbell Studios had designed. An inner voice seemed to shout at me, “Take the time off!”  Somewhat mysteriously, I decided to take a leave of absence from my job at the peak of my earning years. That “leave,?” started 3 years ago, has become permanent as I am continue to look for ways of using technology to make the world a better place. It seems that I have been infected with an irrational exuberance for the goodness of humanity.

Jim doesn’t say much, but what he does say is carefully thought out and likely to reverberate for quite some time. In a world trying to saturate us with images from the outside, his art helps us open up to mysteries within. Jim shows us jubilation, beauty, and peace, in a world where others may see despair, cynicism, and isolation.

Edmund Burke in 1757 described sublime as the feeling of expanded thought and greatness of mind that is produced by literature, poetry, painting, and viewing landscapes.   We can pardon him missing sunsets over the Pacific. Somehow, however, the intervening years have conspired to turn this word into a quaint antique.

You can experience some of the sublime value of Jim’s work at the Pacific Rim Park at the west end of Shelter Island. Perhaps you’ll feel a certain awe at the vastness of the Pacific; this is but one link in similar parks around the rim. You may notice other visitors smiling, then falling into a certain reverie as they wander through it. The place invites to you say hello. Relax for a few moments, to remember what sublime feels like. Why can’t we have more of this?

The world can use a lot more “expanded thought and greatness of mind” in these times. We have a master of it right in our own backyard, and I hope you join me in helping to create a world-class center for continuing and expanding his vision of peace and education.

Here’s how you can help.


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