The thing can’t be described, it’s as much outside the realm of language and opinion as the taste of tea, but working with it will involve bringing it into contact with concepts, Patterns, and blueprints, though it will always exceed those forms.
Christopher Alexander’s basic approach to architecture is to work with this kind of bodily wisdom and intentionality, to learn to follow “the direction of healing and life.” Contact with felt senses then allows for explication, unfolding, and formulating conceptual Patterns that can be shared with others in the practice of building. From The Timeless Way of Building:
A pulsating, fluid, but nonetheless definite entity swims in your mind’s eye. It is a geometrical image, it is far more than the knowledge of the problem; it is the knowledge of the problem, coupled with the knowledge of the kinds of geometrics which will solve the problem, and coupled with the feeling which is created by that kind of geometry solving that problem. It is, above all, a feeling—a morphological feeling. This morphological feeling, which cannot be exactly stated, but can only be crudely hinted at by any one precise formulation, is at the heart of every Pattern.
The search for a name is a fundamental part of the process of inventing or discovering a Pattern. So long as a Pattern has a weak name, it means that it is not a clear concept, and you cannot clearly tell me to make “one” [...] But it is very hard to be precise. Even once you are determined to do it it is terribly hard to make precise statements which really get to the heart of the matter.
Juxtaposing Eugene Gendlin and Christopher Alexander, I had an initial felt sense that they had something in common, and I think I got a handle on why. They’re both “healers” who see the body as a source of teleological wisdom. They think the world will be better when we learn to heal ourselves and our environments, making continual reference to dimly perceived signals of goodness and beauty, allowing ourselves to attend quietly and sensitively to the knots and errors we feel in our bodies and in the world, learning to craft new Patterns to resolve these tensions and share these in communities of practice. And they see the world as it is today as lacking in this kind of sensitivity, leading to a dullness and deadness in the social and built environments.
Our structured institutions today offer little opportunity for personal living and speaking. The real living of people is mostly dulled and silent, inside them, alone [...] Nonconformity has always been possible, of course. But those who rejected traditional Patterns often found themselves adrift, lost, without values and standards [...] If we are busily discarding old forms and Patterns, what will replace them? New forms that are equally fixed and painful? [...] Focusing is only a piece of an answer. It lets people find their own inner source of direction. It can be a source of new Patterns, devised freshly by each individual [...] Instead of static structures we need structure-making [...] A society of Pattern-makers is coming. It cannot help but be a society in which people are also more sensitive to, and intolerant of, social brutalities and oppressions, and more able to act to change them.