“To make the feedback meaningful in a step-by-step process, the process must be open-ended, hence partly unpredictable. It must lack a fixed, predetermined end-state. This is necessary because adaptation itself means nothing if changes cannot be made in response to the process of adaptation. By definition, such changes cannot be foreseen” (240).
“But it turns out that the world is not like the mechanical thought-model. More sophisticated discoveries have made it clear that in a complex system the next stage is dependent on the current configuration of the whole, which in turn may depend on subtle minutiae in the history of the previous wholes, so “trace-like” that there is no way to predict the path of the emerging system ahead of time… divergent evolutionary paths leading form tiny differences to very large differences of end-result…. Thus the field of centers which is at the very heart of living structure–is inherently so subtle that it can only be created dynamically, and is inherently unpredictable in the precise definition of its end-state” (241).
“It is essential for form this vision of the emerging building in your mind’s eye, not in sketches on paper. Words and interior visions, when seen with your eyes closed, are more labile, more fluid, transformable and three-dimensional, than sketches of physical designs. They allow the unfolding to go forward more successfully. In the mind’s eye, the centers which evolve, one by one within the living process, are not hampered by arbitrary information and decisions that come too early. A word picture in the mind’s eye is in a medium in which we can see only what the words describe, and nothing more.” (257)
“The vision in the mind’s eye contains little that is not actually generated by the living process” (257).
“The process of building such a vision in your mind must itself follow the differentiating process, step by step. The vision is built one morphological feature at a time. You start by saying to yourself, and seeing, one thing, the most important thing about the building. That will be captured in its height, its position, its quality, its color. It might be a brooding light that emerges from the building, or it might be the gardens which precede it, and lead to it. It is, in any case, the first global, holistic aspect of the building which you see, when you close your eyes and imagine the building as the context requires that it should be” (257).
“It is always crucial to take a good first step. Each step is, in a sense, a return to the whole and a starting over with a ‘first step.’ So, in the same breath, we must recognize that to take a good step, the main problem is to avoid taking any of the many possible false steps…. Of the 100 possible choices, there may easily be as many as 90 or 95 next steps which will make the thing worse, relatively few, say 5 or 10 next steps which will make it better” (258).
“If one merely jumps at the image that presents itself, and if one carries a self-deluded idea that it must be good because it came up in one’s own brain–the chances are great that this first or second, or third ‘inspiration’ is something not good, but more likely something bad. Further, the possibility of willful distortion, caused by the architect following an idea or a desire to create a never-before-seen impression, is also capable of obscuring the process, and leading it up a blind alley” (258). (unexamined experimentality)
These descriptions are really easily applied to the creative process in general.
“The vital point is that this is an empirical matter” (259).
“The network of broad paths as a structure, it may not be big enough. Although a vision of such a network has a coherent texture, it is not clear enough as a whole, not big enough, in relation to the valley as a whole. What are the features of the canyon as a whole that could intensify it as a whole?” (260)
“chosen so that the whole creates deep feeling in us” (262).
“Centers are not atomic, and are not in any normal sense building blocks. They are nevertheless the units of increase for all development, which allow a whole to unfold without damaging the wholeness. That is because centers are above all, labile, they are foci of wholeness, they are not things, but regions, qualities, focal points of centeredness which as they change, as they are improved, are ideally suited to enchance and enlarge and extend the whole while making that wholeness benefit, while they are fused into the wholeness, as they go forward” (268).
“And at each step, among the various steps I have described, I had to keep asking myself this: Is it going in such a direction? Does it start to make me feel that life can be worth-while? does it make me tremble, and feel on the edge of the chasm of life, so that all the uncertainty and fear of everyday life, is wrapped up, made worth something, summarized and justified, by the existence of this thing?” (281)
“1. Each center does have strong smaller centers…. 2. Centers do originate in the essence of the building: they are not image-like copies of other centers…. 3. Centers do emerge from teh surrounding wholeness…. 4. Centers do form larger centers.” (286).
As I share my marginalia and selected quotes with the group here, I’m considering how important glossings have been throughout history. This process of note-taking and sharing brings to mind this poem:
Marginalia – Billy Collins
Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
- Billy Collins