It is the “I”, the I-myself, lying within all things. It is that shining something which draws me on, which I feel in the bones of the world, which comes out of the earth and makes our existence luminous.
…all value depends on a structure in which each centre, the life of each centre, approaches this simple, forgotten, remembered, unremembered, “I”, or self… that in the living work each centre, in some degree is a connection to this “I”, or self… that the living steel and concrete bridge is one in which each part is connected to this self, awakens it in us…. that the living song in one in which each phrase, each note, is connected to this self, awakens it in us, reminds us of ourselves…
I believe that the ultimate effort of all serious art is to make things which connect with this I of every person. This “I”, not normally available, is dredged up, forced to the light, forced into the light of day, by the work of art.
I begin to realise that what I come in touch with when I go closer and closer to myself is not just “me”. It is something vast, existing outside myself and inside myself, as if it were a contact with the eternal, something everlasting existing before me, in me and around me.
The cosmology which I describe rests on the recognition of the I – the source of our own self – as something real, existing together with space and matter in the universe, something which must be given its status, together with space and time, as part of a new view of living structure in a more comprehensive material view of things.
An understanding of a new relatedness will arrive, I believe, the more we come to recognize that entity which I call the self or I, lying within matter, lying within ourselves, lying, above all, in the special relatedness between ourselves and living structure.
My response…. so many swirling thoughts and resonances for this section of reading.
I stare out the window and into the gently illuminated sky.
Spaciousness. Thoughts disappear.
We see in the churches and painting and ramparts and inlays of medieval Florence, the shaking experience of what can be made by people living day after day in such a God-centred world, under the inspiration of a God-centred vision of the universe.
Intent: Christopher Alexander to take me by the hand on a tour of Florence …discovering new centres, God-centres, and relatedness.
…. it is our responsibility at every turn to heal and make more whole the structure of the world.
Words and interior visions when seen with your eyes closed, are more liable, more fluid, transformable and 3-dimensional…
…a t each step, seek out – with care – the one of these which has the deepest feeling
The playful core of the matter
At each moment I am struggling to get more clear about this emerging field
The main job of creating centres is always to melt away the divisions between things….
Hmmm. Interesting. I read CA over a couple of days, out of sequence, pulled out bits, and then when put together they are like a message to me. (MWAHAHA?) An injunction almost of thinking about the stories I am writing about Singapore whose purpose is a healing of the fragmented dehumanised self there. The first story already has had its first response, and that response has given insights that enables development of the next one…..unfolding new centres….
A key issue that emerged in that response for me was the notion of agency and action and the locus of that agency. So the reader/responder put the need for agency back into the arms of the proponent in the story, even though identifying with her, rather than able to vision a locus of agency coming from a greater whole. So I am interested in now exploring that…. creating a story in which a vision of greater fields of possible wholes leak in so the reader is inspired to reach into that space with their eyes closed and imagine themselves as part of it.
JB people please help me out – having read a little bit about agency on the JB thread I am wondering how his perspective might give insight here?????
I met someone last night from Seattle, who has been on a 6 month trip to New Zealand and Tasmania looking for holistic education within vibrant and life giving community for his daughters. He told me about a community being proposed in Christchurch (which has been devastated by the earthquakes) for no cars, all concrete houses to be bushfire proof, energy saving, for 4,000 people, with business and work places all within it, surrounding parklands. I showed him CA and read out the criteria for more life and talked about the unfolding principles. The conversation made the practicalities of CA come alive (whereas recently I have been using them to apply more to narrative inquiry). I would be horrified if the whole development was built TA DA, here it is!…. rather than unfolding, and rather than involving people in the vision of creation and unfolding process itself.
I go back again and again to the criteria that CA has for considering the aliveness of something so I thought I would put them here.
(Book 1 p355 abridged )
How does this:
- generate a greater feeling of life within me
- make me more aware of my own life
- induces greater harmony in me, in my body and in my mind
- make me feel a greater wholesomeness in myself
- helps me embrace all of my dimensions and many internal opposites
- make me feel more like my best self, or my eternal self
- make me feel devotion or inspires devotion in me
- make me more aware of God, or closer to God
- cause a greater expansion of my humanity
- make me experience a deeper feeling
Every process is a proces of creation at one level, and part of a larger process of accretion at another level
The secret – the fiteen transformation have the capacity to preserve and to create.
They create, generate coherence in the large – and it is now coherence that they generate. Yet they are conservative and pull the future from the present.
Our aim to generate a living world need only be to tame and redefine the rules of the game, to make them work so that all of us together, as we go about our business can create a living whole.
The steps of a living process always takes place in a certain vitally imporant sequence, and the coherence of its results will be dependent to a large extent on the accuracy of this sequence which controls the unfolding.
Every living process is throughout its length and breadth, congruent with feeling and governed by feeling.
The entire living process is oriented by the simplicity transformation and is pruned, steadily, so that it moves towards formation of a beautiful simplicity.
Possibily the most basic and necessary feature of any living process is the fact that goes gradually. The living structure emerges slowly step by step and as the process goes forward step by step there is continuous feedback which allows the process to guide the system towards greater wholeness and coherence, and adaption.
… in a complex system the next stage is dependent on the current configuration of the whole, which in turn may depend on the subtle minuatea in the history of the previous wholes, so “trace-like”, that there is no way to predict the path of the emergine system accurately ahead of time.
…. divergent evolutionary paths leading from tiny differences to very large differences in the end result.
Thus the field of centres which is at the heart of living structure is inherently so subtle that it can only be created dynamically and is inherently unpredicatble in the precise definition of its end-state.
There is in this landscape, the work of hundreds of people, leaving their trace without concern for images.
An unworried, unhesitating sequence of actions, creates unfolding, and creates life – becasue it is direct, motivated by practical conerns and because each step takes care of something not taken care of in the moment before.
If we do one thing at a time, and if what we do is wholesome and sound then whatever comes next will work.
All the well-ordered complex systems we know in the world, all those that we view as highly successful are GENERATED structures, not fabricated ones.
When adaption occurs sucessfully and each line or element created is created in such a way as to avoid possible mistakes, it does this by creating menaingful relations in all directions.
More important in any human made structure the fifteen transformations must be bright in us, in an equilivent fashion to create the link between the larger whole and the detailed within within it.
Thus the process respects the miracle of what was there before, yet also manages to take the structure in a new direction, towards something which was not there before…
… by pulling latent aspects of the strucurre which are there already
I had long hand written these quotes several days ago in two sessions and as I was typing them in I was reflecting on their resonance of what I have been doing the last 3 days and the processes that I use and which I need to kick start me – the adaptive process – the need to connect to feedback with the people I am doing projects with.
3 days ago, I immersed myself for 9 hours straight in some of the “data” of the Singapore project – (video and audio of one of the participants (the one who had discovered being the self-aware authentic self) - he was a key centre who I had decided to start with and see how might the story be told and what conversations I needed to have with him – hearing his voice put me back there.
Then I had a long awaited discussion with the key adult training leaders in Singapore who will be using the “products” of what is created from the project – about what is most useful to them, what they valued and what would give them leverage or to fill a deep need. They are very keen on the notion of building a tapestry of stories of the heartscapes – we are human beings not human doings – a website – building new imaginaries. So no typical report – we are focussing on what it means to be a human being in Singapore training sector – and telling those stories, battescars mixed with hope, resilience tools, meta-tools etc.
The discussion caused my whole body to swell, to remember all that I had swallowed when I was last there. When there I had walked the streets along the river, feeling the tears of the people, I had expanded, and cried and told stories in my head with headlines. I was mother confessor there – so many people poured out to me their pain. I had felt there that I had been a “human being” entering the world of the machine, and just being who I was perturbed so many people, and brought so much to light. Then from all this remembering, a story emergedin me…. one that was coming out of another participant centre – but with many voices….it came out whole. It was based on me setting up in the project for the participants to give presentations but recieve feedback from highlighted perspectives (eg. the first day I divided the room into an integral quadrant with 8 indiginous epistemologies and people sat in different parts of the room for different presentations. This created a wonderful dynamic as the different people playing their perspective abutted against each other – a performative co-research exploration). This one person, who could not do her project for complex reasons ended up, after all the perspectives/epistomologies tried to nag or help, left alone and bereft. No one perspective could “solve’, not even the transforming self one!
My Singapore research colleague felt the story was incredibly powerful. “But so what?” she asked. As good researchers we need to go back into the data to interrogate it with this story, and then find things to enrich this. I suggested giving it to her reading group of Singaporean researchers, interns, and assistants and asking them in groups to discuss it and seeing what the story might evoke…. how it becomes a centre for different conversations where people’s own experiences, and specific research expertise might then enhance it. So we are not isolated researchers burying ourselves away to come up with some great understanding and then write a report, a paper, a manual…. what we do all along the way creates ripples. One thing I have learned is that the person who writes the manual learns the most…. so you encourage the people who will be using the manual to write it.
So what is my job then…. I am a writer and reader of humanity…. I can see into things….I can feel into things…. I can swallow them up…. I can see them in wholes (whether partial or not)…. to vomit them out in wholes…. for these wholes to create new ones….. in different people…. going in different lines….
It is not about truth ….. or completeness…. it is about seeing into something and re-presenting it in a way that helps people to talk to each other in new ways, to feel a little bit more alive, a little bit more agency…. even if they disagree with the reading. IT IS A PROVOCATION.
Do I even need to worry about efficiency of provocations…. feedback will tell. Provocations are generative structures…. I can put in the 15 structures to provide some life…. but the transformations come from the readers, and the reading groups….. and the communities that are established, and the manuals that someone else writes, not me.
Within this framework of wholeness we may begin to conceive of value as an objective phenomenon which arises inevitably from the existence of wholeness as a structure.
The modern process leaves no room for feedback.
The essence of the process is that each step creates fine adaption, creates a beautiful relation between what has gone before and what is being done.
This paying attention to the wholeness is essentially synonymous with love of life.
It means paying attention to the emptiness of the desert, to the passion of an old woman sitting on her doorstep… to the laughter of children, to the smells of dinner being cooked. It means loving the glistening white plaster on the wall, the subtle evening light. It means taking in the whole, enjoying it, seeing it all, bathing in it, loving it.
Humans guide their actions according to a mental picture of the situation, according to schemata, rules, images and ideas. Because people make things according to such conceptual pictures of what we wish to do, each moment in the unfolding of the world at any given locus is governed by these images…. which have become more willful, more rule-bound, less and less in touch wth the wholeness that exists.
As I read pages 44 to 65 this morning, I doodled with CA’s injunctions on transformations from very simple beginnings (eg. a diamond, or series of dots). The aim is to add more structure through smooth transformations which preserve the wholeness, using the different pattern languages. After reading up to page 120 this evening and writing longhand the above quotes I let my mind loose. No images. But a desire to perhaps create a form… so I started swirling a centre for a head and then created new swirls. I looked at it and realised that these detracted from the wholeness, from the sense of centre. So started again.
At each point of curve I asked does this make this more or less whole. I added boundaries and patterns paying attention…. felt in a flow state…. and this is what popped out, words and all….
Being alive to attention…. as I now write this and being alive to the way my husband is sitting over his computer opposite to me while the lights reflect in the window… and if I care to turn them off and go outside I will see the swirling milky way.
The flower is the temporary product of the unfolding of the bud and seed pod under the driving influence of DNA
Thus we see that each given wholeness has a certain history; the wholeness becomes more valuable of the history allows this wholeness to unfold in a way that is considerate, respectful, of the existing structure.
Real kindness is quite different, valuable in itself. It is a true process, not guided by a grasp for a goal, but by the minute-to-minute necessity of caring, dynamically, for the feelings and well-being of another.
… the emergence of new structure in nature is brought about always by a sequence of transformation which act on the whole and in which each step emerges as a discernible and continious result from the immediately preceding whole.
the evolution of any natural system is governed by the transformations of the mathematical wholenss and by tendency inherent in these transformations for the whole to unfold in a particular fdirection.
Thus the principle of unfolding wholeness has great promise as a way of explaining form creation. It introduces little that is new, is consistent with existing physical theory on almost all points, and yet creates an entirely fresh perspective which can explain the emergence of living structure, without us having to resort to a teleological urge to life.
In reading this whole section I remember (again) my attraction to take up physics at uni was a geometrical one (inspired by the symmetry between qantum particles and eastern mandelas in a book entitled “the fabric of the universe”) and that the selection of my honours thesis was based”on” theories of fermi surfaces – the geometrical shapes of the properties of atoms that enable the bonding of atoms to create the macro-shape of solids that they do, as well as the really neat semi-conductor properties.
The actual doing of my honours thesis, unfortunately, had nothing to do with geometry…. just mind-numbing readings on a potentiometer getting electrical readings from a simple circuit of alloy metal in a a little cryogenic container I designed stuck down the neck of a big container of liquid Helium (4 degrees Kelvin). Reuctionistic techniques. Only later, participating in a workshop on sacred maths where we meditated/visualized the different developments of the cell, spiltting into successively more complex geometric shapes …. and sat in a duadecahedron for a while, feeling the resonance of these different shapes in our bodies …. did I get a big AHA moment.
But as things go with AHA moments, you remember you had them, that during them you perceived something deeply and profoundly…. but then that deep knowing seems to elude you when trying to recall it. It is deep inside me somewhere. It seems to be evoked now and then. But looking at tile patterns and turkish carpets doesn’t do it for me at the moment. Too static?
One thing I am noticing about myself is that my intellectualising and big picture thinking capacity seems very much reduced. I am having difficulty doing the work I am normally so good at and which I have deadlines to do at the moment (even though I am supposedly on holiday) . Bonnie, it is like all the development of those arrows on your map have now rescinded for me. I can barely do comparisons and hold two things in my head. I am turning into a lizard.
Wholeness, even though it is an external phenomenon, is inseparable from our own reality which is presumably internal.
But where Descartes only allowed observation to focus on the outer reality of mechanisms in the world, my method requires that we focus on the inner reality of feeling as well.
… which of the two causes a greater expansion of my humanity?
The key to this method as practiced by Buddhists, is to recognize the inner states which are wholesome, and then to move toward those phenomena in the inner and outer world which cause or tend to create this state of wholesomeness in the observer….
…we now understand this wholeness to include centres which grow and fade as life goes on during the dynamic minute-to-minute actions and events which are occurring there.
in effect these people – no matter what miseries, what struggles, what human problems they experience, are bathed in Self, they are surrounded by it, surrounded and sustained by a world in which every particle, each stone, each sidewalk, every door and window reminds them of their own self, affirms the existence of the own self.
…true freedom lies in the ability a person has to act appropriately to any given circumstance.
From Bonnie excerpt from Facebook :
Organisms are radically open and promiscuous objects, always touching others as they are touched themselves; but even amidst this intersticial flesh of ecosystemic relations, individual organisms withdraw again and again in creative moments of subjective satisfaction. If this were not the case, the freedom and novelty of individual decision could not exist, since everything would be entirely conditioned, overwhelmed by its contact with everything else. A world where everything is fully deployed in its relations is a world where nothing happens to anybody because everything is happening everywhere, all the time.
Bonnie, this seems particularly relevent to CA’s quote on freedom. Howeverm his notion of what constrains freedom is not so related to the notion of withdrawal. In particular as a teacher who occasions learning, I can occasion experiences which provide a lot of freedom for the individuals and for emergence of the group properties…. and then there are other times where my occasioning of the room, activities and the feedback relations creates an experience where it feels as if the group as a whole, and the individuals and their roles and actions are being generated from the field…. without so much freedom…. we are propelled as actors in a play bigger than our making. What does it mean then to allow for withdrawal?
Here my husband is taking a picture of me taking a picture of my friend at a lookout in gale force winds while she is selecting a poem from Billy Collins, and I am thinking of the notion of wholeness, relations, freedom, transitory moments, objective, subjective, process, structure. I read a number of his poems out loud to my friend, my husband, the rock, the sea and the wind…. and wonder what the fish would see as I cross the Pacific, or Atlantic towards you…. my feet appearing and disappearing.
What relation am I in? What feels to me the most wholesome? Here and now, listening to my friend squish plastic bags back into the fridge as she makes some nibblies and asks me if I would like some sparkly mineral water. I can’t believe I am still typing, when I am on holiday!
What is arising in me?
Yesterday the red -zone. Too many inputs of too many layers of this. I could deconstruct it… for example, talk about the many foriegn languages (to me) that people are using to describe this space that we are moving to. Talk about how I might meet this language difference, or wait and let it meet me.
Or…. just let what-ever be in me and see what happens.
So being mindful, what do I notice that I want to capture as I kayak this morning with my waterproof camera at Freycinet Peninsular, Tasmania?
What is causing this? My feet in interaction with the water. But you can see neither – just mine and the water’s morning shadow.
Bifurcation of the trees is something we can see in nature (CA’s example of scale tending to do so in thirds). But the cells, microflora, crystals (his examples of boundaries and centres can only be seen through reductionistic technologies (electron and optical microscopes).
I was in awe of this and other rock formations providing good shape and positive space. But as I tried to take the pictures my kayak was moved into different positions by the waves and the shape kept changing.
I saw fish and decided to snorkel (had it with me just in case, and the water is 3 degrees C warmer as result of east coast currents coming down to Tasmania (possibly a climate change effect) so very pleasant 19 degrees.) I took pictures of fish, they darted back into hiding in the weeds. I saw them, I swear, but they would not be photographed.
Centres? A sign of wholeness? Or something, unknown, borrowing deep?
The place here is Honeymoon Bay. The name might be significant. Is my honeymoon over, or just beginning?
My breath through the snorkel echoes.
The unfolding of wholeness might one day be understood as a single law which underlies the entirety of everything we know as nature.
An irregular world struggling to be regular always achieves a certain level of regularity which is interrupted by unusual configurations created by the very forces that produce the regularity as they act against a framework of three dimensional coherent space.