“You’re in a terrible spot. It’s too late for you to retreat but too soon to act. All you can do is witness. You’re in the miserable position of an infant who cannot return to the mother’s womb, but neither can he run around and act. All an infant can do is witness and listen to the stupendous tales of action being told to him. You are at that precise point now. You cannot go back to the womb of your old world, but you cannot act with power either. For you there is only witnessing acts of power and listening to tales of power.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Christopher Alexander on One Thing at a Time

n

“If you do one thing at a time – just a true thing that comes from a carefully considered feeling – that means , when you do it, your own feeling is enormously increased, and you choose it because of that, and you put it there because of that … then something real, ordinary real life, will come into being there”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

Posted in Design, Expanding, inside, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Structural Engineering … of Space and Solid

n

“To solve the problem [of structural engineering], you need to address the alternation of space and solid in the building; and you need to approach this matter almost as if it were a problem of decoration, of playing, making the solid mass of the building so beautiful in its own right …

It is too often forgotten that a building is, above all, a load-bearing structure. The most significant thing about what we call a buildins is that it is a disposition of material weighing several hundred or several thousand tons. The question is, how do we arrange these thousands of tons to make something with powerful sense, with psychic force?

To do it, we essentially have to think of the structure as big and the space as small. The structure is made of big and massive members … And the building will be beautiful , or not, according to the pattern of these members in three dimensions …

Structural mass is almost always distributed with rhythm …

The process of creating the structure consists mainly of work we do in the centers, trying to make them stronger and more intense. The process of making the centers intense, and the process of making the structure powerful and able to withstand forces, are the essence of the thing. We master the art of making this structure ar that moment when we see the system of load-bearing elements (structure) and the system of rooms (spatial centers) as one and the same problem …

This is virtually pure art. It is not, as peoeple sometimes like to say, a mixture of practical and art. It is pure art.

… what the fundamental process does to make a building beautiful, is to make the structure part and parcel of the space … The structural elements form a composition in their own right, as do the spaces: two beautiful systems of centers, each with its own weight and substance, each interlocked and interdependent with the other.

So, a good building, in the end, is a dense packing of pure pattern in three dimensions, in which every piece, every part, is positive. This is not so easy to achieve …

What is most remarkable of all, is that the structure which is created by a feeling for centers and by a conscious and deliberate aim towards the feeling of the whole, will often turn out to be an efficient structure … engineering structure … efficient, stable, well behaved, coherent … Why this happens is a deep matter, too difficult to analyze here. “

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

 

Posted in Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Addiction: a crisis of disconnection

n

“… the path out of unhealthy bonds is to form healthy bonds …

for too long we’ve talked only about individual recovery from addiction

but we need now to talk about social recovery …”

via Esko Kipli

Posted in AltEco, Intake, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Building Volumes

n

… putting buildings in service of the land … being in service gives purpose and context and direction … being in service becomes a nourishing relationship (if you can get it right) … being in service of what wants to be instead of expecting to be served what I want …

“The most crucial thing to understand throughout the volume-creating processes, is that IT IS THE LAND WHICH MATTERS. The purpose of the buildings is to bring life to the land. The building volumes are the tools with which we undertake this task. This is a radical point of view. It puts the building in a humble position making it a tool, the clay from which we mold the pace. But it is the land and its space, as they become activated by this clay, which really matter.

… It is remarkable to realize that it is this uncompromising attitude of attention to the land which also makes the building volumes subtle and beautiful. That is truly surprising. The land itself, and our love for it, is enough to give the actual building volumes their shape …

Like a person who, in being helpful, becomes more graceful, more beautiful as a person, the building volumes become beautiful as they help the land.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

 

Posted in AltEco, Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Christopher Alexander on Eyes of Lovers

n

I find it challenging to allow both critical thinking and “eyes of lovers” to co-exist, inform each other, bounce around, contain  … and hopefully integrate …

“To start with, we look at that land with the eyes of lovers. We see the land, appreciate its good qualities, love what is it, no matter how derelict, still we love what is best in it. And then, as lovers of it, we have to imagine that by putting a building there, we can make the place better. This is often hard to imagine. In a natural landscape, is it really possible that the bushes, the buttercups, the small blue flowers on the hedge are made better by putting a building somewhere? But I persist … I begin to see a glimpse of the way that the whole land might become better if I put a building there … I get a glimmer of an idea that this land can actually be improved, made better …”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

 

Posted in AltEco, Design, Expanding, inside, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Christopher Alexander on Feeling of Materials

n

This takes me back to the conversation Annelieke and I had about the roofing material used for the deck. I designed for corrugated sheet metal, Annelieke prefered clay tiles (which is what came to be). When Annelieke explained her position based on vague notions of magnetic fields I wasn’t comfortable with it … because neither of us know much about it … not substantial knowledge that we can relate to with any depth. However it is clear that the metal roof would have been a much less involved roof … I chose it because it was cheap and easy for me to build. The choice to go with clay tiles was much more demanding (the roof structure had to be changed / reinforced) and more involved … and in the end not that much more expensive. I also felt, and still feel that a green roof was the most “living” option … but it felt beyond my capacity when the buld was taking place.

“The feeling of a material does not depend on what it is – it depends on how it is handled.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

Posted in AltEco, Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Program Budgeting

n

This quote comes from a context of large building projects … these ideas may need to be adapted to different scales of projects … but what strikes me most about this is that it creates an alignment of motivations using a budgetary approach … instead of typical conflicts of interest which arise around money and budgets:

“Money is the lifeblood of every building. How it is garnered and spent determines the outcome and the artistic life and soul of the finished building. It is the overall global pattern of expenditure which controls the way feeling can occur,because it is this which controls the overall pattern of material, in quantity and quality …

… starting with the money, and allowing the overview of money to guide the process every day and at every stage of work, help unfolding, because it is only in this procedural atmosphere that one truly has a grasp of the whole at every stage.

… In program budgeting, a cost plan is made starting even before design begins. This cost plan is an assignment of budget amounts allocated to different categories of work. To start with the cost plan is made intuitively, to capture how much one wants to spend in these categories.

… One guesses and can feel the result of spending 14% on foundations, 22% on roof structure, etc. The purpose is to find a set of numbers which are realistic, and yet create the best possible depth of feeling that can be attained within the given budget envelope. For a team with experience, numbers like these translate directly and intuitively into a sense fo how the building will turn out …

Of course the allocations in the first cost plan are subsequently tested and modified continually, as the work goes forward …

The assumption throughout is that the numbers will remain within the framework set. What floats is the design, not the price. One assumes that “something” can always be done for any sum suggested, and the subcontractors and general manager must make do with that so as not to disturb the whole – the whole, in this instance, being the overall budget distribution that has been allocated in the cost plan.

Thus, as the building design develops, each subcontractor … instead of being show the drawings and asked to bid the work, he is told the sum allocated, and asked what he can do that is best for the project within that sum of money.

… the benchmark of the process is that the allocation which has been made gives the failsafe distribution: in the best interest of the building overall, and it is unwise for any one operation to be allowed to drive it out of balance, merely because something has been drawn or specified, which is expensive. Rather, one takes the attitude, let this allocated amount be fixed, and – unless exceptional conditions dictate otherwise – whatever can be done for that amount will serve the project well. “

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

Posted in AltEco, Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Concentration (dharana)

n

“… thought experiments … There were serveral of us making these judgements, together. That always helped to make our judgments more reliable. With some effort, we could reach agreement of feeling on any given issue. But it is not so easy to do these experiments. Although having several people together helps, because one can then get confirmation, ad unity of judgement, it is nto something anyone can do.  The reason is that it takes quite a lot of concentration t keep on thinking about the real situation … one has constantly to realize that it is an experiment … and an experiment about the evolving design, which does not exist yet. That takes experience, and concentration. But it is possible, and it is tremendously useful. After doing it, one feels more certain about the design, and experience has shown often that this confidence is reliable. After such experiments, the real places which result do have – nearly always – the right feeling, a wonderful feeling. When done right, there is carry-over from the experiment to the real thing one builds.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

Posted in Design, Meditation, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside, Yoga | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Belonging

n

“… there is a connection between ordinary human happiness and the existence of a living structure in our physical world … when architectural structure is an unfolded one … when it is created by repeated application of living processes, and by … structure preserving processes … then what comes from it is a world where people are able to feel happy. They can be themselves, more easily. They are more free – free in spirit, free in their emotions.

And … that on the contrary, within the dead structure we have become used to as the normal 20th-21st-century environment, this freedom, this blissful state, is almost unattainable.

… What is the character of the kind of world where we experience emotional possession of the places we are in? It is a world in which the find adaptation between people and their buildings and gardens and streets is so subtle, goes so deeply to the core of human experience, that the people who then live and work and play in that environment feel as if they belong there, as if it belongs to them, as if they are a part of it, as if, like an old shoe, it is completely and utterly theirs.

… Historically, this quality … came about as a result of a long process – often years, even centuries long … But in our era, the opportunity for this very long time span is less available. We live in a time where things move quickly, where society evolves at a very great speed, where people are highly mobile, where things change at a great speed … we must invent new kinds of process which can [created belongingness] … in some new form, and by different means…

… The true landscape of architecture … is that arrangement of materials, windows, seats, roofs … which, as nearly as possible, helps us arrive at this blissful state. It is generated by the free application of a living adaptive process.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

Posted in AltEco, Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Christopher Alexander on Freshness

n

“What was lost in the 20th-century building was the freshness of our buildings …. it is not style that makes a building living or dead, but the freshness of its response to its surroundings; the truthful and spontaneous unfolding of order within its own fabric.

… the essence of all life in any system at all, lies in the adaptive response of each new development in the system to the previous existing state …

… Although the adaptive sequences are highly ordered, and seem predefined, because they define steps and transformations in a disciplines sequence, it is the character of these sequences to help the user, the artist, the builder RESPOND to what is there, rather than to IMPOSE on what is there. And this too, stands as the foundation of any world where we experience true belonging. It cannot be achieved by a mechanical framework,by any mechanical system, nor by any stereotyped or stylistic response.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 3: A Vision of a Living World

Posted in AltEco, Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 3, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Dutch Police Training Eagles to Take Down Drones

n

I have a feeling that given how surreal reality is becoming … that telling jokes its going to be more difficult in the future.

source

Posted in Intake, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Yanis Varoufakis in Conversation and Democracy and Europe

n

(the conversation is with Gerardo Pisarello, Barcelona’s First Deputy Mayor).

It’s a good talk … but over-reaching. When Varoufakis starts to lay out his “4 stage plan” I noticed how the energy and clarity and relevancy (applicability) of his ideas faded. It is a good example of ambitious thinking that attempts to reach out too far into an unknown future. An alternative could be a step-by-small-step unfolding living process.

I very much agree with the first step “transparency”. I stronly disagree with the mentality of “demanding it” … I believe it to be pointless. Those from whom we want/expect transparency are comfortable without it. Why would they change that and what leverage can be used to “demand” it of them? The word “demand” speaks to me of a forceful approach. What if it was possible to create transparency while demonstrating to “the powers that be” that it is actually a desirable change for them to embrace?

Posted in AltEco, Greece, Intake, Oameni, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

There goes the speed of light!?

n

source

“… measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done.”

… cute scientists struggling

what if this isn’t a “speed of light issue” but another hint that the constants of nature are not as constant as we want them to be?

Posted in Intake, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Feeling as Criterion and Instrument

n

Unless something quotable shimmers in the appendices, this brings me to the end of book 2:

“If living processes, guided by feeling for the whole, and guided by feeling, were to shape all acts of construction in society, then everything, nearly, that we know about modern society would be changed. Above all … it means that people would have a self awareness, a knowledge of reality and wholeness as it is, quite different from the ignorance of inner feeling we came to accept as normal in the 20th-century.

The idea that feeling itself can become both criterion and instrument – that what is done, no matter how large or how small, can become personal, connected to the personal self of all human beings – and that this process then opens the door to a new form of society.

… Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of specific social processes which may have the ability to increase the life of the whole. Certainly, I am not insisting that there is any one super process, or only one kind of viable process. Rather, I am specifically insisting  that there is only one class of living processes – albeit a very large class indeed – and that any particular process must, if it is to be a good one, belong to this class.

… By inventing and re-inventing version of the fundamental process in appropriate social forms, and applying these forms of process to all acts of making and building and repairing, this worldwide operation then contains within itself, the seeds or core of the biological unfolding process that occurs in nature, now applied to human society.

A process, like the process of biology, which is attuned to human nature, makes more sense of human feeling and human common sense … you move forward in small, tiny steps. Each step accomplishes something concrete and good – oe center at a time. Each step is taken forward, judged bu the impact it has on the whole. We are continuously evaluating the whole for its deep feeling, for its usefulness, for the support it gives to human experience.

… The small, step-by-step process … is also the most satisfying, the most nourishing – because it creates, at each step, something that makes us – the makers – feel more wholesome, something that makes us feel alive while we are doing it … And … a similar healing effect takes place in the whole. Since it is the whole we are always looking to at each step, the whole which is transformed and made to have a deeper feeling, a lovely feeling consistent with everyday longings – then the whole … will in the end serve us, give us a kind of world which is the world in which we want to live.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

 

Posted in AltEco, Design, Expanding, inside, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 2, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Bitcoin experiment crashes into the cliffs of human nature

n

One of the core developers of Bitcoin has left the project and written extensively about how it has unfolded (via Matt Mullenweg). I felt relief when I read this.

I am uncomfortable with Bitcoin. I have done some inquiry into its nature and I believe it is in some ways an interesting experiment. But I have and continue to feel that one of its greatests faults is that it is designed to bypass the need for trust … if we are going to move into sustainable communal future we are going to need to learn to trust (ourselves and others), to nourish trust, to create human processes that uncover and heal mistrust … we are going to need technologies that enable us to build trust … not to bypass the need for it.

The above mentioned article demonstrates how diverse and subtly related human processes have undermined the Bitcoin effort. To me this seemed inevitable. The techological challenges Bitcoin faced are, in my mind, correlated to faults in its inception.

 

 

Posted in AltEco, Intake, Money, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander – It Must Be Us

n

This quote comes at the end of another significant section which I did not draw quotes from (as was the case with sequences). It describes life-creating sequences can be interlinked into process-networks … it struck me as a fascinating balance between something specifically mechanical and yet filled with life. Ready-made quotes did not jumpt out at me, I could probably describe it, but I don’t want to yet. These are the (almost) final words of this section:

“If we are to imagine a process which can allow all of us in society to create our communal life together, then this process must – to an extraordinary extent – allow these ordinary feelings, our ordinary thoughts and passions, to enter the world and therefore to enter the processes by which the world is made. No bureaucrat can handle this for us. No well-meaning master-architect, along, will do it for us, not if what matters in the end is the tone of the jukebox, the smile of the waitress, the slightly raucous atmosphere in which the locals lean on the bar andeye each other, swapping tales, stifling their loneliness.

For all that to be contained, captured, brought to life, it must be us, mustn’t it – we ourselves – who do the deciding and at least some of the building, so that it is ours when it is finished, and we can still feel what it means to be alive in that thing, built, unfinished, but nevertheless open to our ordinary stories and our ordinary human life.

Well, now we can see why a refined and politely worked-out process will not do, why something conceived i the planning department, or in the professional pages of legislation, or in a professional code of ethics, will not sufficiently catch the glint of that something that engages us, here, in our life on Earth.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

 

Posted in Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 2, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

David Graeber and David Wengrow: Ritual Seasonality and the Origins of Inequality

n

Another gem from David Graeber (and friend) …

the core idea is that politics was a seasonal thing … during spring/summer (periods of abundance) society would fragment into small(er) groups of hunter-gatherers who went out on their expiditions and that formed one kind of social-political stage … and during winter they came together into larger social constructs – cities or states. These cyclic experiences gave our evolutionary ancestors an opportunity to experience a range of social structures from egalitarian (based on ideas of equality) to hierarchical ones … an opportunity to see different qualities, different benefits and downsides … and as a result an ability to navigate between the two … maybe some societies avoided hierarchical structures not out of ignorance but because they experienced the inherent problems with them …

David Graeber and David Wengrow: Palaeolithic Politics and Why It Still Matters 13 October 2015 from Radical Anthropology on Vimeo.

Posted in AltEco, Intake, Oameni, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on Gene Snippets

n

“… the structure of social processes we created during the 20th century, again and again create a mental catch-22 situation where the means needed to escape from the anti-living process, are prohibited by the very process we are trying to replace.

… The key to the idea that will allow a system of workable morphogenetic sequences to evolve in a not-too great length of time, is highlighted in the genetic ideas of John Holland.

Holland has shown how an information system which guides a real world system may evolve and “learn” by gradually building effective models of functioning, in the form of “genes” … he describes the genes which we know in organisms as a special case of a much more general phenomenon …

…his discovery … mathematical reasons why the learning, and spreading, and successful evolution of … genes, will occur most successfully to the extent that the genes are small and independent … One example of his argument, is simply the fact that at the time of meiosis, when male and female chromosomes cross over and intermingle, the shorter the genes are, the less likely they are to be damaged at the crossover point, and the more likely, therefore, to survive and be passed on to later generations … merely one example of a more general argument … small independent “lumps” of coherent problem-solving information, the smaller they are, and the more independent, the more likely they are to survive and spread into the gene pool …

What is essentially remarkable about the genetic system is that, individually, genes are small … and largely interchangeable. Amazing, but true, that a gene which causes a certain desirable kind of enzyme activity can be transplanted from a fish to a person, sometimes even to a mushroom. Most genes are highly general in what they do. What they do is limited, but “snippable” – each one can be cut out and used, individually, by itself. The “snippet” – the individual genes … are effectively almost context-free …

This is the secret of biological evolution. I believe it will also turn out to be the secret of the evolution of the genes controlling the living structure of the earth and the built world on Earth.

… It is difficult to find the social conditions in which all the features of the construction process can change at the same time, hence extremely difficult to introduce such a new process as a whole. But suppose that the same improved process of contracting is broken up into, say, twenty separable sequences … each one … separable from the nineteen others, and can therefore be successfully injected by itself into an otherwise normal or mainstream system of construction. If the snippet works well, it may be adopted, and may spread to new construction methods …

What was difficult or impossible as a larger act of social transformation, becomes possible when one uses a genetic approach to achieve the same aims. What is needed is simply a way of ‘cutting up’ the original innovative process, into a small set of process genes or small sequences that work individually, and that are robust enough to work in a wide variety of contexts, even when not supported by others part of the new system.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

… the first example, that came to my mind, of this are the now common-in-Transition-practices of check-in in the beginnings and check-out at the ends of meetings … a “gene”from the “inner-transition chromosomes” introduced by Sophy Banks

Posted in AltEco, Design, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 2, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Christopher Alexander on a Pursuit of Wholeness

n

This reminded me of Pirsig’s thoughts on contrarians:

“… you risk a great deal when working within a new paradigm which includes a) human relationships of trust, b) on-going decisions about trade-offs, c) the overall wisdom of how to spend a given modest amount of money to get the best from your money. It is risky within the current system based on a) legalisms, b) blueprints and contracts that preclude sensible adaptation, c) profit and gain, and d) too little human trust.

people who attempt to do these things will be in jeopardy when they attempt to do them within the present system.

… All in all, for more then 40 years I have had the experience that – on any given issue – three times out of four, what I instinctively wanted to do because I thought it was right, was at odds with somebody’s picture of how things ought to be. For years this seemed like a coincidence. Sometimes it seemed to my friends that I was just plain stubborn,,ornery, ‘against everything’ – that I had a built in desire to be in conflict with people. But then, gradually, – and only fully in the last ten or fifteen years – it began to sink in that this apparent source of conflict had a straightforward origin. IT came about, because my instincts were governed, as often as I found possible, by respect for life, respect for wholeness in the world (at least up to the limitation of my ow ability to see it). What I did came from my desire to see the whole, and my desire to build according to the whole, and my refusal to give up on the whole.

… The pursuit of wholeness, pure and simple, was at odds with virtually every institutional and social reality of the 20th century.

… Of course the adventures which I have been living for more than forty years, now, and the observations I have made, might still be attributed to the monomania of a solitary individual, overzealous, who had a blindness to the format and procedures that are proper in the worlds of architecture and society.

… we need to preserve the sacred quality of our life and the life of our cities and our planet, and to seek a new form of processes in which we can be whole.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

 

Posted in AltEco, Design, Expanding, inside, Nature of Order, Nature of Order Book 2, outside | Tagged | You are welcome to add your comment

Svatantra: Entering the Temple of the Heart

n

My teacher reflecting on Svatantra … which is the theme that has most touched and informed my own path of practice

“As his pupil my teacher worked at guiding me towards becoming increasingly independent in developing and refining more and more my personal practice skills so I became less and less dependent on him being the vehicle for if, when, where, what and how well I practice.

…. Thus he guided me into self-inspired and self-motivated practice without the need for neutral or even conducive surroundings to influence the mood, or please the eye, ear or nose. Of course adding these factors may arise as a fruit in terms of creating a supportive environment, but the message here was that the ‘temple’ we need to enter ultimately sits within the heart rather than within some external room or building.”

I too:

“am eternally grateful to the initiation into this process”

 

 

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment