“They get too close to the horn with the mikes and don’t give the sound time to travel as they should. Consequently, they don’t get enough of the real timbre and they miss the whole body of the sound. They get the inside of it but not the outside as well.”
John Coltrane

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

Generative vs. Descriptive

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“Does the DNA contain a full description of the organism to which it will give rise? The answer is no. The genome contains instead a program of instructions for making the organism – a generative program …

A descriptive program, like a blueprint or a plan, describes an object in some detail, whereas a generative program describes how to make an object … consider Origami … by folding a piece of paper in various directions, it is quite easy to make a paper hat or a bird from a single sheet. To describe in any detail the final form of the paper with the complex relationships between its parts is really very difficult, and not of much help in explaining how to achieve it. Much more useful and easier to formulate are instructions on how to fold the paper … a generative program for making a particular structure.”

Lewis Wolpert – Principles of Development
quoted in
Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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One Wholesome Thing at a Time

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“Each process does something – just one thing – which is important, practical and creates good feeling. Then it does another. Then it does another. There is no manipulation and distortion of the structure, trying to predict where it is going, trying to make sure everything is OK. There is a sublime confidence, and practicality and simplicity.

If we do one thing at a time, and if what we do is wholesome and sound, then whatever comes next will work. We do not have to tie it down ahead of time for fear of some imaginary potential catastrophe of “design”. Instead, we just go step by step, doing what is required as well as what we are able, with confidence that the next thing, too, will work out somehow when its time comes, but that it need not be worked out now.”

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

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Saudis to Sue Twitter User

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I found a link to this article in my twitter feed this morning:

“Saudi Arabia’s justice ministry plans to sue a Twitter user who compared the death sentence handed down on Friday to a Palestinian poet to the punishments meted out by Islamic State … The justice ministry will sue the person who described… the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being `ISIS-like’ … Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity”

and it was presented with a commentary that said “try it” … which I would like to re-iterate with sincerity and empathy … “please do try” … so that we can have a much needed cultural conversation where you will have to deal with questions such as:

  • How can there be a legal process which goes beyond the domains of your laws and culture?
  • How can your laws and culture interact with people from other cultures?
  • What if you discover that your interpretation of “human dignity” is different from others’? Are you willing to have a sincere conversation in which you may find that your understanding has been limited and your opinions may change?
  • How sincere are you aout the implications of a legal decision … if Saudi Arabia sues a twitter user and loses in court … should Saudi Arabai be sentenced to something akin to execution (such as being banned from the world energy markets?)
  • Will you be able to recognize when you are clinging blindly to beliefs that are obsolete? when you do, how will you integrate that experience?

If only we could have such a conversation in a non-combative setting maybe we will be able to come and evolve together?

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Christopher Alexander on Creativity

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“In a living system what is to be always grows out of what is, supports it, extends its structure smoothly and continuously, elaborates new form – sometimes startling new form – but without ever violating the structure which exists.

… Creativity comes about when we discover the new within a structure already latent in the present. It is our respect for what is that leads us to the most beautiful discoveries.”

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

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Unfolding Wholeness and Structure Preserving Transformations

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“Any part of the world we build will have life if it is ceated by structure preserving transformations [ {where} centers will always tend to form in such a way as to preserve and enhance previous structure – and this means, in such a way as to help sustain other existing and emerging centers ], and will not have life if it is not created by structure preserving transformations.

This apparently simple statement, if true … has enormous repercussions. The modern world we build, because its construction is driven by out attitudes about money, production, design, building, and planning, breaks from smooth unfolding at almost every stage. As a result, the processes which we presently have make it very difficult to create life in the world …

The absence of life … does not come about merely because modernistic design was ignorant of … structural principles … It comes about, far more profoundly, because the processes which create objects, artifacts, forests, towns, roads, bridges – nearly all fail to have the character of unfolding wholeness …

Thus the issue of process is  immense … it is more important than the static structure of the designs”

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

As I read this I was thinking of Annelieke and her (and many others’) efforts in Transition to do things … to create life structures. Many times a lot of (especially precious and dedicated volunteer) effort goes into creating something (forming a group, organizing a space, creating a garden) … and in many cases this results in short-lived and fragile structures. Reading this text I wonder how much of that is a result of 1) a mechanistic default approach to process we have inherited and 2) a lack of established practice in natural processes … of unfolding wholeness. As I understand it this challenge is the domain of Inner Transition … the art of 1) recognizing established patterns that inhibit unfolding wholeness and 2) practicing and establishing “structure preserving transformations” which are more likely to yield living structures.

As I write these words I am also thinking of the abundant flow Andreea and Mihaela are experiencing and generating. If an “objective observer” could have witnessed the process that gave birth to the living structure that is their life and work … it would have, most likely, been either missed or dismissed (as a messy coincidence). It was (and continues to be) a long unfolding wholeness that was “allowed” more than “engineered”. Attempts to conceptualize and guide the process resulted in heaviness … which in retrospect was a natural response prohibiting misguided growth and movement. Most of the “key” centers that led to what currently is were subtly hidden and softly emerged … and mostly in retrospect came to be recognized as powerful centers. I recognize so many of the 15 principles in Alexander’s work … borders, roughness, good shape, voids, gradiants, levels of scale, alternating repetition, strong centers, positive space, contrast, non-separatenss, echoes, simplicity … an inspiring example of unfolding wholeness.

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