“I can't understand anything in general unless I'm carrying along in my mind a specific example and watching it go.”
Richard Feynman

Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman

Christopher Alexander – A World Picture

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“I believe that we have in us a residue of a world-picture which is essentially mechanical in nature – what we might call the mechanist-rationalist world picture … Like an infection is has entered us, it affects our actions, it affects our morals, it affects our sense of beauty.

… This is a picture of a world made of atoms which whirl around in a mechanical fashion: a world in which it is assumed that all the universe is a blind mechanism, whirling on its way, under the impact of the ‘laws of nature.’ These laws are, essentially, those mechanistic laws which explain how the atoms and the structures made of these atoms proceed on their way … Even tough we would admit that the precise laws and mechanisms may not be known, we assume that underlying our ignorance there are some laws, not quite formulated, which do account for how things work …

I have reached the conclusion that the strange fantasies, the private in-house language about architecture, the strange nature of 20th-century gallery art, deconstructionism, postmodernism, modernism and a host of other ‘isms’, all of which affect our physical world hugely, are created because of an entanglement between the nature of architecture, the practice of architecture, and the mechanical conception of the universe.

… More precisely, I believe that the mistake and confusion in our picture of the the art of building has come from our conception of what matter is.

The present conception of matter, and the opposing one which I shall try to put in its place, may both be summarized by the nature of order. Our idea of matter is essentially governed by our idea of order … So it is the nature of order which lies at the root of the problem of architecture …

When we understand what order is,  I believe we shall better understand what matter is and then what the universe itself is.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 1: The Phenomenon of Life

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Christopher Alexander – Human Feelings

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“Of course there is that part of human feeling where we are all different. Each of us has our idiosyncrasies, our unique individual human character. That is the part people most often concentrate on when they are talking about feelings, and comparing feelings. But that idiosyncratic part is really only about ten percent of the feelings which we feel. Ninety percent of our feelings is stuff in which we are all the same and we feel the same things. So, from the very beginning, when we made the pattern language, we concentrated on that … part of human experience …”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 1: The Phenomenon of Life

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So Much dis-Love: sports, police, sex, marriage

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I saw this first video a couple of days ago … my initial thought was: my god how much resources we invest, as a society, into institutionalized, competitive anger and hatred (ie. “the business of sports”). The second video painted in a startling correlation (that I am insinuating!) … a continuum of expressions indicating an absence of love … so many broken hearts? I am holding this as a reminder to myself that whatever future we create and inhabit, we are going there together.

personally … I think marriage itself is one of the root causes for all this confusion.

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Gregory Bateson – An Ecology of Mind

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It seems that Gregory Bateson was walking his path at around the same time Christopher Alexander was walking his … I wonder if they and others like them got together.

thank you to Luis for seeding this in the Holochain chatroom.

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Women of Iceland

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Overbalanced Wheel – Perpetual Motion

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I’d never heard of an overbalanced wheel … but there it is 🙂

 

 

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A Seed of Meditation in Distraction?

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I was nearing the end of a practice, sitting. I experience subtle flavors of sitting, but for me they are like dreams, hard to hold on to later.

One of the prominent indicators is a feeling of being welcome in sitting. This time was like that.

Another prominent indicator is an apparent interest to stay in my body. It can be placed on the physicality of the posture, my butt cheecks on the blocks or my spine or lengthened neck. It an be on my breath. It can be on the nuclear-reactor-like-rumbling sound I hear inside.

But almost always there is fluctuation. My mind will wander off somewhere to something bothersome (that I can later try to close off and get off my mind) or something engaging (something I’ve been thinking about recently). Sometimes I am mostly aware of the fluctuation itself … the movement back and forth between body-presence and mind-wandering. Sometimes, I get to taste a flavor a stable presence in body. Sometimes I get “lost” in the distraction.

This “lost in distraction” happened a few weeks ago … but it took on an interesting flavor. I was so immersed in wherever it is my mind had gone, that when I landed back in my body I was surprised. It is only when I got back that I realized I was away. THAT interested me.

I feel in me a(n unfounded) assumption that a stability of mind should appear in the practice itself – that stability should manifest in the bhavana (focal point) of my sitting. But what I expereinced in this particular practice is stability in (what I was framing as) the “distraction”. Can it be that the seed of meditation (a,stable and continuous directed mind) appears first in distraction?

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Jim Carey DeepRest

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yes … that

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… and it hurts

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Just discovered that Katie Teague, who created Money & Life, has been producing short films to heal our “Sacred Deficit Disorder”:

I Love Therefore I Am from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

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A Living Sharpness

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I’ve been experiencing an interesting convergence in my practice in recent weeks:

  1. As distractions dwindle, I feel more collected and focused.
  2. The short visit, at the end of practice, in maha-mudra is becoming more of a stay.
  3. I am settled again in a quality pranayama practice.
  4. I am experiencing more stability in my mind and so am able to sit peacefully.
  5. I’ve started to learn chanting and have added voice and chanting exercises at the end of my practice.

Arriving at maha-mudra used to indicate that the practice is nearing its end. Now it marks the beginning of an increasingly subtle part of practice. What used to feel like the core of practice is feeling more and more like a preparation and gradual movement into the “core at the end” of practice.

After almost 20 years of practice I am amazed that I can still experience such an expansion. Though it does also raise a question of why does it take so long? The answer … Life!

When I moved to Bhudeva I started using wood cutting tools like chisels and power saws in the workshop and especially a chainsaw for firewood. I had a REALLY naive assumption that the saws would keep cutting forever. I was wrong. All cutting tools need to be sharpened (or replaced) more or less regularly (depending on how much you use them). With every cut, blades get duller, with every sharpening, sharper. It is a continuous cycle. I missed this for most of my life when all I had to content with were kitchen knives. It struck my awareness bluntly with the chainsaw.

Practice is like that too. I feel that every practice session is an act of sharpening / tuning. In daily life I apply my edge and it gets dulled (sometimes less, sometimes more … life!). My overall well being is a sum-result of these motions. If I over-use myself or if I don’t tend to myself enough I get dull (and sometimes ill). If I tend to myself as much as I apply myself I end up with a steady state.

Things take on a different flavor when I can get past that steady state … when the edge isn’t just maintained but gets sharper and sharper. I had that experience coming out of last winter. Then life peaked … and now, again, I am beginning to sense that different flavor. The addition of chanting introduces another dimension of practice which extends and deepens the overall subtlety and depth of practice. As winter sets on, days get shorter and there is less work to do outside, I move inwards (into the house and into myself).

I can only imagine that if one lives in a monastery where distractions are kept to a minimum and life itself comes into service of practice, that this exploration can be somehow accelerated. Yet I also feel that this exploration gains a quality or depth, that it is somehow tempered differently when it is immersed in life itself. I imagine it to be like the difference between a fine sword that is displayed in ritual and kept in pristine conditions at all other times, compared to a sword that has seen battle and has been worn down but sharpened over and over again … a living sharpness.

 

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Be Just and Good

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Al Franken on arete and goodness

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Play and Joy

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She was so funny in the mornings. Watching her trying to hold both the discipline of sitting for food and her joy at meeting again in the morning. She would jump in the air, do almost a full 360 twist and nail her ass to the ground … sitting at attention.

She was the first dog I’d been with from a small two month old puppy. I was amazed by the rate of her growth. It seemed every time she walked past the front door she was bigger. She had no issues, no fucked up history …

Her tail was like a separate being … the engine that drove her happiness … it didn’t swing from side to side … it twisted like a propellor. It seemed to also be where her eating originated … the rotating tail seemed to activate her mouth … and she didn’t eat … she vacuumed food.

She was the first dog I had that actually fetched. Chasing or barking at sheep … NO. Fetching … anything … YES. It seemed she could run back and forth forever … first her funny little duck toy … which lasted sooo long … I was really impressed by it given the treatment it received from her. At first it was the duck for short distances … she couldn’t see far … the grass was stll taller than her. Then the frisbee … longer and longer distances. We could have gone so much further … but not this time around 🙁

She had beautiful golden eyelashes and soft brown eyes.

She was soooo trusting … I could dig with a shovel inches from her sleeping head. No fear … loads of innocent curiosity.

The day before yesterday she seemed a bit weak, and slow … definitely not the enthused-with-life being she usually projected. Her gums where pale. We let her rest. Yesterday morning she was walking very slowly … sadness was creeping in. Iulia and I took her to the vet (local village vets offer only very basic services). She was given basic treatment of antiobiotics and fluids. The symptoms were of  Parvo Virus (even though she was vaccinated), but it could also have been poisning (intentional or incidental). She continued to dehydrate during the day. She was deteriorating.

We have  a hole in the ground behind our outdoor kitchen where sink water flows to. Yesterday afternoon, before going into practice, I found her lying in it. When she saw me she could barely move but her tail still wagged at me … for me … in pain … dying … the source of happiness to see me lived on … that was the last time she wagged her tail. I carried her out and placed her in a shaded spot.

When I came out of practice she was in it again. I felt her surrendering to dying. I didn’t want to leave her in that hole. I carried her out again … put her down on some grass and covered her with a sheet … I sat in the hammock next to her. I remembered she so enjoyed being in it with Iulia … so I carried her, packed in the sheet in with me … and we swung gently for a short while.

I then felt that I was interrupting her surrender. So I lay her back down on the ground … and stayed near but not in contact. Iulia (who was gently holding another delicate loss) joined us and we sat together. A bit later Iulia decided to put in a last effort. She contacted some vets and was given a supportive treatment plan. She went to the village to collect what she needed. While she was away Sia’s breathing got heavier … it sounded like there was liquid in her lungs.

Iulia got a first injection of liquids into her. It was too late. Within a few minutes Sia’s eyes faded … and a few minutes after that she took her last breaths.

pffhhh

….

Sia departed last night. She lived a full, free, joyful life for 5 months and a week.

For me she was a reminder of pure play and joy … the world was a game to her … everything in good spirit.

When she died I felt I didn’t want to bury her. We chose to cremate her body. After a few of hours of soft departure … lying in her sheet with a candle burning … we lit a long purifying fire that burned into the night and released her form into the heavens … and we were left with her essence of play and joy.

The Hebrew word for Dog is “Kelev” … I have heard that it is a combination of two words “Kol” (which means all) and “Lev” (which means heart).

Today her play and joy are aching in my heart …

Today I feel tired of living …

שלום יפה

update: last night was quiet cool, wind-free, clear-skies … serenity incarnate … 14 hours later crazy powerful winds passed through here for 10 minutes … swept the remaining ashes away … then a light cleansing rain to cleanse

update: more on Sia from Iulia

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Ceptr: Well-Being Do-op Proposal

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This is a proposal for forming a new do-op focused on well-being.
It is also an experiment and demonstration of an unfolding process of emergence rather than assembly.

Initial Members: Laureli, Jarod, Jean, Ronen
Coherence holder: Ronen

Initiating members of this do-op are already present and active in Ceptr and, in different ways, caring for well-being. The purpose of this do-op is recognize and focus on well-being as a fundamental aspect of the Ceptr project. The current intense state of work (focused on the upcoming crowdfunding/ICO) together with the physical instability (lack of a physical base, much moving around, unclear personal prospects for the core group, etc.) highlight how challenging it can be to reside in well-being.

The challenge of well-being is fundamental in these early days of forming a Ceptr community. How can we come together in a way that expands us as individuals? How can community be built to support and nourish its individuals? How can we avoid well established patterns that lead to communities that achieve growth at the expense of the vitality of individual members?

It may be worth reflecting on the fact that Ceptr has been and continues to be a long-term effort. It fundamentally questions the very ground we all stand on. It brings us face to face with an unknown and for now unknowable future. Given that scope, we may be embarking on a journey that will outlast our lifetimes. Given that scope, most of our work and its tangible (software and hardware) creations are likely more temporary then we care to admit (think of how the Internet has a continuous existence even though all of its original parts, software and hardware, no longer exist). Time shreds importance. Though in the intensity of the present moment we may feel we are creating important and lasting solutions, the reality of it is more likely that we are conducing experiments. What matters most is a long term process of learning and adapting from these experiments. Well-being is key for us to be able to be around long enough for this learning to take place.

A well-being do-op will act as an intentional seeding of well-being within the project. The group itself will seek first to establish well-being for itself and its members. This may manifest in things like its pace (not being bound to ever-dominant schedules), scope (small, soft actions gently embracing sharper, more massive ongoing projects within Ceptr), tools and methods (evoking spacious, peaceful and reflective qualities).

Its presence will, hopefully, demonstrate well-being within the project. From that place, the group, whose members participate in other do-ops, will try to highlight opportunities and offer subtle points of intervention for introducing well-being in the specific and varying context of other do-ops.

It is our wish that well-being become a fundamental quality and skill within Ceptr. That well-being will become a starting point. That well-being, through tangible experience, will be appreciated and valued as a productive approach (and not as a decoration that we tend to after the “important” work is done and when we are exhausted).

When the do-op is formed, it will start to create a soft, background presence within Ceptr. The team will discover itself and what coming together in the spirit of well-being can be. Initially, it will not be involved formally with any ongoing activities. Informally, its members are already present as keepers of well-being and will continue to do so with renewed focus and grounding.

 

 

 

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Paul Krafel: Spiral

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“I can observe how a crack grows by studying cracks within a rock outcrop from thinnest to widest. Like a foot in the door, wind-blown dust drops into these cracks and prevents them from closing. A dusty crack retains more moisture than a bare crack, so when the moisture freezes in winter, the dusty crack will be pried a bit more by ice crystals … dust particles drop deeper into the crack, making space for more wind-blown dust. More dust holds more moisture, which wedges the rock still farther apart, which allows more dust to settle in. Bold plants colonize this dust and send their root hairs prying into the microscopic forerunners of cracks.

This process involves a back and forth spiraling between cause and effect … Does the accumulated dust cause the crack or does the crack cause the accumulated dust? Both, in a spiral of tiny changes.

… Just as an edge dissolves into a gradient when I focus on it so cause and effect dissolve into a spiral when I study them … When I think of change in terms of a simple cause with an effect, I tend to think that large effects require large causes. But when I see cause and effect as a spiral, I understand that large effects can be produced by a very small spiral looping over and over again. Spirals lead me to look smaller. As I open my mind to the significance of smaller changes. I find more and more spirals … The World is full of spirals containing unknown power.”

Paul Krafel – Seeing Nature

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Fear and Loathing in the New Jerusalem

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This morning I finished listening to Darryl Cooper’s penetrating podcast series Fear and Loathing in the New Jerusalem.

It is a recounting of a history I am familiar with, having grown up and been educated in Israel. But, as has been obvious to me for many years, the picture I was given was incomplete. I recall learning it as burdensome. Emphasis (as I experienced it) was placed on two things. The first was a boring and pointless attempt to capture stats and facts (how many Jews arrived in Israel during each immigration, where they came from, what drove them away, etc.) that I was expected to precisely regurgitate in exams. The second was an attempt to portray a narrative that led to the creation of the state of Israel that the Jews deserved. The thing is that the attempt to twist the story into one that historically favors the Jews undermined the story itself … it was incomplete and therefore not cohesive and uninteresting.

I knew of most of the pieces on the story-board (people, places, events, etc.) but I had never heard them woven together as cohesively as in Daryl’s presentation. Though the story is one of much misery and pain (truly “on many sides”) listening to it brought me a sense of peace.

Listening to it reinforced my belief that there is something special about Israel. But that to see it one almost has to look beyond Israel itself. If there was a magnifying glass that collected, across space & time, rays of human faults, weaknesses and misperceptions & skills, potentials and gifts and brought them into intense focus, the burning point of concentrated heat would land on Israel. Fire can burn and consume, but if tempered can be used to cleanse and reshape. The potential for both is continuously present in Israel and just as violence currently spreads out from it to the world, so can, potentially, healing and peace.

I have so much to say … but I do not currently have the emotional capacity nor motivation to bring out what is inside me.So, I leave you with the first of 6 parts of Daryl’s podcast:

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Alexander Grothendieck

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“One cannot invent the structure of an object. The most one can do is to patiently bring it to the light of day, with humility.”

Alexander Grothendieck

This article both attracted and repelled me. I felt like it was describing a special being, yet it was doing it within a mechanistic life-consuming mindset. I wouldn’t be surprised if Grothendieck retreated from the exact mentailty manifested in this article. From the article:

“… A hallmark of Grothendieck’s hypermentalistic thinking was his idea that the environment was a sentient being in need of protecting. He nursed tiny shoots collected in his garden, bringing them indoors to tend individually. Toward humans, though, he was more mercurial … He believed himself to be in communication with Plato and Descartes, and even with God himself. The belief in signal transmission is a signature psychotic delusion.”

I believe that, in time, we may discover that the belief “that signal transmission is a signature psychotic delusion” was itself a delusion of a destructive, narrow, misdirected mindset that misunderstood more than it understood.

Reading this made me feel sorrow towards Grothendieck and anger at the writer and the academic field she represents. I can understand why Grothendieck nursed tiny shoots and was volatile towards other humans.

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Paul Krafel: Tracks of Change

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“A rock broke from the cliff and bounded down the snowfield. Snow sprayed out from each crunching impact. creating white scars of freshly exposed snow. As the rock slowed, its bounces became shorter, until the rock rolled to a stop.

Other dark rocks lay on the snow. Upslope of each lay a similar trail of white scars. Each trail could be traced back up the snowbank to a fresh scar on the cliff where its rock had broken …

Many changes pass quickly but the ending state of that chnge … remains for some time. Therefore ending states are easier to see than the changes themselves …

Tracks of change cover the world with stories …”

Paul Krafel – Seeing Nature

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Roughness: Christopher’s Corners

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Christopher Alexander, in The Nature of Order, frequently references ancient Turkish prayer carpets. I wasn’t, and still am not a fan of these artifacts, but as I was searching for an example to use in this post, I was surprised to find, that though there are many images online, finding one that is good was difficult. I was finally able to find one that demonstrated the idea of corners, but not one that felt beautiful … so this will have to do:

Following is a cutout section (marked in the picture above):

Borders are one of the key features in these carpets and this particular carpet illustrates how patterns are used to created borders. These specific patterns (there are four borders depicted in the image) are weak and uninteresting (because I could not find good ones with enough resolution for this demonstration) but they are enough to demonstrate corner. What happens when you continue these patterns? when you repeat them and eventually reach the corners? Here is what happens:

Roughness appears. They do not match up perfectly and each corner needs to be specifically and locally resolved. This king of roughness is typical in living structures. When an underlying pattern comes into being in a specific context it meets and responds to that context. A leaf on a tree is has a specific underlying pattern, but every leaf grows on a specific place on a branch that is exposed to light and wind and in relation to other leaves and other branches. It grows uniquely in response to its settings and conditions.

When we approach this with a mental / logical mindset (and a correlated sense of aesthetics) we do not arrive at such results. Imagine a graphic designer using software to mimic such a carpet. What is likely to happen is that when the pattern does not converge perfectly in a corner, the designer will go back and change the pattern or overall scale … find some way to make the corner work out (continuing the pattern but generating exacting / symmetric / repeated results). The result is that the carpet (or design) becomes defined by the corners instead of the pattern (its source of life). The corners are no longer a natural meeting place of patterns. The corners become the center. Leaves become mathematically identical … and life diminshes.

I find this kind of mental-overriding of naturally emerging patterns is … well … something we need to be attentive to when shaping the tapestry of our individual and communal lives.

Update Dec 30, 2017

I’ve started reading volume one again and I came across this example of Persian architecture which Alexander mentions. It is a spectacular expression of corners and so much more – a feeling of endless patterns that emerged from a singular point in space and time. Clik on the picture once to go the file and then another time to zoom in and get a closer look at the astonishing detail. Source Wikipedia

 

 

 

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Paul Krafel: Gradients and Edges

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“We live within gradients. A gradient of thinning atmosphere intervenes between my lungs and the vacuum of outer space. Just as a gradient of vibrations along the web can guide the spider to the struggling fly, so a gradient of increasingly wider, busier roads can guide me from my driveway to the nearest highway. … I sense that I am approaching a stream through gradients of smells, bird songs, and larger leaves. I sense that I am approaching a city through gradients of increasing traffic, billboards, radio stations, and night glow in the sky.

… something inside me tends to concentrate these gradients into edges that break the world into many independent objects. This is an acorn; over there is a rock …

But when I practice focusing precisely on the edges, a world of separating edges becomes a world of interconnecting gradients. Gradients merge realms I once thought of as distinct. Where is the edge between land and sea? Perhaps the edge is where the waves meet the land. But where is that meeting place? …

A university professor installed a seismograph at the park in Texas where I worked. One day, the seismograph printed out a series of rhythmic pulses, hour after hour. Something was causing the bedrock to vibrate – though only a sensitive machine could detect it. The professor called to tell us that the vibrations were being caused by massive storm waves smashing against the Alaskan coast. Where is the edge between land and sea?”

Paul Krafel – Seeing Nature

 

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Paul Krafel: Fit

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“I once interpreted ‘the survival of the fit’ using ‘fit’as a adjective that described the kind of life that survives: strong animals, well-camouflaged animals, or intelligent animals. Now I thik of ‘fit’ as a noun. The survival of the Fit. Both life and its environment might change but the Fit between them will survive.

… When a bird lands on a perch, they generally glide in lower than the pirch and then swoop upward. This final upward swoop slows the bird so that it can land lightly upon the perch .. We can watch and rate these landings the same way a judge watche a gymnast’s final dismount. How well does the landing fit with the physical laws of gravity and mometum? How skilled is this individual?

Young birds score 3s and 4s … most adults score 8s or 9s (or they would not have survived to adulthood) … Watching for the constantly adjusting Fit between an animal and its world has changed the way I see animals. When I first atarted watching animals my standard questio was ‘What is the name of that animal?’ … Many years later my standard question has shifted to ‘What is this animal doing?’ … Searching for the answer leads into other questions, such as ‘How does this behavior fit?” …. Focusing on names deflects from the moment, whereas watching for the Fit probes the moment’.”

Paul Krafel – Seeing Nature

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