“Fortunately, it is not reason which puts an ally together. It is the body. You have perceived ally in many degrees and on many occasions. Each of those perceptions was stored in your body. The sum of those pieces is the ally … Our reason is petty and it is always at odds with our body. This, of course, is only a way of talking, bu the triumph of a man of knowledge is that he has joined the two together.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Hapuna Beach – Big Island

n

A short flight brought us over to the Big Island. From the plane landing it became apparent that this is a very different island. First the powerful, raw, rough & rugged black lava that dominates. Then the large and full private jet parking lot at the airport!

We are staying at what is the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever been too (didn’t imagine I would ever spend time in one) on Hapuna Beach.

We took a beach walk to the neighboring Mauna Kea resort … and on the way passed a few deserted-looking (though actively maintained) villas of the rich and shameless (the jets at the airport are probably part of the kit when you build one of these villas):

… and arrived at the neighboring resort:

and on the way back …

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Waterfalls and Waimea Canyon Revisited

n

Yesterday we started out with a surprising waterfall … small but alive and vital … and with the added playfulness of the people who were jumping into its pond and climbing out around it.

I found a quiet spot just before the waterfall to dip my feet in a gentle flow

 

Then we revisited another look-out (park and snap) waterfall this time with better light

 

On our way to drive up to the Waimea canyon road we stopped in the harbor once again … saw some kids learning to sail and another cruise ship (that today I saw out at sea again).

 

 

Stopped in a few lookouts with, again, poor lighthing / visibility down in the canyon) … still immense views:

Then we were surprised by this stream of green-ish looking water flowing the red-ish clay

We made it all the way to the end of the road again … and again found ourselves in a cloud that blocked ocean and cliff views

On the way down we a sunset found us on a coast, still on the west coast, which felt like a homeless neighborhood:

… and then what felt like a long drive home in the dark … felt tired throughout the day so today I took the day off to relax and prepare for our departure tomorrow to the Big Island.

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Around Kauai: Waterfalls, Beaches & Sunset

n

After a first waterfall (poor light, no good pictures) we caught up with a group finishing a kayaking trip:

then a waterfall with decent light (not limited access … trails were closed)

then a beach … with end-of-the-day light

and we got back to the resort just in time for a sunset … mostly from the world-class golf course that sits between the resort and the ocean … which, according to the security guard who kindly asked us to leave, is not used much … so not making enough money … so the owners don’t allow people to just walk around … but we are welcome to rent a golf-cart and then freely roam the area … arrrrgh!

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Barking Sands Beach

n

On the way we passed the harbor and saw a cruise-ship in it for the day … these things are HUGE …

And then drove all the way around the island to the last beach, just before the cliffs on the other side of the Na Pali Coast. A beautiful 12 mile stretch of beaches. I went into the ocean again … fantastic water. I also felt, beacause of the very active waves the powerful combination of forces … under-currents pulling at my legs to carry me into the ocean, while the surface water carries me back towards the beach.

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Na Pali Coast (and trail)

n

The Na Pali coast is, I’ve been told, one of the highlights, if not THE highlight of Kauai. I am not a fan of hiking so I cannot enthusiastically get behind that … many years ago when I visited  New Zealand and arrived at such a famous coast + trail I chose to skydive over it … and THAT was a good way to see it!

Kauai island is small and there is a road that goes almost all the way around it … almost because the Napali coast is a 17 mile stretch of cliffs and so the road reaches both end of the cliffs but cannot go fully around.

It is a demanding trail. We did the first 2 mile stretch and then started another two mile stretch that leads to a waterfall, but turned back half way into the trail … so a 6 mile round trip.

There are two vantage points, a quarter of a mile and then a half mile in.

Then … a long walk that winds up and down (so climbing and descending in both directions)

Eventually we started to converge down towards a beach that marks the end of the first 2 mile stretch

… and there we were … large and powerful waves … not safe for swimming in … when we flew in the helicopter over this area the pilot told us that during the summer months the water here is like a lake … flat and peaceful … and it is possible to kayak the length of the coast.

In the second stretch in the direction of the waterfall  .. there were impressive bamboo clusters that stood out from the already dense green vegetation.

Then we stopped at another coast with a pier … and had a tatse of a local Hawaiian day ending … with many people converging on the coast to take in a sunset:

… those surfers are 8 year old girls

 

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Google now listening in ALWAYS

n

First this as context:

“Today some Google Home owners reported hearing something extra when they asked for a summary of the day ahead from the smart speaker: an advertisement for the opening of Beauty and the Beast … The ad was delivered using the regular Google Assistant voice, so it blended in seamlessly with the other My Day information (weather, calendar appointments, etc.) … When contacted by The Verge for more information, Google denied that the audio snippet was actually an ad … “

then this:

“Online advertising and privacy has always been at war. Listening in on your conversations because you placed an always-on microphone in your home is just the next obvious hill to capture. Google has already normalized reading your emails for context-aware advertisement. Listening to your dinner conversations is just a natural jump.”

 

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Beaches and a Lighthouse

n

Today’s weather forecast changed our plans, the hike has been delayed … and we did some more beach-hopping. First was a beach not far from our resort … in this one I stayed by myself a bit and went for a dip … the water was warm, clear, shallow (static) and waves with power (dynamic):

Then Secret Beach … which was striking, colorful and powerful and spacious:

From there to the Kilauea lighthouse:

… and another beach (I’m not really keeping track of names of places!) … this one with what looked like some prime green real-estate … a local complained to us that the real-estate owners were cutting down trees neat the beach to open up their view from the nearbye hills to the open sea!

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Kauai Helicopter Tour

n

I’ll let the images do the talking:

and another beach … with a volleyball competition

a harbor

and a sunset (on the west side of the island)

 

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Queen’s Bath

n

Today we took it easier … checked out a few local beaches and did a bit of scouting in preparation for tomorrow’s hike.

Had a look around the resort we are staying at … dominated by a golf course (that is woven between numerous resorts) … it is new to me … so at the same time both very impressive (so much green) and so not-of-my-world … its strange to me to see holes torn into the ground for play!

We checked out a few nearby beaches

The main event of the day was Queen’s Bath … which starts with a trail owned by the roots of the trees that line it:

then the sound of water flowing kicks in and we came across this waterfall which feeds into a pool (which supposedly is the queen’s)

which continues to flow down towards the ocean ..

soon the trees start to give way to a view of the ocean

… and then everything opens up

to this

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Waimea Canyon – Cliff Trail – Waipoo Falls

n

First hike in Kauai in Waimea Canyon 🙂 we started by driving 3/4 around the island clockwise and stopped at a view vantage points to get an overview of the area we would be hiking:

The top of the waterfall in the top-left hand corner was our destination (which means that we would not really see the waterfall itself) … and hiking began 🙂

There are beautiful free-grazing chickens all over the island!

There was an almost constant sound of helicopters buzzing through the valley (we will be in an open-door one on Friday).

Near the end of the trail there was a T junction … one led to the edge of the waterfall:

The other led to a pond and smaller waterfall:

And then we started back … first by foot

and then by car enjoying the beautiful colors of a setting sun:

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Longwood Gardens

n

I am near Philadelphia for 3 days, visiting with my sister on my way to ~3 weeks in Hawaii.

On the morning of my first day here I was greeted with a surprise snow-storm-ish … which later become a sunny day. My sister and I hung out together, did some light shopping and a movie.

Today, with freezing temperatures outside, we visited Longwood Gardens. It was too cold and windy to enjoy the vast open gardens so we settled for the impressive conservatorium with a warm and inviting climate and an abundance of colors with a seasonal orchid presentation:

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Technology and our Experience of Time

n

A short and sweet conversation between Douglas Rushkoff and Alan Burdick about time … the kind that clocks indicate and the kind that we experience.

Imagine that the video is presented here. It isn’t because it was published on Facebook and you have to jump through hoops do display a Facebook video anywhere else because Facebook want everyone to stay in Facebook. Are you still on Facebook?

To listen to the conversation click on this dumb link to another post instead of directly watching the video.

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Revisiting Trust in Bitcoin and Blockchain

n

I have mentioned before that I do not believe in bitcoin and blockchain technologies because of their attempt to circumvent trust. I believe in using technology to nourish trust relationships.

This article (via the P2PFoundation) does a good job of demonsrating the issue of trust and how it has already manifested and challenged ongoing blockchain explorations.

… Trust seems to be in short supply these days, although we have no choice but to rely on it. We trust schools and babysitters to look after our children. We trust banks to hold our money and to transfer it safely for us … Sometimes, however, our system of trust fails us …

Imagine a world in which we didn’t exchange currency, but kept track of who had what on a huge public spreadsheet, distributed across the internet. Every 10 minutes, all the transactions that took place in that slice of time are fused together into a single block. Each block includes a chain linking it to previous blocks, hence the term ‘blockchain’. The end result is a universal record book that reliably logs everything that’s ever happened via a (theoretically) tamper-proof algorithm. We don’t need to trust human bankers to tell us who owns what, because we can all see what’s written in the mathematically verified blockchain.

the fact of the matter is that blockchain technology is larded through with trust … First, you need to trust the protocol of the cryptocurrency … some actual human (or humans) wrote the code and hopefully debugged it, and we are at least trusting them to get it right, no? … Second, you have to trust the ‘stakeholders’ (including miners) not to pull the rug out from under you … Third, if you are buying into Ethereum … you are being asked to trust the people who review the algorithm and tell you what it does and whether it’s secure. But those people – computer scientists, say – are hardly incorruptible.

… it ends with other humans. Blockchains don’t offer us a trustless system, but rather a reassignment of trust. Instead of trusting our laws and institutions, we are being asked to trust stakeholders and miners, and programmers, and those who know enough coding to be able to verify the code. We aren’t actually trusting the blockchain technology; we are trusting the people that support the blockchain.

… Why are people so eager to put their faith in blockchain technology and its human supporters, instead of in other social and economic organisations? The upheavals of 2016, from Brexit to Trump, suggest that there is widespread fatigue with traditional institutions. Governments can be bought. Banks are designed to service the wealthy, and to hell with the little guy. ‘The system is rigged’ is a common refrain.

But instead of targeting the moral failures of the system and trying to reform it, the very concept of ‘trust’ has become suspect. Blockchain enthusiasts tend to cast trust as little more than a bug in our network of human interactions. To be sure, one of the weird features of trusting relationships is that, in order to trust someone, there has to be some chance that they will fail you. Trust involves risk – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Trust is what makes all relationships meaningful. Yes, we get burned by people we rely on, and this makes us disinclined to trust others. But when our faith is rewarded, it helps us forge closer relationships with others … Risk is a critical component to this bonding process. In a risk-free world, we wouldn’t find anything resembling intimacy, friendship, solidarity or alliance, because nothing would be at stake … Perhaps we ought to reconsider the desire to expunge trust, and instead focus on what should be done to strengthen it.

… we shouldn’t deceive ourselves with the idea that a technological fix can replace the human dimension of trust. Automation of trust is illusory. Rather than disparaging and cloaking human trust, we should face the brutal truth: we can’t escape the need to rely on other people, as fallible and imperfect as they might be. We need to nurture and nourish trust – not throw it away, like so much debased and worthless currency.”

As I read through this I noticed a recurring pattern (first brought to my attention by Charles Eisenstein): just as money erodes relationship so does blockchain erode trust in whatever traces of relationship we still have. To me that indicates that though blockchain was created as an act of rebellion against systems and institutions (which are demonstrably untrustworthy) it is deeply embedded in a shared (and I believe faulty) understanding of human nature and life. In this sense blockchain technology is giving CONTINUITY to destructive patterns embedded in our existing money systems.

 

 

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Emergence: Daniel Schmachtenberger

n

This is my first encounter with Daniel Schmachtenberger from The Emergence Project and it is A LOT to take in … the words are not big but they carry big meanings and no spare words are uttered.

This describes a world I would want to wake up to.

… its coming strong and coming fast … so hang on … attraction creates relationship creates synnergy (which is a more elegant order of complexity) creates emergence which is … magic  🙂

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On Demurrage (negative interest) – Reply to Albert Wenger

n

This post is a long comment on Albert Wenger’s post about Money as Commons (and if both our sites were powered with IndieWeb abilities then I would have been able to comment on his site and have the comment automatically posted in my own site).

Demurrage in Nature – Decay

If I was a grain farmer and I was left with unused / unsold stocks it would be a natural imperative for me to find something to do with the grains because they will eventually spoil. This is the natural state of everything. Plants, animals, people, buildings, societies, radioactive materials, ideas … everything decays.

Flow needs Debt (not money)

If I were that farmer with spare grains, instead of waiting for them to spoil I could, for example, bake breads. But there is only so much bread I can eat, so I could give that bread to my friends and family and sometime in the future, they could repay me with something they have and I need. There would be a standing debt between us.

Modern economics is founded on a story. It says that originally one farmer traded with another farmer 30 chickens for a cow. Introducing money supposedly made that transaction easier because sometimes a cow farmer needed a chicken without having a spare cow to trade.

According to David Graeber in Debt: The First 5000 years, this narrative is false and unsupported by anthropological findings. Ancient transactions, he suggests, were rarely so definite and atomic when I had spare grains (in summer or fall) I gave some to my neighbor to feed his pig and later in the year (in winter) when he butchered the pig he could repay me in meat. A key element in this transaction was the debt that remained. That debt was the foundation of a relationship between the two farmers. Such a constant flow of debts created community.

In our modern times, when I walk into a store, pick up and item and pay a cashier for it, the transaction is completed. I do not owe anybody anything and nobody owes me anything … and we’ve gotten used to that … and we like it. But with that we also lose the social fabric that connects us. We don’t owe anybody anything and nobody owes us anything. We do not need to relate.

It is interesting to note that dominant and popular technologies are in alignment with this trend. If the interaction with a cashier is low on the “relationship” scale then what will an Amazonian future (with no cashier or drones descending with produce out of the sky) look like? It seems that the more standardized/efficient/automated we get the more relationship we drain out of our lives and consciousness.

Money Defies Decay

All money (as we currently know it) is created carrying interest (the interest itself not created!). Interest demand growth. If I get a loan for $1000, it is because who ever is loaning me that money expects me to pay back $1050 … and we have the growth imperative. But more importantly, we have created money that opposes decay … and as money intermediates almost everything … there is an inherent conflict between how money works and how everything else works … and so we find ourselves living in a world where money requires infinite growth from a physically finite world (see climate change).

We’ve been forcing our money ideology onto the world for some time now, but the world seems to be pushing back … and interest rates around the world are hovering around zero (and growth seems to be headed in a similar direction).

Obstacles Preventing Flow

It seems to me that the way negative interest is currently being introduced is as an external force applied to a system that isn’t flowing well. It is like attaching a powerful pump to a o clogged system and hoping that, by sheer force, it will unclog the system and cause flow.

This approach seems to be denying that, if to use the metaphor of flow, there are obstacles that are preventing flow – these obstacles are like entangled and knotted arteries. Their entanglement is locked in tightly because they are holding up against massive pressures already. To enable better flow the obstacles to flow must be removed (or at least improved). Applying more pressure will not remove the obstacles, but force the flow to find other bypasses … or to rupture.

It may very well be that some of the obstacles to good money flow are in our money creation and banking systems. But there are subtle (can be easy to overlook) obstacles embedded inside each and every one of us. It isn’t gong to be enough to change the mechanics of money (such as negative interest). We are also going to have to address personal and social change. If we are to experience flow again we will need to reconnect with each other, to experience relationships, to relearn community.

If we come at this with a forceful mechanistic approach (the illusion that this is a system which we can control by pushing some buttons). If we focus on changing one thing (such as negative interest) we will be doing ourselves a double-injustice. The first is simple and direct – it won’t work, it won’t produce the results we expect it to. The second is is more subtle, more deep and more dangerous … we will falsely conclude that “negative interest” does not work and recovering from that will be even more difficult.

What about Venture Capital

I raise this point as a question/reflection to Albert because I believe that if we are to truly relate to these changes (as more than theoretical ideas) we need to look closely at our own reality and see where they effect our lives, our work, our livelihood, our beliefs.

  • How do the current models of venture capital relate to all this?
  • What aspects of venture capital are aligned with flow and what aspects are aligned with the extractive nature of interest-bearing-money?
  • Can venture capital be of better service and better aligned with economies and societies of flow

 

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Has the IMF realized austerity doesn’t work?

n

“Sometimes an ideology is so brilliantly propagated that observers might not even notice it’s an ideology. In the corridors of power and in mainstream discussion, it ceases to be questioned. Then it goes catastrophically wrong. And it begins to seen again for the ideology it is. It becomes questioned again. And, if they are smart, leaders hear this and start to self-correct. This is where we’ve got to with neoliberalism, austerity, and rising inequality. Except for the self-correct part. Right now, instead of self-correction, we’re seeing many mainstream politicians unable to shift away from dead economics, and what seems in too many countries like the start of social breakdown. Change is well overdue. Who can prompt leaders to drop the old economic nostrums that are causing so much harm?

Enter the IMF with a sledgehammer … Today the IMF will launch a new report … Packed with detailed quantitative analysis it demonstrates that much of what elites have been advancing as unquestioned economics is demonstrably harmful both to economic growth and to public wellbeing …

Lives and livelihoods are being lost because those who design policies are following a damaging model. And now, in countries around the world, the lack of action in inequality is leading to a resurgence of xenophobic nationalism and the far right. Broken economics is breaking society. But too many leaders still seem trapped in the belief that there is no alternative. So let them know that today the IMF – yes, the IMF – has comprehensively set out why that broken economics must be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

source

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Lecture Summary of Samkhya Philosophy

n

I came across this PDF which is someone’s lecture notes on Samkhya.

I don’t know who wrote it, I found it here, I found it good enough to read through and store in my own archives.

I am still looking for a more integrative experience of Samkhya, something less bullet-list, more whole story.

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Life goes on … even under Stalin

n

Good reminder now that Trump is …

source

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My Periodontitis … and Trump!?

n

For years my Israeli dentist has treated me for Periodontitis – a gum disease. The disease, as he explained to me is not curable, only manageable and could be hereditary (my mother also has it). The treatment involved a yearly cleaning called “deep-scale” which means getting in and cleaning the spaces between the gums and the teeth. Because my gums are sensitive it can only be done with local anesthesia. My Israeli dentist is a friend and a deeply caring person and yet the treatment is not a pleasant one.

After moving to Romania I kept up the treatment during my almost-yearly visits to Israel because I did not find a Romanian dentist to carry on the treatment. Until last year, through Iulia, I finally did meet one. I explained the situation to him and he agreed that periodontitis is indeed not curable, only manageable. However he did not agree that I have it. In fact, he said that my gums were perfectly healthy.

I am guessing that many people have experienced differing opinions when consulting with different doctors. But such complete contradiction? Now add to that my personal experience. For years, both in Israel and Romania, I felt that the sensitivity of my gums was related to my general sense of well-being. When I wasn’t feeling well (emotionally, energetically, physically) my gums tended to bleed more. When I was feeling better my gums bled lss (or did not bleed at all). In my recent years in Romania (which implies drastic changes in lifestyle) my gums stopped bleeding.

Lets make things more interesting … I just came back from a short (one week) visit to Israel. It was a purposeful visit (around Yoga studies) and while there I was in a relatively safe and predictable bubble. Yet it was a difficult visit for me. There is a lot of disturbance in the air … a volatile energy … a lot of anger, frustration, difficulty, negativity. I had numerous head-aches. I felt drained and tired a lot of the time. My stomach was bloated …. and … my gums started bleeding again. I didn’t visit my Israeli dentist this time … but if I did would he have again diagnosed me with Periodontitis?

What does this say about our modalities of thinking? What does it say about empirical science (both dentists are trained in similar empirical sciences)? What does it say about our understanding of disease and illness AND treatment and healing? What does it say about our ability to diagnose and predict? What does it say about our understanding of contexts and conditions?? What does it say about thought as an act of creation – did I have an “incurable disease” because my dentist believed I did and convinced me of it?

What do we really know? … and most importantly (and brings us to Trump) … what don’t we know? …. unknowns …

“The world comes to us in an endless stream of puzzle pieces that we would like to think all fit together somehow, but that in fact never do. There are always some pieces like platypi that don’t fit … we can ignore [them] … give them silly explanations … or we can take the whole puzzle apart and try other ways of assembling it that will include more of them”

Robert Pirsig – Lila: An Inquiry into Values

Most of what I’ve seen about trump is reactionary and prophetic. Whether from conservative or progressive thinking … on almost any subject … people seem to be craving a way to predict what is going to happen. In that approach is a subtle trap … people are assuming that we are acting primarily in a mechanistic world of knowns … that if we identify and measure all the parameters and put them into some kind of black box it will yield a result (I’m just realizing how this seems to coincide with the rise of AI). This thinking, by definition, does not take into consideration unknowns.

I believe that unknowns are present almost all the time and that they have a bigger role in the unfolding of our world then we give them credit for (primarily because our mental models are not trained to handle unknowns). But now is a special time … knows are declining and unknowns are rising. And yet we forget to take them into consideration (how to approach this is beyond the scope of this post … but I would point in the direction of spiritual practices and creative arts in which unknowns are a key ingredient).

My life in recent years has gifted me a fair share of unknowns, so I have become slightly more accustomed to them. But these days I find myself almost seeking unknowns. When I look at the world through what is known the world looks sad and grim. But when I remember that there are so many unknowns in the air … then the world looks more … unknown … and less grim.

I thought that I was living in a world where Periodontitis can’t be cured and Trump could not become president. “Unknown” doesn’t mean we live in a world where Periodontitis can be cured and Trump can be … undone.

Unknown means that we don’t really know what Periodontitis is nor what a world with a president Trump looks like. It means there are possibilities we can’t imagine yet … let alone comprehend. This makes me feel lighter, softer and more spacious.

P.S.

I would like to say something about conditions. We of a western mentality tend to believe we can assert an extensive degree of control over the world. I, in reflecting on my life experiences of recent years, have come to believe that while I may be able to assert some control, I have much less of it then I would have liked to believe. I have wrestled with and come around to embracing the idea that the conditions in which I am immersed have much more effect on me than do my own actions. The upside of that is that I focus most of my energy and actions on changing my living conditions! I believe that the changed conditions of both being away from Israel (and all that that implies) and being here in Romanian ( and *oh my god* everything that that implies) was key to changes that, amongst other things, manifested as heathy gums.

I believe time will tell a similar story about Trump. I believe that president Trump is much less significant then the conditions of the society he is presiding over. Individual healthy, economy, ecology, social fabric, international relations, militarization … all these and more are issues that matter much more.

 

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Symmathesy: a Living System of Mutual Learning

n

The ideas put forth in this article feel good, though I wish they had more bite … that they were already a part of mainstream thinking. The article suggests a new word “Symmathesy” to differentiate between mechanistic systems (that are assembled) and living systems. It suggests, and I agree, that mechanistic system thinking is narrowing our ability to perceive and partake in the world.

The direction of this research resonates (in me) with the work of Christopher Alexander.

It is a long article and what follows is an excerpt I collected while reading it:

“I would like to propose a new word for “System” that refers specifically to living systems … The existing word, “system”, while useful for discussion of many kinds of systems, does not communicate contextual fields of simultaneous learning as is necessary for life. The inclusion of mutual learning in the terminology is specifically meant to preclude the models of engineering and mechanism that are implicit in much systems theorizing today. We have learned that when dealing with living systems, the many variables of developing interaction become untenable to consider in such mechanistic parameters.

… As studies ranging from cognitive science to epigenetics, social science, ecology and evolutionary theory, are increasingly showing, evolution emerges in interrelationality, not in arrangement. Therefore the need is acute to create a differentiation between living systems and other systems.

… A jungle can be understood best as a conversation among its flora and fauna, including the insects, the fungi of decay, and contact with humanity. Interaction is what creates and vitalizes the integrity of the living world.

I want to put the Greek prefix Syn/ Sym (together) + Mathesi, (to learn):

Symmathesy = Learning together.

(Pronounced: sym- math-a-see)

A working definition of symmathesy might look like this:

Symmathesy (Noun): An entity composed by contextual mutual learning through interaction. This process of interaction and mutual learning takes place in living entities at larger or smaller scales of symmathesy.

Symmathesy (Verb): to interact within multiple variables to produce a mutual learning context.

… If a living entity transforms, even slightly, some of its contextual interrelationships, it is within that shift that a calibration change is revealed. The same kind of tree in the same forest does not necessarily grow to be the same shape. One may have higher winds to contend with, or grow with a thicker density of flora around it.

… The viability of this new term is a step toward a clearer understanding of the way we describe the difference between what we can “control”, i.e. in material terms, and that which requires another approach, i.e. interacting with the complexity of evolving living systems.

… The explanation needed to differentiate the characteristics of a living system from a mechanical system seems to necessitate a repeated listing of the processes of interrelationship that currently must be tagged onto every discussion …

Mutual Learning Contexts:

The International Bateson Institute was founded in 2014 with the mission of developing a process of inquiry that would begin to take into account the many contexts that any particular field of study exists within … Research without the study of multiple contexts renders the information about a given subject as though it were isolated from the many systems it is within, and therefore a great deal of data is not visible.

… Any symmathesy, such as a person, a family, a forest, a nation or an institution, can be viewed or studied in the hope of revealing the way in which it has learned to form itself within the contexts it interfaces with … Transcontextual research brings us discovery of new interactions and provides a wider angle lens.

… To incorporate a comprehensive base in our syntax of this theory, I believe we will need to stretch even our understanding of grammar …

The tendency to think in terms of functioning parts and wholes is misleading for our future inquiry of living, co-evolving systems.

The primary downside of the word “system” is its invocation of “arrangement” (inherent in the Greek prefix “sys”) …

The way in which we have culturally been trained to explain and study our world is laced with habits of thinking in terms of parts and wholes and the way they “work” together …

Reductionism lurks around every corner; mocking the complexity of the living world we are part of … The language of systems is built around describing chains of interaction. But when we consider a forest, a marriage, and a family, we can see that living entities such as these require another conceptual addition in their description: learning.

If systems are comprised of parts and wholes, what is symmathesy comprised of?

If we perceive that the functions of living ecologies are the effect of processes taking place between parts and wholes we become prone to assigning agency to “parts” … Agency infers that parts can be separated from wholes and exert individuated action. In symmathesic thinking, the notion of agency does not apply. This is because the formation of the ecology in question is necessarily evolving within its context, not its parts.

The context is not inside any of the parts but is created in the interaction … We might do better to employ a word that invites us to think in terms of the “parts” being alive, and not simply cogs …

At the same time the “whole” is best thought of as another interactive symmathesy at the next larger context.

Instead of “parts” and “wholes”, let us think of boundaries in symmathesy as interfaces of learning. We will refer to these interfaces as “vitae” (a term derived from the Latin vita, meaning life).

Multiple Description and Interfaces

… The complexity of this sort of inquiry is daunting. If we are to study, for example, the way in which food impacts our lives, a multi-faceted study of ecology, culture, agriculture, economy, cross-generational communication, media and more must be brought to our study in a linking of interfaces that together provide a rigorous beginning place from which we may better understand what is on our plates. From that beginning position our inquiry into eating disorders, poverty and hunger, and the dangers of GMOs, can be approached in another fashion altogether.

… What is a hand? A violinist has memory and ongoing learning in her hands. A sculptor has another sort of learning in his hands. We each have handwriting that is almost but never quite consistent. We know the touch of our partner. A deaf person uses the hand to express language. We gesture, we stroke, we sense, we know, we learn through our hands… So what is a hand?

… It is important to the use of the concept of symmathesy to think about the boundaries and “parts” of living things as interfaces … The skin of our bodies provides what looks like a boundary around the self, but the self extends well beyond the container of our flesh, both biologically and socially. Touch, temperature, expression, health, embarrassment, and so much more information is transmitted through the skin …

This is a rigorous endeavor. The pull of our old thinking in terms of parts and wholes is difficult to move away from. However the vistas from which we can begin to view life anew with these concepts reveal possibilities of richer inquiry …

How will we illustrate Symmathesy?

… For our purposes illustrating and expressing the presentational communication of symmathesy, caution is needed to avoid the traps of thinking in terms of blocks. Thing-i-fying in our studies will derail the ability to perceive the symmathesy.

… Art may be the only way to truly describe living complexity. Why? Because living entities exist in interaction over time. They are learning, and this frames direct communication as freeze frame in time and space …

The terminology we use to describe living things carries meta-meanings:

… Words say more than they spell … The transfer of perceptions into each other like colors into music, tastes into words, emotions into smells and so on, provides a natural cross referencing of information … Symmathesy, as a term, changes the flavor of the thoughts and theories we can generate about life, placing them inextricably in relation, and in constant learning …

To discuss the sort of things we want to discuss here—things like families and cultures, like ecologies and organizations– we are going to have to care about the words we place on the page, and the words we shape in our mouths. We will live in them, and our stories will be furnished with their upholstery …

When we think of systems, what do we perceive? How do we describe what we perceive? How do we think?

Perhaps the labyrinth of our epistemological errors has no beginning. People point to Descartes, but certainly Aristotle shares the blame. Before Aristotle there were probably others … For now, let us just say that there is no causal path to unwind us out of this habit. At this juncture the best course is simply to move on.

Mechanism has its place:

There is nothing wrong with thinking in mechanistic ways: After all, the productive innovations of humanity have largely stemmed from this approach … But we need another kind of thinking as well, without which we will probably destroy the ecosphere and likely each other.

What is Learning in Symmathesy?

Learning in a living context can be best thought of as a change in calibration

The most common definitions of learning involve the acquisition of knowledge within a progression of stages of physical or intellectual development. But in our use of the term, learning has been stretched to include the entire living world, as a context of learning in and of itself, as a symmathesy of symmathesies. Learning has also been stretched to include much of what we think of as adaptation and even addiction. And of course the living world itself is made up of living worlds …

  1. Contexts: The characteristics of learning in symmathesy are contextual, even at the smallest scale … The ‘loving’ or ‘mean’ things that someone says at breakfast have an effect on blood pressure, digestive process, and cognitive (implicit or explicit) understanding of identity within a culture …
  2. Calibration: Learning in symmathesy is an ongoing process of calibration within contexts of aggregate interrelational variables. This calibration does not require conscious involvement. The learning that any living thing must either continue within (or else become obsolete) is a wide-angle process receiving of information of difference from simultaneous multiple (countless?) interactions. Complexity does not divide itself and therefore life requires calibration within multiple streams of information and interaction. In order to do a simple task, such as walk across a room, a staggering calibration of information must take place. Not only does one have a reason to cross the room … but also perception both visual and tactile are in use, as are memory, balance, rhythm, language and more … Learning is the process we are referring to here as calibration within variables of interrelationship.
  3. Bias: The bias of the calibrating entity at every scale is the particular momentary integration of the multiple variables of interrelating information … bias forms differences … each organism in an environment has its own perspective … Imagine there is a bowl of blueberries provided for a table of friends. It is our habit to assume that blueberries, are blueberries; that the numeric nutritional values and knowable recipes for serving blueberries are obvious. However, the bias of each person at the table presents a collection of understandings and filters through which the blueberries are ‘known’ … For one person at the table blueberries may be a reminder of summer … a smoothie ingredient to eat after a workout, a symbol of health, a super-food, a virtue … a visceral trigger of memories of a smell of blueberry pie being baked during a traumatic experience of being raped by a relative … The numerical nutritional values of the blueberries are altered by this bias. The digestive system, the nervous system, the seasons, the conversation at the table… all of these alter the way in which each person incorporates the blueberries into their luncheon. So what are blueberries?
  4. Stochastic process: While learning is a process of evolution existing in patterns that appear stable, the random inputs and the implicit variables between the vitae of a symmathesy are unpredictable. There is pattern, and there is also the random. There is structure, and there is process … The paradox that this combination forms is inherent, and unsolvable. The contingency for life and therefore learning is that the tangles of relation, communication, and information between all the vitae of a symmathesy are simultaneous. Both in pattern and in process.
  5. Play: Practice, repetition and experimentation in communication and behavior around the edges of a bias are the frontiers of learning, evolution and change … “acquisition of knowledge” is really just a lower level learning, which has been raised to the top in our positivist/mechanist/boxist/quantitativist society … play is a process of learning to learn.
  6. Boundaries: the interfaces of learning … where is the edge of the context? A body needs a heart and lungs and a nervous system, the difference in these is as necessary as the unity of them. But, it should be noted that boundaries disappear, and at a wider view are non-existent.
  7. Time: Any living organism, or vitae of a living organism is revealed as existing within a context of mutual learning when time is considered. Time reveals that order is not static.

Part IV: The Word In the Belly

This transition in thinking is a personal, cultural, political, and academic dilemma.

… The dilemma of how we change our thinking about “systems” is one which should be addressed at all its levels simultaneously … To discuss the patterns and processes of the living world we will need to open the form, open the genres of our communication …

We will not find the symmathesy if we do not name it. The word matters. Words are what we have … What we say is measure of what we have not said. Words have salt. They are wise. They nourish and poison. They are our vehicles and our bindings. They are not located. They lie and in lying show us the edges of our honesty …

Patterns of industry are hardwired into us at a deeply personal level:

Deep inside, below the level I can monitor, my life is charted like a mechanistic production factory … the world of mechanism has influenced my personal identity …

We find what we are looking for:

The difficulty of catching ourselves when we begin to apply mechanistic logic to living systems is not to be underestimated. I get lost. I can only occasionally see the edges …

The danger is that if I look at life in the natural world … and I am trying to find an arrangement of parts and wholes within it, I will find it. I can probably put names to the parts and wholes, and even diagram them in a model. We find what we are trained to see; we find what we have named.

What I won’t find with that lens is the interrelational communication, learning and contextual timbre.

What I won’t find with that lens is what is holding the systems together through time and into its evolution.

… The word “system” is ironically as bound in thinking errors as the system to which we are referring. Perhaps not explicitly, but implicitly the term has come to mean a mechanism. It means something over there, observable from here. It means something we can chart, graph, and diagram. It means boxes and arrows …

Google the word “systems”, look under images… and you will not see photographs of living things. There is no art there. Not a single illustration of something in “relationship”. Instead: You will see squares and triangles, and arrows and circles – all sharp with educated and earnest attempts to code-crack life. These graphics seem to me to be maps that lead us right back to the school of engineering from which the culture we live in first found footing.

As systems research develops we find ourselves increasingly at a junction of what is disparagingly referred to as “linear thinking”, and ‘non-linear’ thinking … it is important to recognize that non-linear thinking in a world that mechanizes our imagination often leads to a tricky masking of linear thinking dressed up as non-linear thinking.

More than circular:

Circles have come to be the branded motto of recycling, ecology, and the cycles of living things. But for our work the model of circles is not enough … The notion of a symmathesy and a learning context within other contexts does not define a field of variables in interaction that is two dimensional, nor does it return to where it began. A better visual might be the double helix, as the model of a learning system must have at least three dimensions. Four if you count time.

… Delivery from the dilapidated state of the world now is not the providence of the mechanic. There are no parts to fix. No particular manuals to write, or scripts to edit. The poverty of our description of these living things we call “systems” will starve us from a future of juicy life.

Part V: Implications and Applications of Symmathesy.

Education: an education in the world as a mutual learning process would look at the interconnections between what we now call “disciplines” or subjects. Forests are interactions, food is culture, and so on. The ability to study both the details (existing disciplines) and the relationships of learning between them will increase our students’ ability to see and interact with a level of complexity that is necessary for future generations’ survival ..

Education: an education in the world as a mutual learning process would look at the interconnections between what we now call “disciplines” or subjects. Forests are interactions, food is culture, and so on. The ability to study both the details (existing disciplines) and the relationships of learning between them will increase our students’ ability to see and interact with a level of complexity that is necessary for future generations’ survival …

Therapy: If a living context is a mutual learning context then the way we approach a notion of “pathology” is radically altered. A symmathesy, as a person, or a family, is learning to make sense of its world … all pathology is also learning. We can learn to be sick. A tree learns from its context that it needs to grow crooked. Remove the value judgment from that process and we will instead see a remarkable feat of life to survive in whatever tangle it perceives …

Healing: If pathology is learning, then healing is also learning … The approach then to our notion of health would be geared toward providing circumstances for calibration of multiple aspects of life to be cultivated for an individual, a family or perhaps even a society to generate combined realms of learning in order to shift.

Ecology of Institutions:

Much like the body in paralysis whose many systems for making sense of the world are interrupted and disorganized, the institutions of our civilization appear to be equally entwined in a holding pattern of dysfunction involving immeasurable interweaving … Together we have a context of economic, social and cultural institutions that have learned to accommodate us as they do today even as we have learned to accommodate to them. If the question is shifted from “how do we fix the institutions?” to “how have we learned to interact with these institutions as a context?”—we may find that our set of “solutions” is significantly more productive …

What if we look at the interlocking, interdependency of our institutions as an ecology in and of itself? Ecology can be loosely defined as a totality of patterns of interrelationship that form interdependencies. In this sense our institutions function very much like a forest or an ocean … The difficulty we face is in the fact that the larger ecology of biosphere is at odds with the ecology of our institutions, and right now we believe we need both to survive.

As an approach, how can we address the context of these institutions instead of attempting to chase down the crises as separate issues? …”

 

 

 

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