“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”
Albert Einstein

Unfolding Wholeness and Structure Preserving Transformations

“Any part of the world we build will have life if it is created 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 our 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.

Nature of Order - Table of Contents"

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  • By Christopher Alexander on Belonging - iamronen on February 9, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    […] 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 […]

  • […] people work together, in small groups, how then does the unfolding process work? […]

  • […] We cannot perform the unfolding process without knowing how to please ourselves – truly .. The social processes of unfolding comes […]

  • […] its transformations, all laws will (I believe) fall out as natural consequences of the principle of unfolding wholeness … That principle will say, only, that the next step after a given configuration will be the […]

  • By Yoga incorporates felt experience - iamronen on July 28, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    […] this reminded me of Alexander and unfoding wholeness – a process of making in which felt experience is constantly incorporated in guiding choices […]

  • By Ikigai: A Reason for Being (Purpose) - iamronen on October 22, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    […] numerous points in the presentation I felt that Alexander’s unfolding wholeness is a key dimension that was missing from it. Unfolding wholeness, in a way, pulls the rug out from […]

  • By Justin Searls: How to Program - iamronen on July 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    […] within my own private bubble, applying some of Christopher Alexander’s ideas about unfolding wholeness in the context of creating software. At the heart of Alexander’s view is that to achieve […]

  • By Paul Krafel - The Upward Spiral - iamronen on August 4, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    […] use one or more of the fifteen structure-preserving transformations, singly or in combination, to differentiate and strengthen the structure in its […]

  • […] nature the principle of unfolding wholeness … creates living structure nearly all the time. Human designers, who are not constrained by […]

  • […] … the fifteen properties are not merey observable end-products of structure-preserving transformations. They provide the base transformations from which, in practice, all structure preserving […]

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