“Finally, I don’t understand humans. We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming and pollution. But we don’t understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas.”
Joseph Jenkins

The Humanure Handbook

Attention to Reality

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And it is in the end only when our feelings are perfectly in touch with the reality of forces, that we begin to see the patterns which are capable of generating life.

That is what is hard – because so often people choose to put their own opinions forward, in place of reality.

… Yet it is hard to give up preconceptions of what things “ought to be,” and recognize things as they really are.

… Any preconception about the way things “ought to be” always interferes with your sense of reality, it prevents you from seeing what is actually going on – and this will always prevent you from making the environment alive. It will prevent you from inventing or discovering new patterns when you see them – and most of all – it will prevent you from using such patterns properly, to create a whole environment.

In this respect attention to reality gpes far beyond the realm of values.

Usually peoplep say that the choice of patterns depends on your opinions about what is important.

… When we try to resolve disagreements like this, we are led back to people’s fundamental goals, or values. But people do not agree about their values … the best you can say, according to this view, is that a certain pattern does or doesn’t help to satisfy a certain goal or value. Or that some “forces” are “good” and others “bad.”

But a pattern which is real makes no judgements about the legitimacy of the forces in the situation.

By seeming to be unethical, by making no judgement about individual opinions, or goals or values, the pattern rises to another level of morality.

Its result is to allow things to be alive – and this is a higher good than the victory of any one artificial system of values. The attempt to have a victory for a one-sided view of the world cannot work anyway, even for the people who seem to win their point of view. The forces which are ignored do not go away just because they are ignored. They lurk, frustrated, underground. Sooner or later they erupt in violence: and the system which seems to win is then exposed to far more catastrophic dangers.

The only way that a pattern can actually help to make s situation genuinely more alive is by recognizing all the forces which actually exist, and then finding a world in which these forces can slide past each other.

Then it becomes a piece of nature.

When we see the pattern of the ripples in a pond, we know that this pattern is simply in equilibrium with the forces which exist: without any mental interference which is clouding them.

And, when we succeed, finally in seeing so deep into a man-made pattern, that it is no longer clouded by opinion or by images, then we have discovered a piece of nature as valid, as eternal, as the ripples in the surface of a pond.

Christopher Alexander – A Timeless Way of Building
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