“There is a significant difference between not getting a deal signed and having your head cut off. Business is mental. War is mental and physical. The true warrior has not difficulty understanding this difference regardless of all the hype suggesting that ‘business is war’. It absolutely is not.”
Stephen F. Kaufman

The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings

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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