“My worrying, for instance, was a scene in which I looked at myself while I had the sensation of being boxed in. I call that worrying, It has happened to me a number of times after that first time.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Christopher Alexander on First Steps and Ripples in Design


“… As any designer will tell you, it is the first steps in a design process which count for most. The first few strokes which create the form, carry within them the destiny of the rest.

How then, in a living process, do we take the first steps of design so that a beautiful, coherent whole begins to take shape?

In the early stage we must concentrate, of course, on broad structure, on the emergent structure of the whole… The notation that architects traditionally use is a language of drawing or computer representation … But such a sketch aways includes too much information, too early, so that the sketch (or computer drawing) is invariably over-specific … if only 20% of the information in a sketch is based on real decisions that have been taken by a living process in the designer’s mind, and the remaining 80% is arbitrary stuff entered into the drawing only because the notation (sketching) requires it, trouble inevitably follows.

We therefore need a notation … which stays closer to what is actually known at each moment. Here I wish to introduce the idea of morphological “ripples” … a partially generated form … not yet clearly located, or dimensioned, or even characterized … which, though fuzzy … plays a decisive role in giving character and feeling to the end result.

It is important that the first steps – the morphological ripples – should focus only on the broadest, most global features of the emerging design … At each step, another “ripple” inroduces one more feature of the whole. To contain these ripples, I find it best to work … in the mind’s eye, preferably while standing in the real place itself …

More important still, as a first stage in the design process, I usually make a word picture of the building. That is, I spell out, IN WORDS, what the buiding is like, what it is like to arrive to it, what the space in front of it is like, how the building forms the space, what happens as you enter, what happens inside the building, where its main rooms are, what their special beauty is, what is it like to go out, from those rooms, to the outdoors. All in all, a vision of the finished building IN WORDS – as beautiful as I can make it.

… Words and interior visions, when seen with your eyes closed, are more labile, more fluid, transformable and three dimensional … They allow the unfolding to go forward more successfully … If I say that a building towers above me, when I approach it, this says something qualitative about its height, but does not yet describe the exact height … if I make even the most rudimentary drawing … the drawing has an actual height (implied by proportion), and it has many features of shape, width, volume, articulation, which have not in fact been generated by the fundamental process.

… The vision in the mind’s eye contains little that is not actually generated by the living process … what it does add is real, and germane, and flexible … The vision floats in your mind, a hovering clear picture  …

… You start by saying to yourself, and seeing, one thing, the most important thing about the building … the first global holistic aspect of the building which you see, when you close your eyes and imagine the building as the context requires that it should be.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Iceland’s Fastest Growing Religion


A short story overflowing with the beauty of evolution:

“In Iceland, tax-authorities collect “parish fees” from all residents and remit them to churches based on the stated religious affinities of those residents. … A new church, the Zuists, claim to worship ancient Sumeran gods, and promise to rebate religious fees to anyone who registers … Iceland’s tax authorities say that the Zuist church can do whatever it wants with the money, but that adherents who receive rebates on parish fees will be charged income tax on them.”



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Christopher Alexander on Feedback


“To make the feedback meaningful in a step-by-step process, the process must be open ended, hence partly unpredictable. It must lack a fixed predetermined end-state. This is necessary because adaptation itself means nothing if changes cannot be made in response to the process of adaptation. By definition, such changes cannot be foreseen.

… For a variety of reasons – legal, financial, and procedural – under modern conditions the thing is fixed too exactly, too far ahead, and has far too little freedom to unfold … It thereby shut off, nearly altogether, the possibility that useful testing or adaptation could occur …

This means not only that the end-result of a building project must be unpredictable during design. That is obvious. But to be effective in creating living structure, it cannot help also being unpredictable during construction.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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George Lakoff on Framing and American Politics


This is a good (not great) talk about underlying thought frameworks that shape the way we view the world. The talk is built around American politics – demonstrating how conservatives and progressive are founded on two family prototypes a “strict father” and “nourishing family”. On the one hand I would have liked to hear a more general view on the subject. However, when he did get a it theoretical I felt that his underlying theories (brain structures) were outdated and I suspect would not survive the test of time (they are of little interest to me). The talk is not complete until he answers the first question.

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Christopher Alexander on Vinyasa


“Possibly the most basic and necessary feature of any living process is the fact that it goes gradually. The living structure emerges, slowly, step by step, and as the process goes forward step by step there is continuous feedback which allows the process to guide the system towards greater wholeness, and coherence, and adaptation.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life


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Generative vs. Descriptive


“Does the DNA contain a full description of the organism to which it will give rise? The answer is no. The genome contains instead a program of instructions for making the organism – a generative program …

A descriptive program, like a blueprint or a plan, describes an object in some detail, whereas a generative program describes how to make an object … consider Origami … by folding a piece of paper in various directions, it is quite easy to make a paper hat or a bird from a single sheet. To describe in any detail the final form of the paper with the complex relationships between its parts is really very difficult, and not of much help in explaining how to achieve it. Much more useful and easier to formulate are instructions on how to fold the paper … a generative program for making a particular structure.”

Lewis Wolpert – Principles of Development
quoted in
Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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One Wholesome Thing at a Time


“Each process does something – just one thing – which is important, practical and creates good feeling. Then it does another. Then it does another. There is no manipulation and distortion of the structure, trying to predict where it is going, trying to make sure everything is OK. There is a sublime confidence, and practicality and simplicity.

If we do one thing at a time, and if what we do is wholesome and sound, then whatever comes next will work. We do not have to tie it down ahead of time for fear of some imaginary potential catastrophe of “design”. Instead, we just go step by step, doing what is required as well as what we are able, with confidence that the next thing, too, will work out somehow when its time comes, but that it need not be worked out now.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Saudis to Sue Twitter User


I found a link to this article in my twitter feed this morning:

“Saudi Arabia’s justice ministry plans to sue a Twitter user who compared the death sentence handed down on Friday to a Palestinian poet to the punishments meted out by Islamic State … The justice ministry will sue the person who described… the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being `ISIS-like’ … Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity”

and it was presented with a commentary that said “try it” … which I would like to re-iterate with sincerity and empathy … “please do try” … so that we can have a much needed cultural conversation where you will have to deal with questions such as:

  • How can there be a legal process which goes beyond the domains of your laws and culture?
  • How can your laws and culture interact with people from other cultures?
  • What if you discover that your interpretation of “human dignity” is different from others’? Are you willing to have a sincere conversation in which you may find that your understanding has been limited and your opinions may change?
  • How sincere are you aout the implications of a legal decision … if Saudi Arabia sues a twitter user and loses in court … should Saudi Arabai be sentenced to something akin to execution (such as being banned from the world energy markets?)
  • Will you be able to recognize when you are clinging blindly to beliefs that are obsolete? when you do, how will you integrate that experience?

If only we could have such a conversation in a non-combative setting maybe we will be able to come and evolve together?

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Christopher Alexander on Creativity


“In a living system what is to be always grows out of what is, supports it, extends its structure smoothly and continuously, elaborates new form – sometimes startling new form – but without ever violating the structure which exists.

… Creativity comes about when we discover the new within a structure already latent in the present. It is our respect for what is that leads us to the most beautiful discoveries.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Christopher Alexander: Fifteen Transformations


” … the fifteen properties are not merely observable end-products of structure-preserving transformations. They provide the base transformations from which, in practice, all structure preserving transformations are made. The world of nature – what we think of as nature, and what we think of as natural (whether it is brought into being by the innocent operations of nature, or made carefully by the thoughts and hands of men and women) is that world which is brought into being by repeated application of these fifteen transformations, applied again and again, to enlarge, and deepen, and evolve, and magnify the beauty of the world which exists.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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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.

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Fall 2015 – Back on the Mat


Though I’ve written extensively about my practice during these past months I did want to note some current observations as part of my focusing for a review of my practices tomorrow with my teacher.

Getting on the mat after being away for over a month was easier and smoother then I remember it in the past. Once I settled back at Bhudeva (after staying with Annelieke in Portugal) … within a couple of days I found myself back on the mat with a fairly fluent practice.


  • Despite the break(s) in the practice there is an established familiarity in my body on the mat.
  • Being away, dealing with un-health and then returning to the mat (numerous times) seems to have refined my relationship to my body and my presence within it.
  • It took my shoulders about a week to soften and expand.
  • It took my hips about two weeks … overall I feel that my hip mobility has improved greatly since I’ve been with this practice (almost two years now).
  • I feel vital, strong and confident in my spine.
  • I feel that my center, abdominal muscles have a deeper quality … I feel both stronger and softer.
  • My neck still has stiffness.


  • My breath is stronger in asana … it is extended and stable. Asana that once took my breath away do not … I am able to work them with extended breath and deeper exploration.
  • I am once again at ease with BK in asana.
  • I am comfortably settled in my Pranayama practice … having completed the sequence I started with in February
  • Though I feel that the unsteady practice had diminished the quality of my relationship with breath in Pranayama … I am able to hold it … but it doesn’t yet hold me.


  • Like with Pranayama I feel that the lack of stability had diminishes my sense of stability. Only now, after ~3 weeks of continuous practice I am starting to feel my mind settled as I knwo it can eb (from past experience).
  • The quality of my presence diminishes (relatively) during the day … if I don’t practice in the first part of the day it is difficult for me get on the mat … and if I do it is with a lesser quality of presence.


  • This is something that has been with me a lot but escaped my previous notes. Before spring allergy set in and opened the disturbed period of summer practice I frequently heard the inner sound I first became acquainted with satmuki mudra. It was with me during my asana practice. It was very much with me in sitting after pranayama. I lost touch with it during this summer … but it has begun to subtly resurface.



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Christopher Alexander on Ornament


“As the whole emerges, the universe becomes ornamented by it … In this understanding a flower, or a river, or a person, or a building all have the same potential role. Each of them may be judged by the extent to which this pure blissful structure comes into being, and by the extent to which the light of the universe shines through as a result of this creation”

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

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Late Breakfast



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No Bird



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The Rise and Fall of .Ly


When virtual worlds and physical worlds collide – funky top level domains depend on funky (another kind) countries:

“In 2012, the US imposed sanctions on Syria, for, among other things, their occupation of Lebanon, their apparent support for terrorist groups, and an intent to pursue weapons of mass destruction …

Artsy — a social platform for sharing and purchasing art — occupied the domain Art.sy. The “.sy” in the URL is the country code for Syria. .Sy domains are ultimately registered with and purchased from a Syrian Internet authority. Although Artsy had registered Art.sy in 2011, before sanctions were imposed, Artsy’s annual payments to maintain the domain meant they were breaking sanctions …

Art.sy changed its url to Artsy.net (a change that cost them “under $50,000.”)”



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Sending Women Away


I am writing this primarily with Annelieke in heart and mind.

I talked to Andreea today. I was curious to hear about the Fairy Godmothers weekend. She was curious to hear about Portugal.

During the last part of the conversation Andreea brought up the subject of my relationship with Annelieke and my relationships in general. The context, she made direct and clear at the end of the conversation, was my well being, her wanting to see me happy. She drew a picture in which I sent Annelieke to make a home for herself, that I did not choose to go there and make a life with her … to create a home together. As I understand it, Andreea is coming from a story in which we are creators of our world … in this case … I am creating a world in which I end up alone (to simplify: I sent Andreea away, and now I am sending Annelieke away).

I shared with her, what I also shared with Annelieke and Iulia … that right now the existence that most resonates with me is that which lives inside you. I don’t mean that as an escape. That is my current experience. I don’t feel there is a place for me in the world. I feel I have tried to introduce myself to the world and to make myself available in many ways … and that hasn’t yielded fruits (yet). I don’t feel that I have the ability/energy to carve out a place in the world for myself. I haven’t encountered a space / place / context that inspired me to challenge these perceptions. What I do have is these few intimate relationships where I am me, I am welcomed as I am, I am cared for, I am listened to, I become a part of something … and that is further amplified when the people in these relationships, you, reach out into the world and touch others.

But … I agreed with her … kind of. Saying I sent Annelieke away to make a home for herself in Portugal is technically correct, but not a complete picture. For me, it would be like saying I threw salt away … without pointing out that I did that into a pot of cooking soup to bring out its flavors. However, having cleared that up, I am not dismissing what Andreea is trying to communicate to me. The thing is that she wasn’t able to help me through to make it relevant or actionable. She boiled it down to simplistic questions like (and I’m recalling them … so certainly not precisely) “Do I want Annelieke as a life partner?” or “What do I want for myself in life?”.

The first question I can’t answer. I don’t know what life-partner is. I don’t think Andreea assumes it as a simplistic and obvious term. I am assuming that she is asking it from her own current experience with Mihaela (I chose not to inquire too deeply because that was not what Andreea was trying to give me … I felt that approaching the conversation with an analytical knife would have undermined her gift to me). It did become clear as we were talking that she isn’t hinting at one person that can fulfill everything. It could, for example, be a non-sexual, purpose related relationship. So I don’t know. I DO know that I am interested in definitions. I do know that I am interested in tasting and choosing, tasting and choosing again and again … and allowing myself to arrive at something that I want. I understand that if one believes in, for example, psychology, that one could argue that in “allowing experience to unfold” I am actually allowing unconscious fears and inhibitions to shape / limit my life. I’m not going there.

The second question was more penetrating. It, had a clear answer … well two clear answers. The first answer was that I cannot see into “life” … one day at a time is a capacity that currently works for me. So in that context what I know RIGHT NOW is the last “formula” that led me to a peaceful existence (I have been out of touch with it for a month … so I have yet to confirm that it is still relevant): getting up in the morning, reading with a tea, practicing and having a late breakfast … and hopefully with something meaningful to engage after that for whatever remains of the day. Andreea insisted I look further … and I did … and there was the second clear answer. I don’t want to be … BUT … I don’t want to get into that. So the question isn’t very useful for me.

The context was Andreea caring for me. She said that saying those things to me is progress … that in the past she wasn’t able to do so without echoing her own fears … that she is glad she can finally share this with me. I am grateful for this potential and for what she shared with me. However it left me feeling heavy and disassociated. I had to take some silent time to settle.

Mostly I wanted to communicate this to Annelieke: it may look like I am throwing salt … but I AM trying to cook a good soup.


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Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits And Activists


The title is misleading … Facebook is throttling all traffic … nonprofits and activits just happened to be there too … yet further evidence that building social capital on Facebook may be a poor investment:

“… Put simply, “organic reach” is the number of people who potentially could see any given Facebook post in their newsfeed. Long gone are the days when Facebook would simply show you everything that happened in your network in strict chronological order. Instead, algorithms filter the flood of updates, posts, photos, and stories down to the few that they calculate you would be most interested in … This means that even if I have, say, 400 friends, only a dozen or so might actually see any given thing I post … the ratio that Facebook has more-or-less publicly admitted it is ramping down to a target range of 1-2% for Pages.”

I continue to be amazed and entertained by the naivity and delusion of phrases like this:

“Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists …”

It tells me that the author (like many people) still don’t understand the nature of Facebook. The fact that social organizing has been possible on Facebook is a side-effect they tolerate not something that is aligned with their objectives (harvesting people’s attention and converting it into money).



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D.A. Wallach


A fresh and sweet gift via Alexander Ebert:

And the overwhelming poignancy in the contrast of the lyrics and this video clip:

And his debut album:

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Christopher Alexander – It Is the Process …


” … Look at this Hispano-Moresque tile of the 15th century. When we first look at it, we see a beautiful design, harmonious, orderly, well conceived, beautiful space and color. In contemporary terms, all this would appear to be part of the design of the tile, since it is the geometry of the finished tile, it seems to us, that causes this. We think of beauty as a result of design.

But when I handled this tile … and started to ask myself how I would make a tile like this, the thing took on quite a different character …

I believe the design was made by laying thick rope into the soft clay. It is the rope which allowed the maker to form such complex shapes … In my studio my assistant went further to understand how it had been done, and made a clay impression of the tile’s surface in reverse. This reverse – a raised embossed impression taken in modeling clay – was even more impressive, and more beautiful than the tile itself. I realized that this – the negative impression – must have been the actual thing which the maker made, and that the tile was then cast from it in clay.

The further I went to understand the actual process which had been used to make the tile, the more I realized that it was this process, more than anything, which governs the beauty of the design. Perhaps nine-tenths of its character, its beauty, comes simply from the process that the maker followed. The design, what we nowadays think of as the design, followed. It as almost a residue from the all important process. The design is indeed beautiful, yes. But it can only be made as beautiful as it is within the technique, or process, used to make it. And once one uses this technique, the design … follows almost without thinking, just as a result of following the process.

… An attempt to follow the same drawing, but with different techniques, will fall flat on its face. And if I change the technique (process), then the design must change too. This design follows almost without effort from this technique. It is the process, not the design, that is doing all the hard work, and which is even paving the way for the design.

Thus the making, the physical process of shaping, carving, crying, glazing, and firing tile are the ways in which this tile gets its form, its life, even its design …

This gradual rubbing together of phenomena to get the right result, the slow process of getting things right, is almost unknown to us today.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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