27 February 2011

A simple experiment

One of the things that I currently do is host a workshop for professors from the university here where I am living. I have described my own intent in these workshops which have now been going on for about one year, in a variety of ways. In the last workshop we were exploring an anecdotal and topical case study about open source education. The issue is nuanced and contentious. There several kinds of systemic 'traps' involved. I have asked the members of the workshop to do the following in order to explore the question:
  • Watch this video, without reading any comments or getting any surrounding information about it:
  • Self observe while you are watching. Take notes actually or mentally if you can.
  • Take a break and reflect.
  • Google the 'author' of the video and read about him or watch other YouTube material from him. There are numerous short videos.
  • Watch yourself during this process. Take notes if possible.
  • Be prepared to discuss what happened in that process.
For those of you reading this not in the workshop, many of the participants are engineers, mathematicians and scientists of various sorts. They are all faculty members at a well known university, some tenured, some not, some department heads currently or in the past, etc. Think of the colloquial expression "rocket scientist" and you will get the picture, though I think there is only one literal rocket scientist in the workshop this quarter. I have several things written that I might post later, and I thought I might take a moment and reflect on the nature of this workshop now. There have been three for faculty and one for students and faculty over the past year. The faculty workshops have been on:
  • Change and Impermanence
  • Leadership and Leadership Models
  • Teaming and Collaboration
I am considering holding one on "Facilitation" next quarter if there is interest and it seems right to do. The student workshop was on research methods and was an exploration of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person research. If I were to say for myself what the faculty workshops have been about I would name them something more like:
  • The structure of thought and self observation
  • The nature of framing and 'mental models' with respect to agency and action
  • Pattern recognition and the dynamics of patterns and patterning

21 February 2011

Emergence and Emegency

What is the difference between "emergence" and "emergency?" How do we distinguish such a difference and what effect does such a distinction have on our state and action?

The word itself is interesting. The base form is "merge" and has the sense of 'diving or sinking in.' In Sanskrit to 'dive under.' For something to 'emerge' is for it to arise out of the condition of being immersed in this way; it comes to the surface from having been under the surface. The connotation is that what emerges is not known prior to it's arising. It may be the case that what emerges was already existing, as a prior state or condition.

From this we also get the sense of 'emergency', which means something like 'an unexpected occurrence, requiring immediate attention.'

Perhaps we could consider emergence first. This seems a really amazing notion to me. For emergence to occur, immersion is required. Immersion in what? What sort of immersion? Immerse. Emerge. It is my feeling that when we loosely talk about emergence we often mean something more like an accidental or random course of events. Perhaps this is one of the things leading to emergence becoming emergency? We have a feeling that emergence means, left to itself, something will happen. Events occur and we may re-contextualize them in some way and call that emergence. We delete the process, disciplines, structures and act of immersion. This means that in order to consider 'emergence' we must first consider what it means to 'merge' or 'immersion.'

16 February 2011

Living Lab

I wrote this about two years ago. Some of you will be familiar with it. If reading this you have interest, ideas, suggestions, corrections, etc. please let me know. The basic way of working described below is based on a process used by Gurdjieff. The ideas are as usual an amalgam. The illustration is of course Banksy.

Context & Summary
The overall context of this work is the question of a harmonized, resilient way for all of humanity to live. This can be considered as a question of harmonization of the biosphere and anthroposphere (the whole of human acting, living and relating on the planet), locally expressed in each of our lives. It can also be considered as Gregory Bateson's question, “Is consciousness a sufficient feedback system for evolution?” Much of our work and work with others over the past decades has been inside of the question of self aware human systems. This idea for a Living Laboratory is an expression of that question, now considering what is needed for participation in the anthroposphere itself as a self aware system. This sort of experiment serves as the basis for fundamental change, having to do with both cessation of habits and patterns of the current global enactment and creating a meaningful context for emergence.

14 February 2011

Cabbage Panic

I have mentioned that I am participating in a local 'food group.' The intent of this group is to answer an Insane Question created by the structural nature of this moment: How can we eat the food that grows immediately where we live? Where I am currently living we are blessed with an abundance of food. It seems to be a water subsidy, but even this is not currently as extreme as many places on the planet. There is a great amount of unharvested, uneaten food growing all around us. There are also people in this exact same area who have no food or are malnourished. We are considering that together.

In that spirit I proposed a "Cabbage Day" during which people would come together and make sauerkraut, kimchee to celebrate the abundance of the crop. It is cabbage season. Many people are of course already doing this. My intent has to do with the 'container' as much as with the cabbage. I am also interested in this as a cyclic event with various crops in season.

At present if pressed, I would say that 'cabbage day' is not likely to happen. I am suspending this opinion, since I am by no means the most reliable source for such a determination. I have some idea what it would take to 'make' it happen. I have successfully managed quite a few projects of much greater scale and complexity. If the project were simply X number of jars of processed cabbage, I am clear how that could happen, for instance. This is not the primary project for me, but rather a by-product of the primary project. The primary project, for me, has to do with social fabric and self-organization. Even from this point of view, I have a clear idea of what 'needs' to happen from within a certain model of things. I wish to tell a story about some of that.

conversations and invitations

I have been asking people here, where I am living, what they might like to talk about together. Something that is not apparent from the writing here is that the things I am writing about are part of a situated conversation taking place with the people here and elsewhere. We are talking together about these things, though the writing of it this way can make it seem otherwise. We are are practicing these things together in a loose way. Other things come up in the process of that and I write about those things, when I am able, based on that conversation and practice, over time. I have the gently held intention to post a couple of times a week, 10 a month or something of the sort. That may or may not happen.

12 February 2011


One of the things about which I feel I should be very clear is that I have no idea what to do about some anything. None. Zero. I would be hard pressed to recommend that someone read the things I am trying to write in any case, but particularly if you are imagining finding some direct idea about what to do... I am sure those of you who know me are not surprised about this. I do not mean to be arrogant by imagining that someone is reading some thing I have written imagining an answer or something. I am just not really intending to write anything useful. I am not intending to write anything that is likely to be even remotely recognizable as a solution to some problem. It is not that I would not like to do those things. I just don't think such utility itself would be at all useful, even if successfully written. I feel it might be important not to confuse this with a kind of adolescent rebellion against utility as such. Well, I am glad I cleared that up.

I am collaborating with university faculty to ask several questions together with them. Some of them have noticed that something about their dynamic together seems or feels inconsistent with the type of collaboration they might want to have in order to ask and act on these questions together. They decide to meet to talk about it. This particular meeting is just a very few people, but it is more or less impossible to get together. This is mysterious. It is not impossible to do other things. In fact we are all doing many things, which on the surface looks like the reason why we cannot meet, to talk about why we cannot meet.

One of the strange things about pattern recognition is that it is often the case that the investigation of some particular 'pattern' or habit, stimulates that very habit, in the moment of inquiry. It may not appear to be so, and is not always so by any means, but it happens frequently enough to be worth remark.


You have nothing to gain,
and everything to lose.

06 February 2011

Excerpt from "An Apology to Future Generations"

This is an excerpt from something I am working on. When you read it I feel certain you will understand why I am unlikely to finish it, but it is interesting in some ways. It has particular set of assumptions that I will not go into. I will say that the future generation imagined is 10,000 years in the future. Some of the time frames need to be cleared up a bit, but the structure should be apparent from this little piece. It is in an unedited form, perhaps even more raw than most of what I post here. I have thought of using it as a loose basis for a web-petition of some sort.

04 February 2011

Service & Re-creation

The subject of re-creation has come up several times in the past week.  Perhaps the simplest form of re-creation is a kind of pain management process.  In this process one addresses some symptomatic condition, such as a headache, by 're-creating' the symptom.  Typically the presenting symptoms will dissolve.  This is not a panacea of some sort.  It is at one level a simple, practice-able, learnable technique.  As is often the case with such techné, we can miss the greater implications of the thing 'working' at all.  30% effectiveness of placebos seems like this to me.  

I will describe the technique briefly, though living in the land of California as I currently do, I have not usually been the one bringing this up.  It is a fairly socialized practice here it seems.  (It will perhaps be wise to refrain from further comment on that.)  

The very first piece of process is an examination of whether or not I am willing to have the symptoms go away.  I have a headache, it would seem like the answer to that question of my willingness is self evident.  Not always.  Perhaps I am getting something out of the headache in a way that its disappearance would be worse than its presence, should it disappear.  It is important to note that this about my willingness, not my insistence, or even expectation.  In the case of a headache this may not seem so critical, but begin to imagine that the process described can be applied to *any* symptomatic phenomena.  The ecology of my relationship to the presence of the symptoms becomes very important.  Let me give you a specific example.

02 February 2011

How to get to Carnegie Hall...

I have now written several things on the 'oracle' and on 'mental models' which all seem so bad that I don't know what to do with them. I am going to assay another on the Tarot and the I Ching, but I wanted to say what I feel hampers those other pieces first, and that will require a small piece itself. When I begin to write them I notice a tendency in myself to try to explain where my feelings about the topic come from. I make some attempt to situate the subject within a larger systemic framework. The difficulty in both cases is one of recursion. Both topics themselves are specific sorts of frameworks and a means for understanding such frameworks. In talking about them it can seem necessary to me to lay out the specifics of that, which turns out to be very difficult and hard to read. This is difficult not because it can't be done, but rather because it simply takes pages and pages before I feel I can even get to the subject. I realize I will have to go back and re-work this as well, but I plan to post it as it is and ask your patience and tolerance... I pretend to feel better about this knowing that if you are reading any of this that it is by your choice you are doing so... and I will hold you to that. This is rambling, mostly incoherent, deeply flawed and perhaps not so useful in any real way, but I assure you it is much better than the 5 or 6 other things I have been trying to write.

In the case of the 'oracle' it seems necessary to me to create a kind of taxonomy of ways of relating to and making meaning out of the oracular endeavor. In order to do that it seems necessary to dive into developmental models of the self. In order to do that it seems necessary to explore a diverse set of teachings and frames that are esoteric to say the least. I do not assume that people are familiar with such teachings and frames, though I have no real evidence for such an assumption. I do not assume that I necessarily understand such frames. So in addition to the recursive challenge, which leaves me even less intelligible than usual, there is also the question of 'authorization.' I do not have any authorization whatsoever and do not feel particularly self authorized. I do not even want to be authorized. This makes it difficult to author something. I find that for myself I am far more interested in a kind of self-verification that serves as a basis for self-authorization. In that process it seems necessary to me to actively move in one's own life from the conceptual to the lived. This is a process of bringing something that might be a concept or interesting idea into the domain of something that is lived in one's life, as a practice, at the very least.

What we are considering is how exactly something moves from an interesting idea to an actual practice or something that can be considered a realized or lived aspect of one's life.