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The Nature of Order // Book Two // The Process of Creating Life

Started by droqen, January 04, 2023, 05:17:11 PM

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P. 350 - 351
I found that I could imagine the Peruvians' feelings best just by being one of them. . . . if I looked at life from the point of view of being one of them, my own feelings, and my own knowledge of what had to be, was more reliable than anything else of what was needed for a Peruvian family. . . . I barely needed to ask any questions . . . I could feel it, all of it, but I could feel it only by being one of them. I, myself . . . didn't have a house like that, and I don't want a house like that --- because for me, in Berkeley, with my family, it would not have made sense . . . But as a member of that Peruvian family, in the Peruvian culture, in the context of that family which I was a part of, it did make sense. It was natural, necessary, and I could feel its necessity, as part of me.

P. 347 - 348
Imagine a chair in a room. As an experiment, I get a big ball of scrap iron, on a rope, and hang it so that the scrap iron is hovering near the seat of the chair. . . . When the chair stands by itself, there is one set of most salient centers in space. The chair in its wholeness is then defined by this system of salient centers. When I bring the scrap iron towards the chair, the wholeness changes. . . . if I view "the" chair as defined by its wholeness, the chair itself has changed. . . . It does not merely seem different, or have a different human picture of it. It is different. Mathematically, it is a different thing.


It is the quotes around "the" that gets me on board here. What does it mean to refer to the chair, "the" chair? Are two instances of the same mass-produced chair "the" same chair? What if we move one out of the room and put the other right in its place, an instance of the same design in the same spot in the same room? If we look at Christopher Alexander as the chair, he may not be "the" Christopher Alexander when placed in a different context . . . I certainly feel different in a new context. What does it mean to "be" myself? (See picture of the self)




~ linked from Ideas are vessels for Feeling


"We come now, to the most important and most profound aspect of living process. I believe it is the deepest issue in this book." (370)

"During the early part of the 20th century there was a school of thought where a great deal was said about artists expressing their feelings, as if . . . the feeling goes from the artist into the work while the work is being made. . . . What matters is that the building — the room, the canyon, the painting, the ornament, the garden — as they are created, send profound feeling back towards us." (371-372)

Diagrams, displayed side by side (372)

artist — puts feeling —> into work
Not this

the work — generates feeling —> in me
This is what must be happening

". . . as we move forward, before we take an action, we can [from time to time] grasp the latent structure as an emotional substance, we may feel it as a vision — a dimly held feeling which describes where we are going, but is not yet concrete, in physical and geometrical terms. . . . we can sense, ahead of time, the quality of the completed whole . . . The final target, then, has the feeling which we anticipated much earlier, but often has an unexpected, unfamiliar geometry." (372)

~See Don Potts Sculpture Lecture


". . . as the geometry develops, the feeling is keep intact, but becomes more and more solid — provided we do not depart from the feeling that existed in us at the beginning." (372)

". . . it can be described as a mathematical structure, [but] it is too complex to take in by purely analytical means. In order to get the whole, to grasp it, one must feel it. Its wholeness can be felt. Using our own feeling as a way of grasping the whole, we can put ourselves in a receptive mode in which we grasp, and respond to, the existing wholeness . . . This is not an emotional move away from precision. It is, rather, a move towards precision." (372 - 373)

Ah, here I have a nitpick. I would say that it is more importantly a move towards accuracy; feeling is more vague, like saying 12 x 10^5 instead of 1,200,000... the latter has more precision, but it is WRONG precision, given too early. Feeling is more vague but correctly vague, and allows us to wait until the appropriate time to increase our accuracy. It is the concrete form that is more precise. But the feeling is more accurate, or rather, less inaccurate, than non-concrete analysis.


Alexander writes of examples in which focusing on life (and deep feeling) is more important than the details.

- One cannot create a fishpond only by knowledge of fish, ecology, etc. It is important to have a vision of "the slow movement of the fish, the edge, the light on the water, the kinds of things that may  be present at the edge . . . the kind of soft and subtle feeling of life which such a fishpond requires."

- A colleague or student working on a house for a client, thinking 'There are too many stairs, for the old people to climb' and 'It is bad that you have to go through the rain to get to the bedroom'...

- Similarly on the Eishin campus, teachers arguing, "How can you make a school where you can't go from one classroom to another without getting wet?" // It seems that the discussion actually was brought down to this level for a little while, alexander responding "Rain is part of life", but ultimately it was this appeal to process, and the mechanics followed:

"We argued and argued. Finally I reminded them that it had been their own choice to make classrooms separate [which] brought with it a second reality --- that the classroom buildings really would be separate . . . and that one would then have to go out into the rain . . ." (394-395)

"A year after the buildings were finished, I asked them if they minded getting wet between classes. They laughed. "We like it," they said. "We have umbrellas. Or we run. We feel more alive."" (395)

Looking at this I think any inconvenience can be forgiven, can even be fully embraced, if it really strengthens the whole. It is necessary and we see that it is necessary.


On page 373 there is a box containing seven "different ways that feeling and living process are connected" which I will summarize even more briefly.

1. We grasp wholeness (best) by feeling it
2. We can feel the next latent wholeness - where it should go next, how it should unfold
3. A thing, given life, must induce deep feeling in people
4. We can carry feeling to some dim extent without the thing-which-is-to-induce-it
5. Feeling comes from the wholeness of the thing, not from us
6. A thing, given life, may be said to have feeling, not merely induce it
7. Every wholeness has a latent wholeness, which we experience through feeling

Many of these are said much more eloquently but here I am simplifying it unbeautifully. Boiled down like this, reduced, it is apparent to me that there is a core idea simply surrounded by a basic graph of nodes, often explicitly connected both ways as if those are separate points.

1. A thing has a wholeness, and every wholeness furthermore has, or includes, a latent wholeness: future states which may arise from structure-preserving transformations.

2. We can feel all of this: the wholeness, the latent future wholeness, and so on. Everyone can, and automatically does, feel all of this. Sometimes we use the feeling to see how to develop a thing further. Sometimes the feeling is simply felt, making us feel good or bad or something else.

3. Feeling does not belong to either the one who feels or the felt artifact; semantically, we may say that we have the feeling, or that the object has the feeling, but the reality is that the feeling exists --- only --- in our intersection, in the wholeness of experiencer and experienced. More generously we may be forgiven for saying, as it is easier, that "I feel" and also that "The thing has feeling" are both equally correct (in that they are both strictly incorrect).

 . . . but that's a little long. Can I simplify that?

1. We can feel the wholeness of any part of the world, a wholeness which includes every part of it, as well as latent wholenesses, future states, things that it might become, or could become, in a way that preserves structure. These latent wholenesses, or this latent structure, is not quite defined yet, but we can feel it.

2. Feeling belongs to both us and to the thing which provokes the feeling. It is equally correct to say that it is our feeling and that we feel it, or to say that it is the world's feeling and that it induces the feeling in us --- which is to say that both are equally incorrect. The feeling belongs to the overlap between experiencer and experienced. Without either one, there is no feeling. However, it is easier to simply allow that both individual ownerships are valid enough, and that they are equally valid.

3. We can remember feeling, dimly. Although the feeling is not ours to have alone, we can remember a feeling once it has been felt. We can hold onto feeling, we can also play with feeling, imagine feeling. We can carry this dim memory with us for long enough, for a very long time, and this ability allows us to pursue it.