Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From Part to Wholeness

Dear readers!

This post will be finished during the next days/weeks.

I've tried to establish some other blogs, but I see Permaliv is by far most popular. So I've decided, in respect of my readers, to upgrade this blog and start posting regularly on it again. But probably I'll not have time for this before next winter. I've therefore decided to set up a summer post to give something to think about for summertime.

As I write this in morning I've already had more than 100 visitors. I do now regularly have between 200-500 visitors a day. Some days I've surpassed 1000 hits. This is amazing for such a counter-popular blog!

I'm happy to see the international slant among my readers, I do now have a high score among countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Germany, China and India. Just the last month I had almost 3000 hits from India. One day I had more than 1000 hits from China alone.

I will use this blog to make a world of wholeness, and to end the realm of capitalism, changing to an in-group economy and democracy. Most of all, we need to end the 400 years of imprisoning under a Cartesian world view, entering a post-Cartesian world, or to be more correct, an Alexandrian world view. In the future Christopher Alexander will be regarded as far greater than Descartes. But to make this shift happen I need the help from my readers all over the world!
The mechanistic idea of order can be traced to Descartes, around 1640. His idea was: if you want to know how something works, you can find it out by pretending that it is a machine. You completely isolate the thing you are interested in – the rolling of a ball, the falling of an apple, the flowing of the blood in the human body – from everything else, and you invent a mechanical model, a mental toy, which obeys certain rules, and which will then replicate the behavior of the thing. It was because of this kind of Cartesian thought that one was able to find out how things work in a modern sense.

However, the crucial thing which Descartes understood very well, but which we most often forget, is that this process is only a method. This business of isolating things, breaking them into fragments, and of making machinelike pictures (or models) of how things work, is not how reality actually is. It is a convenient mental exercise, something we do to reality, in order to understand it.

Descartes himself clearly understood his procedure as a mental trick. He was a religious person who would have been terrified to find out that people in the 20th century began to think that reality itself is actually like this. But in the years since Descartes lived, as his idea gathered momentum, and people found out that you really could find out how the bloodstream works, or how the stars are born, by seeing them as machines – and after people had used the idea to find out almost everything mechanical about the world from the 17th century to the 20th century, people shifted into a new mental state that began treating reality as if this mechanical picture really were the nature of things, as if everything really were a machine.

For the purpose of discussion, in what follows, I shall refer to this as the 20th century mechanistic viewpoint. The appearance of this 20th century mechanistic view had tremendous consequences, both devastating for artists. The first was that the “I” went out of world picture. The picture of the world as a machine doesn’t have an “I” in it. The “I”, what it means to be a person, the inner experience of being a person, just isn’t part of this picture. Of course it is still there in our experience. But it isn’t part of the picture we have of how things are. So what happens? How can you make something which have no “I” in it, when the whole process of making anything comes from the “I”? The process of trying to be an artist in a world which has no sensible notion of “I” and no natural way that the personal inner life can be part of the picture of things – leaves the art of building as a vacuum. You just cannot make sense of it.

The second devastating thing that happened with the onset of the 20th century mechanistic world-picture was that clear understanding of value went out of the world. The picture of the world we have from physics, because it is built only out of mental machines, no longer has any definite feeling of value in it: value has become sidelined as a matter of opinion, not intrinsic to the nature of the world at all.

And with these two developments, the idea of order fell apart. The mechanistic idea tells us very little about the deep order we feel intuitively to be in the world. Yet it is this deep order which is our main concern. – The Phenomenon of Life, by Christopher Alexander, page 16
Christopher Alexander to the right
Reducing wholes to parts lies at the core of the scientific worldview we inherited from Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, and their modern acolytes in the sciences of economics, efficiency, and management. - David Orr
I've now taken up again reading the book A Theory of Architecture, and has learned a brilliant definition of life:

Life = Harmony X Temperature

Although Salingaros uses this definition on architecture, I think it can be used on all aspects of life. Salingaros also says this is the definition of what Christopher Alexander calls LIFE. 

So I was thinking that what is a state of permanent life = perma-life or PERMALIV. To achieve a state of permanent life we need permaculture or a permanent culture. All of which is the intention of this blog.

All of this has made me rethink the ambitions for this blog, and I look forward to upgrade it. Especially I need a new banner on the top of it. If any of my readers can help me making a unique banner I should be grateful.

I'll try to make a photocopy of Salingaros brilliant definition of LIFE later.

Life and Complexity in Architecture From a Thermodynamic Analogy

I'm happy to learn that the chapter I referred to above is downloadable from Internet, I have even republished it at the P2P-blog, this will be published soon. Meanwhile, here's the original text (there might be some upgrades in the book):

Life and Complexity in Architecture From a Thermodynamic Analogy

One sub-chapter follows:

The Universal Drive to Raise the Architectural Life

Figure 1. Numbers corresponding to the buildings in Table 1 are plotted on an L C diagram of architectural life versus architectural complexity. Numbers 15 to 25 represent 20th century buildings. Every sructure in history, and every structure not yet built, fits inside this triangle.
Figure 1 shows that man worked very hard to raise the architectural life of his surroundings, up until the 20th century. People with entirely distinct conceptions of beauty, using very different materials, and driven by similar motivations, managed to build structures that cluster together in the top corner of Figure 1. These buildings do not resemble each other in form. Furthermore, our choice of buildings is only a representative sample: hundreds of buildings from before the 20th century lie in the top corner of Figure 1.

Like animals with the instinct for complicated courtship and nest-building, we have an instinct to build things that embody certain qualities. For thousands of years, structures were built that do not meet any obvious utilitarian need; and yet they occupy a central role in cultures, requiring vast commitments in manpower and time. A simple shelter does not require the incredible sophistication that people have invested in buildings. Throughout history, buildings have reflected mankind’s drive to transcend materials and produce something to which we can relate directly on a deep emotional level.

What about houses and ordinary buildings? This model applies to all structures, and not just to important historical buildings. Vernacular architecture has reflected the values of L and C of “official” buildings throughout history. For instance, classical Greek and Roman houses were sufficiently detailed and coherent to give high values for L similar to those of contemporary temples, despite having an entirely different form. Although houses and commercial buildings in our time are strongly influenced by architectural fashion to have low L , their inhabitants instinctively raise L by decorating interior surfaces. - Nikos A. Salingaros
My own sad experience is that people today have become so individualized that they don't recognise and appreciate the need of their fellow human beings to create LIFE in their surroundings, far less the obligation the architect, bureaucrat and developer has to lay the foundation for the creation of LIFE, to make LIFE flood in peoples neighborhoods and lives.

This situation is a result of the cartesian world-view, where you see your fellow people as machines, not as biological and spiritual creatures with an inert drive toward biophilia.

To learn more about this subject, to understand the difference between treating your friends or neighbors as mechanical, biological or spiritual human beings, please read the following article by Salingaros and madsen:

Neuroscience, the Natural Environment, and Building Design

See also:


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The City of God is Prague

It's really true, the city of God carries the name Prague. I've never been closer to God. I could feel Alexander's theory of centers come alive, materialized through the 15 transformations of wholeness. Leaving Prague was like for a newborn child to be torn away from her mother. I'm still in shock. Why am I here in this barren land? What have I done to suffer here? After eight nights in Prague I felt like I'd been there forever. As there for God is no such thing as time.

God materialized himself in Prague, or we have materialized God in Prague, it's the same thing. We were put on Earth to create wholeness. Prague is wholeness. Not to create wholeness, or to reduce wholeness on Earth, for your fellow human beings, might be the worst sin a man can conduct. Because with reducing wholeness, you reduce the presence of God. Nothing less!

Charles Bridge

“After a lecture of mine, I once heard an architecture student say, “I still don’t see why all this has been discussed. Isn’t it enough to understand the nature of living structure thoroughly, and try and make life in our buildings? Why do you insist so strongly on the fact that we also need to change our picture of the universe? I have a picture of the universe which is quite flexible enough to contain the idea of living structure”.

I did not find myself in agreement with this comment. In my mind, what is most important about the picture painted in these four books is that indeed, our present picture of the universe can not contain the idea of living structure, because it contains no natural way of including the idea of value in the idea of space. What I have constructed, on the other hand, has the idea of value in an a natural way – first in the relevant intensity of different elementary centers as part of the definition of wholeness, and then with more and more depth, as centers are built from living centers, to give structure of real, deep, significant value by essential the same idea. In this picture, value resides in the structure and is part of the structure. Value is written in the same language as the rest of the structure of space-time, and the life of the centers arises from the fabric and structure of space itself.

In this conception, value is not something merely grafted onto space, as a passenger might be who carries no weight and does no work. It is part of the same nearly mechanical picture of space that we have come to believe in, and respect, and trust. Yet, at the same time, in a most subtle way, it is also not-mechanical. After all, what we observe is life emerging from space, as we might say “out of the very foam of space”.

It is a structure, we can (tentatively) calculate with it, and it fits our structural understanding of space and matter. Yet it creates a bridge to life, feeling, and to our own experience of what it is to be a person: the self, which all of us contain, and are connected to.

That is the structural meaning of what I have described.

George Wald, in the paper quoted earlier, where he says that all matter is ultimately mindstuff, balks at making any particular connection between space and matter. He writes, in one place, “Consciousness is altogether impervious to scientific approach”(42). And later, “Though consciousness is the essential condition for all science, science cannot deal with it”(43). Thus, in spite of Wald’s fervent belief in the existence of consciousnesses (or mind, or self), he insists that it is impenetrable, not connected to structure of space and time as we observe them as a structure.

Yet what I claim is precisely that it is connected to structure. I claim that the field of centers, or some version of it, is a recursive structure in space, which does precisely serve the function of being the bridge between matter and consciousnesses, between matter and mind; and that it is, indeed, when these extraordinary living structures arise in space, that mind awakens, that space and matter open a window to the mind, and that the great self behind all things actually comes within our experience and our reach.

I believe that one day it will be possible to demonstrate an experimental connection, where it will be shown exactly how the field of centers does open a door between space and self, and how, ultimately then, self and matter are permanently intertwined through the construction of the mechanism.

A traditional scientific view, held by many during the 20th century, has been that mechanical pictures of matter, can be consistent with any spiritual view of God or consciousness because the two (matter and consciousnesses) inhabit non-communicating intellectual domains. Such a dichotomy may have been a source of comfort to positivists. But, scientifically speaking, it allows us to get no mileage from the co-presence of the two.

Indeed, I believe continued insistence on the compatibility of the two (“because they do interact”) is almost tantamount to denying any real and useful interaction, and thus inhibits intellectual progress. Polkinghorn, for example, said at one time that everything is OK as it is, and that it is easy enough to reconcile a materialist conception of matter with a spiritual conception of life(44). All this really said was that we have no understanding of the connection, and that – from an intellectual point of view – there is no interaction. But in view of the mechanist predisposition which is common in our time, and the fact that all practical understanding is mechanical in nature, this means, too, that we have no picture in which self and matter can be coupled: therefore no real way of believing that they are coupled.

Even though Polkinghorne and the student who was speaking to me may believe the present world-picture is adequate to contain both, I believe it is not so. This broad-minded, intellectually catholic opinion is mistaken. The two views, in their present form, cannot coexist successfully. Even today, we continue understanding the degree to which we are prisoners of the present mechanistic cosmology; we have a strong tendency to underestimate the effect that this interior mechanistic view can have on us.

Consider for example, three elementary facts: (1) in our immediate world, at normal temperature and pressure, nearly everything is made of atoms; (2) atoms are little whirling mechanisms which are spinning constantly; (3) people are largely made of atoms too.

Nearly every schoolchild learns these facts in school. We all learnt them. They are, by now, virtually a part of us. Probably we learned them when we were eight or nine years old. As a result, in the western world at least, there are few people alive who do not believe (“know”) that they are mechanisms made up of millions of tiny whirling mechanisms.

In case this seems like an exaggeration, or that people do not really believe these things literally as as being the whole picture, consider the first paragraph of a recently published book, THE ASTONISHING HYPOTHESIS, by the eminent molecular biologist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the helical structure of DNA: “The astonishing hypothesis is that you, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules…”(45)

At first one might find it surprising that such an eminent scientist should put forward such a crass-seeming reductionist view without flinching. But it simply underlines my point that all of us are susceptible to this oversimplification, so long as we have nothing to replace it with. It is a mark of Crick’s honesty and intellectual rigor that he faces the real meaning of the present cosmological scheme and does not try to duck it with pious phrases. Without having access to another structure, so that the structure of matter itself leads to a different view, it seems to me that anyone honest much reach the same conclusions Crick has reached.

But if you believe Crick’s mechanized reduction is accurate, how can you take seriously the kinds of ideas which I have described about the life of buildings, and walls, and rooms, and streets? The answer is, you cannot. You cannot, because if you believe the three elementary-school facts, then mentally, you are still living in a universe in which nothing matters, and in which you do not matter. And then the life of the environment is not real either.

Ideas about the personal or spiritual nature or reality, no matter how desirable they seem, cannot affect you deeply, even if you think they do, until they can be embodied in some new picture which leaves the facts of physics intact, and also paves the way to a more spiritual understanding of the world by an extended structure which brings in these larger matters clearly and explicitly.

The whole point of the consept which I have described – of wholeness seen as calculable, recursive, bootstrap field of centers with the consequence that follow from this view – is that within the framework this concept creates, things really are different, and the differences are visible as new aspects of the structure of space and matter. This newly seen structure not only says that things are different. It shows, through the properties of the structure, exactly how things are different.

Within the new view of structure of matter-space provided by the field of centers, we can reconcile the fact of being a mechanism of whirling mechanisms, because we know that each atom is itself a field of centers, and that in the emergence of these fields, the self comes into view. We…you…I…are thus instances of the field of centers or – if we like to see it more deeply – instances of the self-stuff of the universe, making its way, cumbersomely, from the trap of matter to the light of day.

Armed with this view, we can unite our personal intuition of religious awe with our sensible scientific understanding of the world. It becomes all one, it all makes sense together. Life and religion fall into place and fit together with physics as necessary consequences of the structure of the world – that is, of the way that matter-space is made.

And in this view, the work of building takes on entirely new meaning. It changes in a fundamental way, because we understand what we are doing differently, and realize that our work as builders – through the forms described in this book – place us in an entirely new relation to the universe.

In this universe, the human self, yours and mine, are indistinguishable, in their substance, from the space and matter where the play of forms occurs. When we make something, its selfness, its possible soul, is part and parcel of our own self.

There is, then, something very like a religious obligation to allow this self to reveal itself. It is our task, as architects, as artists, as builders, to make this stuff, this matter of the universe, reveal itself most fully. This metaphysical obligation will stem directly from our renewed understanding of the substance of the universe. It does not arise merely from our desire to be comfortable, from our desire to avoid alienation. It arises as a supreme spiritual obligation, which is our obligation to the matter/spirit we ourselves are made of.

This feeling, though modern in its form, is, in its essence, similar to the medieval mason’s desire to make each stone as a gift to God.

But it arises, now, not as a religious or superstitious belief, but as a result of a new understanding of the structure of the universe.” – Christopher Alexander, The Luminous Ground, page 332-334



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Åtte praksiser som undergraver skapelsen av levende nabolag

Publisert hos lørdag 15. mars, 2014.

Naturen planlegger intet, den folder seg ut, den utfolder seg. Det er derfor jeg tar avstand fra kreasjonistene, fordi de reduserer skaperverket til en plan og Gud til den store planleggeren, som om Gud var en kopi av Le Corbusier.

Selvorganisering følger livets kode, DNAets kode, hvilket vil si en utfoldelse av skapelsen gjennom sekvenser. For å skape helhet er det avgjørende at disse sekvensene utfolder seg i riktig rekkefølge, Christopher Alexander kaller dette for generative koder. Derfor er selvorganisering det motsatte av kaos, men naturens orden.

I artikkelen “GENERATIVE CODES HAVE EVOLVED FROM PATTERN LANGUAGES, BUT ARE MUCH MORE SOPHISTICATED GENERATING SYSTEMS“, identifiserer Alexander åtte ødeleggende arbeidsmetoder. Siden jeg leste disse første gang har det tynget meg at vi bygger samfunnet vårt gjennom degenerative sekvenser, og på dette viset kveler utfoldelsen av livet.

De følgende eksemplene er alle skadelige:
  • Konvensjonelt: Veier bygges før bygningene de skal betjene.
  • Konvensjonelt: I byggefelt graves ned vann- og avløpsrør lenge før husene oppføres.
  • Konvensjonelt: Husene plasseres, og hagen, som er det som blir igjen av tomta, er andreprioritet.
  • Konvensjonelt: Vinduenes design og posisjon bestemmes på det tidspunktet byggeplanene godkjennes.
  • Konvensjonelt: Tegningene fullføres før konstruksjonsarbeidet tar til.
  • Konvensjonelt: Planene for nabolaget fullføres før konstruksjonsarbeidet tar til.
  • Konvensjonelt: Offentlige plasser designes i etterkant av individuelle bygninger.
  • Konvensjonelt: Endringer gjøres gjennom endringsordrer, og blir derfor svært kostbare.

Disse praksisene støtter ikke opp under skapelsen av levende nabolag!

Hvorfor fortsetter vi med disse statiske, rigide og degenererende kodene ti år etter utgivelsen av The Nature of Order? Jeg har ikke selv lest bind to i dette bokverket, The Process of Creating Life, som omhandler generative koder, og vil derfor på ingen måte utpeke meg til noen autoritet på feltet. Allikevel, vi må som samfunn skifte fokus, fra å være planfokuserte til å bli sekvensfokuserte.

Våre dagers planleggingsregime bygger på modernistisk ideologi, og ble utviklet før kunnskapen om DNAet ble funnet. Skal vi kunne skape en sivilisasjon som er en del av naturen, må vi følge livets kode.

I boka Twelve Lectures on Architecture; Algorithmic Sustainable Design, sammenligner matematikeren Nikos A. Salingaros denne designmetoden med algoritmer, en stegvis prosess hvor det er algoritmen, ikke den overordnede planen, som leder oss til målet. Det endelige designet er således ukjent helt til siste slutt, men den algoritmiske prosessen vil lede oss til svaret. Eller rettere sagt, ett av flere mulige positive utfall. På samme vis som intet menneskebarn utvikler seg likt, men hvert individ får sin egen karakter. Slik må det også være for våre nabolag.

De åtte arbeidsmetodene som er listet ovenfor har ingenting med en stegvis algoritmisk prosess å gjøre, hvor man på forhånd bestemmer svaret uten å gjennomføre algoritmen.

Generative koder virker gjennom morfogenese eller lokal adapsjon. Levende nabolag er derfor først og fremst kjennetegnet av stor variasjon, som en respons på stedets særtrekk og egenart. Denne variasjonen reflekterer de 15 transformasjonene for helhet, den er egofri, og slik den diametrale motsetningen til dagens stjernearkitektur.

Judo Hall, Eishin Campus, Tokyo

Min inderlige bønn er at alle med påvirkningskraft, det være seg som håndverker, entreprenør, arkitekt, ingeniør eller byråkrat i stat og kommune, tar disse punktene Alexander har listet opp på alvor, og at dere gjør alt i deres makt for å få en slutt på disse praksisene. Gammel vane er riktignok vond å vende, men det er våre nabolag og med dette vår og våre barns fremtid som står på spill.

Vi kan holde så mange konferanser vi vil, holde tusenvis av vakre og velmente taler, men uten at vi eliminerer disse åtte degenerative sekvensene vil alle velmente initiativ og intensjoner være fåfengt. Ugresset må rives opp med rota skal vi få bukt med det, skal vi kunne bygge genuint levende nabolag fulle av lokal identitet og tilhørighet.

La oss brenne alle store planer på bålet og erstatte dem med generative koder, med livets teknologi. La oss skape levende nabolag for framtida!


Ei unik samansmelting av bøhmisk kunsthandverk og jugendstilen

Publisert hjå onsdag 14. mai, 2014.

Heilt på tampen av turen vår til Praha i byrjinga av mai vart eg gjort merksam på ei art nouveau-utstilling i representasjonshuset Obecni Dum, berre ein time før vi skulle eta den siste middagen. Eg hadde vore her før, men utstillinga var til mi overrasking ikkje marknadsført ved inngangen. Det var nok difor eg og dotter mi mest vart åleine der. Truleg kunne eg umerka ha stole med meg nokre av desse kunstverka, då den strenge grå dama som satt vakt smelta for dotter mi og vart mest oppteken av henne. Dei er veldig glade i born i Praha, ei fylgje av den vakre arkitekturen som omhyllar dei.

Eg hadde knapt ein time til rådigheit, og minnekortet var fullt. Då eg såg kor vakker denne kunsten var byrja eg frenetisk å slette annanrangs bilete, men er redd eg òg sletta nokre fulltrefferar i farten. Men det var verdt det, slik at eg i alle fall til ein viss grad fekk foreviga nokre av desse meisterverka.

Sjølv elskar eg jugendstilen, og denne foreininga eg vart vitne til i Obecni Dum mellom bøhmisk glasverkskunst, som er rekna som verdsleiande, og art nouveau, må vera noko av det mest framifrå menneskeslekta har avla fram før vi sokk ned i den hengemyra vi framleis er fanga i.

Mi von er at dessa bileta kan inspirere nokre til på ny å søkje den vegen til himmelrike vi var inne på, før vi gjorde det skjebnesvangre valet og tok feil veg rett inn i fortapinga (sjå boka Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction, av Nikos A. Salingaros).

Utstillinga skal stå i alle fall ut året, om ho vert ståande ut i neste år fekk eg ikkje med meg. Men skal du til Praha i år, gå ikkje glipp av dette!

Foredrag av Pål Steigan: Kampen om jordas energiressurser

Publisert hos onsdag 21. mai, 2014

Pål Steigan kan sies å være Skandinavias svar på John Michael Greer, hvor begge setter vårt forfeilede politiske og økonomiske system inn i en større energi-økonomisk virkelighet. Både Steigan og Greer viser hvordan vi nå lever i sammenbruddets tid, og kaster blår i øynene på framskrittsideologene, som uhemmet har fått blende oss så lenge.

Men samtidig er det stor forskjell på disse to bloggerne, jeg anbefaler derfor å følge dem begge. Mens Greer er svært anti-politisk, kan man ikke si dette om Steigan. Og mens Greer er opptatt av de store historiske linjer, er Steigan mer som gravejournalisten, som møysommelig avdekker viktige fakta og sammenhenger i samtiden.

Det er godt å høre hvordan Steigan i foredraget slår fast at “pensjonsfondet” aldri kommer til å bli nyttet til pensjoner, men er et middel for den internasjonale finanseliten for å opprettholde dagens system, som heldigvis ikke er morgendagens system, da det ikke er bærekraftig.

Han kommer også inn på hvordan Norge har brutt grunnloven og blitt en del av det internasjonale Kartellpartiet.

Mot slutten konkluderer han med at mediene har sviktet sin rolle og lever i dag for å produsere søppeljournalistikk, slik at vi forblir sløve forbrukere og livsnytere under den modernistiske liberalisme, marionetter av plutokratiet. Vi vil aldri få hjelp av hovedstrøms-media for å redde verden, deres jobb er å pleie en kapitalisme på sotteseng.

Denne jobben må vi gjøre selv!


Ny kald krig? Samtale med Stephen Cohen og John Mearsheimer

Hinsides historiens slutt? – del I

Hinsides historiens slutt? – del II

Hinsides historiens slutt? – del III

Kapitalismen – frå eit gode til eit vonde – og vegen vidare

Ikke se til Canada

The planet strikes back – jorden setter grenser

Påskeøya eller beretningen om en varslet økologisk katastrofe

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