Monday, 31 May 2010

Everything has a life of its own

There I am, trying to stop, and then I get my first comment, after over six months of my little monologue here...

So the first thing that happened when I intended to stop is that I found that I didn't. Or. What? I stopped, but the blog didn't. I stepped back, and something flowed into the space.

Jim's comment about the Master seems to point directly to what I've been circling around these last few months. I wonder if what stops, when you slow everything right down, is your mind - your intentions, your plans, your goals - all your trying. But if you're lucky enough to be able to stop all this, even for a moment, you don't turn into a blank; you don't go away. Where there used to be the endless rabbiting of thought and the mind, there's still, or, perhaps, now, awareness.

Awareness is a space. Do things appear in that space, if you get out of the way?

If they do, I suppose they're likely to still be the emergent effects of the subterranean interactions I talked about before. Could you ever slow it down enough that even they would stop? And would you want to? If you're alive, a living system constantly in motion, renewing itself, adapting itself, in order to stay alive, you need those interactions and their effects - to guide you, to lead you on. But perhaps consciousness gives you something unique that you can insert into the mix (because, of course, consciousness is only a tiny part of what actually makes things happen as they do in your overall system...). It gives me the possibility of considering what kind of spaces I want to make, and the possibility of observing and pondering upon the different things that appear in the different spaces.

After I posted this, I suddenly looked at the image and thought of Anish Kapoor again. Perhaps what happens when you stop intending and trying is that you start to notice. Which links back to those earlier thoughts about responding. When you're a little more to one side, you see things that you wouldn't have noticed before. Things that you think you know suddenly reveal themselves as something extraordinary. The world changes.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Slowing down even more

All these interactions. All this emergence. As an experiment, I'm stopping the blog for the summer. To see what happens when you slow it down completely.

Will it just slow down?

What happens when everything slows RIGHT down?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

'Slow thinking may nurture creativity'

From a complexity perspective, it might be expected that large numbers of interactions between multiple components would create the conditions for the emergence of novel forms. As I've discussed in previous posts, Maisel's immersion - the doing, doing, doing of creative working - seems to be aiming to do this. I've been wrestling for some time with the contrast between this idea and the letting go, doing nothing, getting out of the way approach, which in the end seems to be the thing that shifts things, moves them along.

Perhaps I'm being graeco-roman logical here, looking for one or the other of my simplistic little binary to come out on top. It's far more likely to be an intertwining of the two - attention, immersion, working, pushing materials or words together endlessly, and walking away, letting go, catching the things that are released in meditation, when you're looking the other way.

There's a big intellectual trend for 'connectivity' these days. We like network metaphors, ways of thinking that banish boundaries, ideas of blurring, multiplicity. Isn't social networking a cool phenomenon, we say; lets get with it, get tweeting our students, shifting our sorry antiquated asses onto facebook, marvel at what's emerging. Then we start trying to make connectivity happen; setting up social networking sites for a particular purpose, trying to create conditions that we hope will result in the same exciting unfettered happenings we see spontaneously occurring all around us. And then nothing happens. Mmmm.

Even when it is naturally occurring, massive connectivity isn't necessarily always a good thing. An analysis by complexity theorists of the global financial crisis in 2008 (New Scientist, 25.10.08) suggested that over-connectivity could be the cause of the collapse of such large systems. This is partly because there's no longer sufficient diversity within the overall system to allow for differentiated responses, required in different parts of the system so that these parts can respond to varying local conditions. The analysts suggest the need to insert 'firebreaks' to cut back the connectivity, making the system less uniform.

A more recent article entitled 'Slow thinking may nurture creativity' (New Scientist, 27.3.10) also suggests limits to connectivity, this time in the human brain. Apparently a number of studies in the past have suggested that  'high integrity white matter' is associated with higher mental function and intelligence. A recent study, however, suggests that lower white matter integrity, which involves slower communication between some areas, 'might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty, and more creativity'. This is reported as a surprise, as 'speedy information transfer' is normally seen to be a good thing, in terms of mental function. The researchers suggest that writing novels or creating art may not be things that require 'sheer mental speed'.....

One of the problems with this view, however, is that it could be interpreted as suggesting that the potential for creativity is hardwired into the brain (ie. you got low integrity, I got're superior, I'm a creative dunce), as with the traditional view of intelligence and IQ.  All the research results which point to  neuroplasticity (ie. the brain's capacity to change and mould and reshape itself throughout life) would go against this idea. What interested me was the idea that slow connections might be better in terms of creating conditions for the emergence of creativity.


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