Monday, April 01, 2013

If You're Bored, You're Wrong

Very little time today. Chaos reigns, what with Easter vacation going on and the remodel about to commence.

I know. Tragedy. Progress in theology will be set back for at least another 24 hours.

If the world is a reflection of the Creator, then we shouldn't be surprised that it is neither a radical One -- a featureless monad -- nor a disorganized mess of a Many. Rather, we should expect to see wholeness everywhere we look.

A typical case would be DNA, each part of which contains all of the information necessary to create the whole.

More generally, we see that wholeness -- which is a state of irreducible interior relatedness of part and whole -- appears in a different way at each level of the cosmic hierarchy. On the plane of physics, for example, we see it in the phenomenon of nonlocality; in biology, the ecosystem; in man, intersubjectivity; in spirit, the Trinity.

By the way, I was pleased to discover an analogue of the Trinity in Judaism. In his excellent The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, Rabbi Sacks writes of how in Genesis God is initially called Elohim, "a noun meaning roughly the totality of forces operating in the universe." Exterior and impersonal, as it were.

However, a little later he is called Hashem, which might be understood as "the transcendental reality of interpersonal relations," which is how and why "our experience of God mirrors our experience of other people."

The deeper point is that we are not related to the world in some superficial manner, like two objects placed side by side. That is exterior relationship. In contrast, interior relationship is an intrinsic connection, more in manner of how the parts of our body relate.

But there again, that is only a biological analogy. On the psychological -- i.e., cognitive and emotional -- planes, it means that there is a kind of endlessly extended space between any two subjects. It is obviously the case between two human beings, in which you can spend your whole life exploring and deepening that space with just one other person.

But it is also true with the non-human world, which is why there is no end to any discipline. There is no conceivable end to physics, for the same reason we'll never run out of poems or melodies.

Rather, we are assured a kind of endless harvest for the very reason that we are not God. Or, to be perfectly accurate, because 1) God is, and 2) because we are not him. You might say that this formula results in a burning bush that can never be consumed, or in a hidden source of nourishment that prevents us from ever going hungry.

For Alexander it means that "the character of this relatedness is not invented or concocted in our minds, but actual." It is the prior condition of everything.

Furthermore, the relation is always personal, but not in the impossibly atomistic manner of subreal modern science, but rather, in the retrofuturistic manner I have discussed over the previous 2,500 or so posts.

It can hardly be overemphasized that this is entirely consistent with the way we experience the world. It is not an abstraction. Rather, the problem is that, over the course of a lifetime of indoctrination, we superimpose a psychopneumatic grid of scientistic abstractions over the world, and then wonder why it has lost its savor.

Here is a hint: if you are ever bored, you are wrong. And I mean this ontologically, where there is no word for boredom. Rather, you should call it what it is: deadness, the deadness that results inevitably from being a closed system.

It is a truism that a closed system is dead, and that we die when we are no longer an open system. What is not generally understood is that openness is the prior condition, and deadness the secondary condition.

We cannot create life. Rather, we can only live or encounter it. We can, however, "create" death, so to speak. Once you recognize this, you experience signs of life -- and of death -- everywhere. You see how the left has managed to create a culture of death, or why television has all the life of a stagnant pond.

Again, Alexander is simply taking these ideas seriously and drawing out their implications in his chosen field of architecture. Thus, he writes of how it is only in connection with deeply "living things that I am fully real."

However, this life is coming from both ends of the relation, and is a mutually reinforcing and deepening spiral. He writes of how this relatedness "is the most fundamental, most vivid way in which I exist as a human being" (italics in original).

Under such naturally supernatural conditions we experience ourselves as we "truly are," that is, "a creature which is undivided and a part of everything: a small extension of a greater and infinite self."

I think this intense bond between man and cosmos accounts for the erotics of being, in which our lives consist of a kind of journey whereby (in the words of Christopher Bollas we discover our idiom, our unique soulstench, our fingerprint with no hands. We find our(prior)self through attraction to the various cultural objects, experiences, and persons we need in order to actualize it.

Well, the man with the sledgehammer is here, and it's challenging enough to do this when the walls aren't tumbling down around me. But if you search "Bollas" on the blog, you'll probably find a lot more on this subject of using the cosmos to discover yourself. Or is it the cosmos deploying you to articulate itself?


ge said...

Though the creative/twinkly-eyed part of me sympathizes with the idea 'if you are ever bored, you are wrong,' I recall a Taoist master [named Ni] many of whose books i've enjoyed, taking the POV that Boredom can be a blessing [at least one isn't actively suffering, burdened by care, si?]. He also praised the idea of doing one's own housecleaning, so that may qualify him in many's view as hopelessly nuts! :)

mushroom said...

...the deadness that results inevitably from being a closed system ...

This doesn't sound like the creative "boredom" of looking for the door with the red arrow. This is being locked in the system that says the only thing that counts is what you can count.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

Hmm, well, boredom is good because it signals the deadness, right? I guess you might say, "If you're bored, you're wrong [about something.]"

That seems to give it a little edge on the other side, like a good sword.

JP said...

"Hmm, well, boredom is good because it signals the deadness, right? I guess you might say, "If you're bored, you're wrong [about something.]""

I'll agree with this.

I spend most of my time bored out of my skull and I'm certain that I'm doing something wrong.

Granted, it apparently comes across as chronic clinical depression.

Which I'm not going to dispute.

Gagdad Bob said...

God tried to survive in a Newtonian universe as a bloodless specter cornered in a remote heaven. He died of boredom. --Davila (Don Colacho)

Gagdad Bob said...

And If the atheist does not commit suicide he has no right to be thought lucid.

Gagdad Bob said...

But With good humor and pessimism it is possible to be neither wrong nor bored.

mushroom said...

I'm putting that last one up on the door.

It will go nicely with the "If it's not fatal, it's no big deal" magnet that's up there.

Christina M said...

Because you have been talking about Christopher Alexander lately, I found on the internet and just finished reading a transcript of the 1982 debate between Christopher Alexander and Peter Eisenman and it is so spectacular that I am ecstatic. The anger that Christopher Alexander expresses towards Peter Eisenman and architects like him is my own. This inarticulate unschooled rube understands what Christopher Alexander is saying.

A few weeks ago I grabbed some landscape timbers and laid them from the front door and around the house, following a natural curve in the grass that we had been walking out to the shed. That's it. It's the first step in cutting a flower bed around the house and laying a path. Something about that curve of timbers is so right that I catch my breath in wonder and pleasure every time I step out the front door and catch sight of it.

I ordered one of CA's books today.

julie said...

For anyone interested, the transcript of the Alexander vs. Eisenman debate can be found here.

julie said...

Christine, thanks for mentioning that interview, by the way. I just finished it, too, and at the end Alexander reminds me very much of our friend at Sippican Cottage when he says:

"I can't, as a maker of things, I just can't understand it. I do not have a concept of things in which I can even talk about making something in the frame of mind you are describing. I mean, to take a simple example, when I make a table I say to myself: "All right, I'm going to make a table, and I'm going to try to make a good table". And of course, then from there on I go to the ultimate resources I have and what I know, how well I can make it. But for me to then introduce some kind of little edge, which starts trying to be a literary comment, and then somehow the table is supposed to be at the same time a good table, but it also is supposed to be I don't know what; a comment on nuclear warfare, making a little joke, doing various other things ... I'm practically naive; it doesn't make sense to me."

ge said...

Enjoying the CA-PE dialog read so far---1/2 way thru.

On a personal note, I worked at 2 very postmodern defunct bars in the east village and knew their architect, a German who was Eisenman's 'apprentice': RED BAR & GOLD BAR
[Maga. article descriptions of the latter; sorry cant find any online images of either, which may be a part of their 'history' as well?]:

"Talk story about the Gold Bar, a so-called Deconstructivist joint hidden behind the facade of an old liquor store on East Ninth Street. Writer met Thomas Leeser, the architect & co-owner of the Gold Bar on a recent Sat. night. The son of an architect, Leeser was raised in Frankfurt, came to NY in 1980, and is now a sr. assoc. in the firm of Eisenman Architects. He designed the Bar, which he describes as "the most uncomfortable," "scary place" in NY, to challenge people's expectations and behavior. He feels NYers like dissonance. The Bar, a small dark room with an unpainted, concrete ceiling, walls that are askew, and a gold-leaf bar that comes out of a 15-foot-long hole in the [thick sheet metal, LOUD] floor and slants, sometimes makes people dizzy. A steel railing prevents people from holding onto the bar. Leeser didn't want the Bar to have furniture. He didn't want people to be comfortable, but there were complaints, so he had chairs made up out of scrap. He considers the Bar to be an analogue of NY: "this gold thing emerging out of the roughness of the East Village," a clash of elements. Americans took longer to accept it than foreign visitors did. Leeser didn't want it to be a bar with standard bar cliches. The glasses are all generic. He claims his work is theoretical, geared to disturb. He doesn't agree with those who call him a Deconstructivist. When the mag. Taxi ran a photo of the Bar it was cropped at an angle that seemed to reduce the bar's slope. Leeser believes this demonstrates a common "subconscious desire to straighten things out."

"The designers have turned what they see as the instability of our times into an architectural virtue. The close, dark Gold Bar, an artists' haunt that opened last year in the East Village in Manhattan, has a sloping ceiling and an inclined, detached-from-the-walls floor that seems to float mysteriously. A large gold-leafed bar breaks through the floor like a rhomboid ingot, its front canted, its top slanting. Thomas Leeser, the 35-year-old architect who designed the bar, recalled with a mischievous grin that two patrons in the unsettling space became ill. ''I want to challenge your sense of what is right and wrong, up and down,'' he said. ''I want anxiety and disturbance.''


Now the earlier RED BAR on 7th street/1st ave. had a huge asymmetrical and sharply pointed red chunk of material running the LONG length of the space, and the lighting there was bright as an art gallery, not somber like most bars---white walls with monthly art exhibits [the clientele was not surprisingly lots of artists]... the stereo components were sunk into the wall and put at askew cartoonish angles---the cassette machine eventually rebelled against this it seems and didnt work!....David Bowie once popped in, sadly soon after my shift was over.

Leeser later did the design for a Derrida-Eisenman text , placing random holes running through groups of the pages!

Gagdad Bob said...

Here's a strange synchronicity. I'm going through the aphorisms one by one in Davila's Annotations on an implicit text. It has one review on amazon, a good one. Curious, I click on the name of the reviewer, Nikos Salingaros. He's reviewed 14 other items, mostly music, but also a couple of books on architecture. One of the reviews mentions that he himself has written a book called Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction. And the last chapter is -- you guessed it -- an interview with Alexander about the Nature of Order.

The Cosmic Circle of Life.

julie said...

Small world. Are you reading it in Spanish?

Gagdad Bob said...

I wouldn't call it "reading."

julie said...


Christina M said...

Julie, thanks for posting that link.

On the Saturday before this Easter, I finally figured out what was causing this smoldering anger that I have been feeling for the last few months. I realized that I resented all the manipulation and fear that was being force-fed to me by the news and the media and even by friends sending me news stories. And then here I stumble on to this debate where it turns out that there are actually people who go out of their way to foist their anxiety on me. There are whole schools of thought and belief systems that are doing this. I sensed it all along but didn't know what it was. NO MORE.

Christina M said...

Oooooo. I've read some of Nikos Salingaros's writings. Circle indeed. And read about ge's Red Bar and Gold Bar too. I didn't realize until yesterday how serious my interest in architecture always has been.