ART & ORGANISM
we pursue an impossible equilibrium: the stillpoint,
but we cannot escape change
There is a mode of vital experience‑‑experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life’s possibilities and perils‑‑that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience “modernity.” To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world‑‑and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, “all that is solid melts into air.”
–Marshall Berman (1982) All That is Solid Melts into Air
ART speaks to CHANGE:
“There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees” (Emerson (1841) from “Circles,” Essay X in Essays: First Series, 1841.) [like TRUTH]
֎READ about “NOW” (how long it lasts) and CHANGE (and changelessness) … including the “stillpoint” (as in TS Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,)
BIOLOGICALLY we are concerned with CHANGE at two levels — individual development and evolutionary change, The former involves change within an individual as it grows and matures … is inevitable in any organism that must cope with a changing environment. [development in A&O] assimilating or accommodating new experiences. It begins with conception and ends with demise. The later involves change between generations as organisms coping with the constraints of their environments communicate biologically relevant information to subsequent generations. . [evolution in A&O] .. As change relates to TRAITS that animals manifest, they can also be referred to as PROXIMATE and ULTIMATE, implying the distance between the processes that led to change and its manifestation.
“A MAELSTROM OF PERPETUAL DISINTEGATION AND RENEWAL…”
Follow these threads:
- DIONYSUS (At the core of [Nietzsche’s] Dionysian tragic worldview is a principle contained in one of the fragments of Heraclitus: “Everything always has its opposite within itself.” In the myths of Dionysus, madness, destruction, and death hover over all those he comes in contact with, but likewise does the possibility for healing, liberation, bliss, and the removal of all sorrow and care. Dionysus is “the great ambivalent one” who is both “the divine archetype of all triumphant heroes” and simultaneously the “suffering and dying god”. The god of tragic contrast is symbolic of the tragic contrast within all things. He expresses the truth that opposition and harmony, creation and destruction, ecstasy and terror, life and death, are inseparable from each other.” (https://academyofideas.com/2017/03/nietzsche-and-dionysus/)
- NATARAJA (Shiva as “Lord of the Dance”(Sanscrit) “he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again.” …”the Ananda Tandava (dance of bliss), the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved.”) Read NATARAJA at CERN (from India Narrative 2021)
- BIOLOGY (“The human body replaces its own cells regularly. Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have finally pinned down the speed and extent of this “turnover.” About a third of our body mass is fluid outside of our cells, such as plasma, plus solids, such as the calcium scaffolding of bones. The remaining two thirds is made up of roughly 30 trillion human cells. About 72 percent of those, by mass, are fat and muscle, which last an average of 12 to 50 years, respectively. But we have far more, tiny cells in our blood, which live only three to 120 days, and lining our gut, which typically live less than a week. Those two groups therefore make up the giant majority of the turnover. About 330 billion cells are replaced daily, equivalent to about 1 percent of all our cells. In 80 to 100 days, 30 trillion will have replenished—the equivalent of a new you.” (Fischetti & Christiansen 2021)[i] The graphic is excellent: see it at Scientific American Graphic Science April 2021 p 76 )
The level of organization of our primary interest is the human organism, but for perspective, know that the disintegration and renewal that characterizes change occurs also at the cosmic level: about 275 million stars are born and die each day (Cornell University)
[i] Mark Fischetti & Jen Christiansen (2021) “A New You in 80 Days.” Scientific American April 2021 Issue https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/our-bodies-replace-billions-of-cells-every-day/
UNDERSTANDING CHANGE, TRANSFORMATION, TRANSPARENCY: Although Life must be lived forwards, as Kierkegaard said, it must be understood backwards. Memories and imagination are all we have.
OUR BODIES and MINDS ARE IN CONSTANT FLUX: With respect to COGNITION and PROXIMATE CAUSATION we must remain aware that every percept, every construct, reaches its place within an organism after being passed through the lenses … or the Procrustean beds … of every preceding percept or construct. It is trimmed or enlarged, sanitized or sullied, disfigured or disguised, all in the interest of assimilation or accommodation to all its predecessors We are creatures of these constructions
OUR TRAITS ARE IN CONSTANT FLUX: Much as the mental constructs of any particular individual are filtered through all preceding constructs, all traits which are transmitted from generation to generation can only be understood in the light of the past roles of its central constituents as well as their allies and their adversaries, at every level of organization from biochemical to morphological. Every change in a trait, from imperceptibly slow through startlingly sudden and dramatic is built on millions of generations of precedent, millions of generations of each trait negotiating its place in the organism with a myriad of shifting alliances with other traits. An endless jostling of traits maximizing their functionality in the light of their host’s prime NEED of the moment, and ultimately to self-actualize. “… the reasons for the evolutionary origin of a structure can rarely be found in the functions of its more elaborate, much later form. For example, feathers did not begin to evolve because of selection for the ability to fly. To put it another way (one that would have appealed to Stephen Jay Gould), exaptation is everywhere.” (from Wallace Arthur’s review of Perspectives in Animal Phylogeny and Evolution, by Alessandro Minelli (OUP 2009) in Science 323:717 .. complete review)
ALL that is NEW … every innovation of individual or species has the potential to affect biological fitness. “Transformatively new innovations “have to be emplaced in already existing organizational forms, social structures, and biographies. … they must be accepted and altered in such a way that they identify and meet latently present needs.” So the shock of the new is conveyed and modulated through the arrangements and understandings of the old. Innovation is a process of mutual accommodation, its success dependent as much on societal receptivity and the quality of communication and integration with existing social forms as on the sacred spark of its inventor.” –(Edw J Hackett reviewing Insatiable Curiosity by Helga Nowotny 2008 in Science16 Jan 2009 pp340-341) .
BUT we can turn also to PHYSIOLOGY for insight about “how long is NOW; and the inextricability of MEMORY and IMAGINATION. (Read Miller’s (2007) brief essay on their surprising connection)
CHANGE in the BRAIN:
The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of subpatterns. –Charles Sherrington (1942) Man on His Nature
Underscores the point that even the connections between discrete entities are in constant flux–disintegration and renewal, as Marshall Berman said of “modernity” (above)
ART speaks to change:
|“We all live on the great, dynamic web of change. It links us to one another and, in some ways, to everything in the past. And in the way that each of us influences the course of events, it also links us to the future we are all busy making, every second. No matter how remote all these links may seem, over space and time, they are real. No person acts without causing change on the web. Each one of us has an effect, somewhere, somewhen. Everybody contributes to the process. In some way, anything we do makes history, because we are history. The web is the expression of our existence, and of all those who went before us, and all who will come after us.” (James Burke, from his book: ‘The Pinball Effect’; via PhysLink July 15, 1998).|
amongst the most resistant to change which is often seen as an EXISTENTIAL THREAT (especially when we identify with our beliefs). For example,
In the course of centuries the naïve self-love of men has had to submit to two major blows at the hands of science. The first was when they learnt that our earth was not the centre of the universe but only a tiny fragment of a cosmic system of scarcely imaginable vastness… the second blow fell when biological research destroyed man’s supposedly privileged place in creation and proved his descent from the animal kingdom and his ineradicable animal nature… But human megalomania will have suffered its third and most wounding blow from the psychological research of the present time which seeks to prove to the ego that it is not even master in its own house, but must content itself with scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in its mind. — Sigmund Freud (1916) Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1916), in James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (1963), Vol. 16, 284-5.
To CHANGE is to experience stress
[maintain a vivid sense of the paradoxical nature of stress, its ability to destroy as well as stimulate creative adaptation (“disintegration and renewal”): envision the stress response curve while thinking about this.] At whatever level of organization it is experienced, coping with change implicitly or explicitly energizes us. (if we are unable to cope successfully at one level, the stress will trickle up to challenge a more complex or costly level). Consistent with the idea that reason is our way of rationalizing feelings or intuitions. (we act first and then rationalize it.) This opens the possibility of being right for the wrong reasons as well as being profoundly misguided in our conceptualization of the chain of causation. Circumstances “conspire” to cause phenomena, but the term is almost always used to refer to constellations of circumstances which are speculative or hypothetical and applied to justify or explain beliefs that may be very unlikely. In practice they are used to justify feelings contrary to those for which much more broadly validated evidence is available, and as such represents a profound and often pernicious bias.
Paranoia in the face of complexity–reasonable when we are overwhelmed with competing possibilities: Reading recent (2021) blip from NYRB online, Matt Seaton is speaking with Hari Kunzru about conspiracy theories, fiction, complexity, and UFOs “… in his book, Red Pill, Kunzru seems to speak to the pervasiveness of paranoia [represented by some of the conspiracy theories advocated by the far right]—a cast of mind that can ensnare and consume any of us….”
“I think we’re living through a moment when the inhuman scale and complexity of the world has been made visible to us. We are uncomfortably aware of all the things that we don’t know, and we are reacting in human ways. Paranoia is understandable, even logical. Conspiracy theories promise an artificial simplification of these vast, unknowable forces. If there are just a few gray men in a Davos boardroom pulling the levers, then the world is potentially knowable. It’s hard, but necessary, to give up that hope.”
[related to “inhuman scale and complexity:” “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” –Thomas Merton]
TO LEARN is to CHANGE
New experiences either consolidate and strengthen our current understanding, or we adopt a more adaptive understanding.
New experiences either consolidate and strengthen our current understanding, or we adopt a more adaptive understanding.
TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING is manifest in a student’s experience of change from merely knowing course content to realizing its relevance in their personal and professional lives.
This kind of change is shadowed by the Piagetian distinction between assimilation (enlarging; incorporating new knowledge in to a data base that is coherent in a specific theory, model, or world-view) and accommodation (changing shape; changing a theory, model, or world-view in order to allow novel experiences and new knowledge).
The difference between knowing and realizing reflects affective as well as cognitive depth. Realizing involves an aesthetic sense of gratification that imparts confidence in one’s understanding or insight – an intuitive sense of its truth.
(in 2015 I led a transdisciplinary research team in a conference presentation–read the short abstract) –or you can cut to the chase: read the A&O Parable of the Two Philosophers that inspired the research…)
CONNECTIONS CREATE, CONNECTIONS CHANGE
CHANGE – THE TEACHABLE MOMENT — THE TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
notes about time (and timelessness), change (and changelessness), The ephemeral (and the eternal)
|CHANGE and REINVENTION . . .|
Intercultural: Yi Shu: “Yi means ‘change’. Shu means, ‘the way’, the ‘art,’ or ‘the dao’. Yi Shu simply means “the art of living with change.”
The fundamental thesis in Yi Shu is that healing is a constant process of balancing and harmonizing the psychological, biological, social and spiritual realms of the self.
Yi Shu is a new yet ancient theory and practice of healing that integrates a wide range of therapeutic methods and forms of creative expression from both Eastern and Western cultures.
Yi Shu draws upon procedures from psychodrama sociometry gestalt therapy, traditional Chinese medicine, and the creative arts.
Yi Shu fuses these diverse healing processes into a powerful, unified experience that detects and releases energy blockages in body, mind and spirit.
The process of Yi Shu works to release energy blockages in intrapersonal, interpersonal, transpersonal, intra-cultural, inter-cultural, intra-racial, and inter-racial relations. …
Daoism, which is the theoretical basis of Chinese medicine, believes spontaneity and creativity are the core of healing and growth. …
Yi Shu will demonstrate the uses of therapeutic procedures to enhance one’s spontaneity and creativity and to create a social environment that is conducive to creative growth.
 Kierkegaard note: “Life is lived forward but understood backward.” This quotation occurs in various reported forms: e.g.: “life(history?)must be lived forward but can only be understood backward.” Man kann das Leben nur rückwärts verstehen, doch leben müssen wir es vorwärts.”