16 April 2004 | Draft
Configuring Conceptual Polarities in Questing
metaphoric pointers to self-reflexive coherence
- / -
Processes of reflection and "insight capture"
Self-reflexive coherence through metaphor
The following exercise in thinking about thinking is an effort to identify
a higher degree of order in the set of papers produced by the author in the
period from 1962-2004 (as discussed separately in Self-reflexive Learnings
from Writing, 2004). As a preliminary, the papers have been separately ordered
by a set of value polarities which they may implicitly address (see Distinguishing
Emergent Conceptual Polarities: experimental ordering of a collection of research
This is seen as suggesting a methodology that could be applied to other bodies
of work. The set of polarities is explored here, as a challenge to comprehension,
through a set of complementary metaphors that may usefully point to the nature
of that higher order. The metaphors are then used to clarify the nature and
intent of the writing process itself.
The set of polarities identified (see Distinguishing
Emergent Conceptual Polarities: experimental ordering of a collection of
research papers, 2004) raises the question of whether
there is any useful way of understanding their significance as a set, notably
through the use of metaphor. In the light of arguments elsewhere, it is assumed
that no single metaphor is sufficient and that what is required is a set of
complementary metaphors that can together point to various forms of coherence
that may order the set of polarities. It is also assumed here that the set
of metaphors should be of requisite variety.
- Exercise bars: Each polarity may be thought of as an exercise or
trapeze bar (or perch). This holds the tendency to move from emphasizing one
position to another position (between bars) or to shift in relation to the
polarity (along the bar, from one end to another). Sets of bars are typical
of bird and other cages (and are called monkey bars in children's playgrounds).
In the wild, branches of trees offer analogous experience. The challenge in
the design of any cage is to provide a sufficient variety of bars and perches
to keep the animals occupied and to allow for territorial and other forms
of behaviour. (??Atkin)
- Containers (cages and baskets): The polarities may also be understood
as constituting the bars of a cage, or the fencing posts of a stockade, that
prevent an animal from escaping. The cage may also be designed as a trap,
notably as identified by Geoffrey Vickers ("A trap is a function of the
nature of the trapped"). Designs tend to have a circular plan formation
(stockades) or a spherical three-dimensional form (cages). This metaphor holds
the sense of difficulty in escaping from the set of polarities that define
behaviour and attitude. Certain forms of basket, made from weaving reeds,
give a sense of the potential complexity of the interrelationship between
the polarities -- to the point of obscuring completely any perspective beyond
the container, in part through focusing attention on the aesthetic design
of the container. (see also The
Future of Comprehension: conceptual birdcages and functional basket-weaving,
- Containers (shelters): The simplest shelters (including huts, teepees
and yurts) are combinations of interlinked or interwoven poles to which some
covering is added to seal the shelter from the elements. Structured as a stockade,
the shelter may be primarily designed for protection against external dangers
(animals, enemies). Shelters may also take the form of boats (or arks) to
provide a means of transport and the ability to survive flooding. This holds
the need for a protected environment in which more delicate and vulnerable
processes can occur.
- Containers (unstable contents): Some containers, such as "magnetic
bottles", use features of polarization to retain substances that would
be denatured by contact with conditions beyond the container walls. Magnetic
bottles are used to contain plasma under high pressures and temperatures in
order to achieve nuclear fusion. Magnetic polarization effects are used dynamically
to prevent the plasma from coming into contact with the walls of the bottle
by which it would be quenched. In effect they function like a kind of spherical
stockade. This holds the sense that transcendental insights cannot be identified
with polarized awareness.
- Dynamic protection: The disciplines of some forms of protective behaviour,
exemplified by the quarterstaff, constantly reposition a single pole to ward
off attack -- or as an instrument of attack. Operationally this dynamic is
somewhat analogous to the function of a magnetic bottle in that the quarterstaff
is then effectively redefined by the positions and angles at which it is successively
placed, and how it is held, to constitute a protective shield or container
for the wielder (see discussion in Evoking
Authenticity: through polyhedral global configuration of local paradoxes,
2003). Here the multiplicity of poles in the previous metaphors is replaced
by the dynamic redefinition of the function of the quarterstaff as a kind
of archetypal polarity. This holds the understanding that polarization, in
the abstract, may manifest perceptibly in a variety of settings in response
- Antenna array: The detection of very faint signals of significance,
from afar, can be achieved by configuring wires over a -- possibly extensive
-- array of poles. The array as a whole serves as a means of detecting and
focusing the signal -- bringing it to a central point. This metaphor holds
the sense in which it is not any specific polarity that is of greatest interest,
or the configuration as such, but the manner in which they collectively capture
elusive signals relating to another order of meaning. There is a degree of
detachment from the tangible features and patterning of the array.
- Polyhedral tensegrity: Such structures, constituted by poles and
strings interlinked to form a spherically symmetrical polyhedron (in which
the poles do not touch), combines features of several of the above. It has
the form of a container, similar to a cage. Suitably covered it may be used
as a shelter (as with geodesic domes). The many differently angled poles could
be seen as a static representation of the many defensive positions of a quarterstaff
(as noted above with respect to dynamic protection, especially since the integrity
of the tensegrity derives from its characteristic structural dynamics). As
a metaphor it holds, at a high level of articulation, a configured dynamic
relationship between polarities -- constituting a three-dimensional map.
- Geometric patterns: Such patterns are extensively used in the decoration
of sacred buildings, notably in the case of mosques.
- Musical instruments: Many musical instruments depend on the interrelationship
between pole-type features (gongs) and strings (guitars), notably including
the wind harp. This metaphor holds the sense in which sets of polarities,
in one form or another, may be "played", most simply as illustrated
by plucked strings emitting different notes depending on their length and
where they are plucked.
- Codification systems: A number of notation and coding systems are
based on the configuration of rods, possibly of different type, notably as
in the case of the I Ching.
As a set, or progression, the above metaphors might be considered as primitive
equivalent to the renowned Zen ox-herding pictures -- as exemplifying the evolving
relationship of containment and identity. Such metaphors point towards processes
of insight capture (discussed below) as suggested by:
- grammatical forms as thought containers, in the light of the conceptual
"storage" function performed by nouns and verbs
- constructs or complexes as providing "sites" (in the molecular
sense) to hold particular insights and perspectives
- the definition or delineation of particular conceptual spaces as "fields"
of study or concern, raising questions about the distinct processes that occur
in different fields
- the manner in which fields are fenced off and separated from one another
by "boundaries" to the point of constituting "territories"
and evoking territorial behaviour
- the cross-disciplinary and associative connections between fields in terms
of "pathways" and other, possibly more structured, routes -- including
notions of an information "highway" and the potential of hyperlinks
in a semantic web
- the manner in which conceptual territory may be "owned" and "possessed"
- the relative importance attached to particular fields due to their relative
location (recalling the real estate adage of "location, location, location")
- the insights of self-reflexiveness in which internal and external realities
mirror each other (see Mark Pendergrast. Mirror, Mirror: A History of the
Human Love Affair with Reflection, 2004)
- the embodiment of complex conceptual structures (in the sense of Francisco
Varela et al. The Embodied Mind, 1991 and the understandings
and their generation (Francisco Varela. Laying Down a Path in Walking:
essays on enactive cognition).
Processes of reflection and "insight capture"
In the light of the above, the processes and intentions of reflection may be
explored in the light of different clusters of metaphor. In a knowledge-oriented
society, these metaphors are especially relevant in relation to information
organization and processes.
Building metaphors, where the focus is on conceptual constructs and
protection from the elements:
- Building a house with pole-like elements: Here the focus is on fitting
poles, as isolated elements, into a structure of greater complexity. Skill
is required to know where to fit the added poles to ensure that a space is
contained -- allowing for points of entry and exit. As the structure increases
in complexity, polarities may be abstracted into tension and compression elements.
In conceptual terms, the challenge is to discover ways of combining polarities
so that they define a contained conceptual space. As with a shelter, the structure
may serve to contain a single space -- possibly providing links to contiguous
contained spaces to constitute a "mansion" or a "palace".
In psycho-behavioural terms the questions are: what does a shelter actually
do, how does it function, how is it experienced, and what is the need for
- Construction of pathways: Paths, roads or autoroutes need to be constructed
between the location of buildings, groups of buildings, or fields. In the
case of knowledge space, there is an equivalent need to build "associative
links", "hyperlinks" or "information highways" to
provide connective tissue between otherwise fragmented fields of knowledge.
Such pathways also need to be constructed so that they are protected from
the elements and are not eroded or destroyed by them.
- Construction of bridges: Roadways may encounter obstacles that cannot
be bypassed and have to be bridged. This requires an entirely different set
of skills -- that increase with the width of the obstacle and the height at
which the bridge must be placed. In the conceptual case, the construction
of "bridges" between two distinct fields of endeavour calls upon
the skills of cross-disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity. Typically the
challenge is much greater as the differences increase -- when the preoccupations
are "wide apart".
- Construction of a vehicle: In order to travel rapidly along a roadway,
protected from the elements, and with the capacity to transport a load, appropriate
vehicles may be constructed. The most basic rely on parallel sleds to support
a platform that can be pulled. More sophisticated vehicles make use of wheels,
whether one (in the case of wheelbarrows), two (in the case of chariots, simpler
carts, and bicycles), or four (as in the case of automobiles and trucks).
Developing appropriate "vehicles" can be important to effective
communication and the delivery of messages -- as in the notion of a "communication
vehicle". This is of great concern to media specialists. Such vehicles
are designed to hold the conceptual content as it is transported by the media
to the receiver. In Buddhism the term 'vehicle' is understood as a conveyance
of deliverance for sentient beings. Five such vehicles are distinguished [more].
Through cultivation of insight according to the teachings of these vehicles,
one is conveyed or ferried from one shore to the other -- from the present
shore where there is an abundance of affliction and suffering of birth and
death, to the shore where there is bliss and enlightenment.
- Construction of a vehicle (boats): A boat is a vehicle designed for
transport over water. It combines some of the design features of a shelter,
especially the need to exclude water. As with a shelter, the role of interlocking
of pole-type elements can be basic to the construction -- as evident in a
raft as the most basic form of boat. The conceptual equivalent becomes evident
in the case of any need to be protected from a "sea of emotion"
by the design of a vehicle to "float" upon it. Meditation, possibly
assisted by ritual chanting, may also be used to engender spiritual "vehicles"
to float upon the "mind chatter" of "internal discourse"
- Construction of a vehicle (airplanes): Airplanes (as with boats)
are typically constructed like a container using interlinked pole-type elements.
A key feature is the use of such elements in the construction of wings to
obtain lift. In the case of knowledge space the challenge is to develop conceptual
constructs which "fly" as opposed to "crashing" -- a concern
that is notably evident in the case of projects. A project that "flies"
is one that "takes off" and can sustain itself within some consensual
socio-cultural or knowledge space.
- Construction of a vehicle (spaceships): In this case the focus is
constructing a vehicle that can develop escape velocity in order to get into
a stable orbit, whilst ensuring a context that can sustain life in the hostile
space environment. These requirements all stretch normal technical capacities.
In the conceptual case, the challenge is to develop the capacity to escape
the constraints of conventional modes of thought and to be able to enter a
stable dynamic relationship detached from them. There is also the challenge
of ensuring sustainable conceptual processes in that environment. (see also
Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching aerospace
vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002)
- Construction of a musical instrument: As noted above, many musical
instruments are constructed by ensuring suitable arrangements of pole-type
elements (as in gongs that can be struck, or strings that can be plucked).
The pattern of sounds so created, the soundscape, effectively establishes
an aesthetic container. In the conceptual case equivalent forms of "play"
have been envisaged in such works as Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game
(1943). Thinking may be described as a form of abstraction, a withdrawal from
involvement with objects into a state of mind in which "playing with
concepts" becomes possible [more].
However Hesse's musical dimension, involving notions of consonance and dissonance
to build conceptual harmony, is not necessarily present in other notions of
"playing". It is however this dimension, involving composition,
that provides for integrative associations, also present in some poetry (see
also Asaf Friedman and Israel Idalovichi Conceptual
- Construction of a memorial: Memorials are necessarily constructed
to be durable over time, with some lasting thousands of years. In the conceptual
case, many are concerned with "making their mark", ensuring a "place
in history", or "planting their conceptual genes".
Agricultural "development" metaphors, where the focus is on
provision of sustenance:
- Draining of swamps and wetlands: Equivalents to this process in the
conceptual case occur in a fresh response to murky fields of knowledge to
which "swamp" may well be applied as a metaphoric descriptor. Typically
these will involve situations in which conceptual clarity is undermined by
a significant degree of emotionalism.
- Clearing the land: Where a potential field of knowledge is cluttered
with structures and concepts considered irrelevant or obsolete, a first step
in developing the field may require the removal of such structures. This may
be described as "preparing the ground".
- Irrigation of fields: Agriculture may require particular attention
to availability of water, its conservation -- and possibly the handling of
waste water. A major challenge to the productivity of a field of knowledge
may be that it is perceived as "arid" or lacking any affective dimension.
Public relations techniques may typically be used to give a "human dimension"
to abstract fields of study such as particle physics, molecular biology, or
astrophysics -- notably to ensure the support of voters in ensuring allocation
of funds by reference to the implications for human health, food supplies,
etc. Public relations may thus be understood as a means of "irrigating"
- Sustainable production: A prime concern with agriculture (including
animal husbandry) is to ensure that it provides sustainably for sustenance
and nourishment -- if only through subsistence farming. This may require particular
attention to the interdependencies (highlighted by permaculture) between soil
preparation, planting and crop rotation (see Sustainable
Cycles of Policies: Crop Rotation as a Metaphor, 1988). An equivalent
challenge in the conceptual case is ensuring that preoccupation with a field
of knowledge provides adequate personal sustenance, whether as a professional
concern requiring external funding or as an inspiring hobby. Research groups
are notably dependent on ensuring the sustainability of their undertaking.
- Energy resources: More sophisticated forms of, typically intensive,
agriculture may be dependent on the supply of energy (eg for heating, cooling,
pumping and other machinery). Assessing their value requires a focus on efficiency
and productivity. In the conceptual case, use of research resources is increasingly
evaluated according to analogous criteria of efficiency and productivity --
and the effort required.
- Pests: Agriculture may be especially vulnerable to wildlife (elephants,
deer, etc) or insects (locusts, aphids, etc), against which protective measures
(culling, pesticides, etc) have to be developed if crops are to be viable.
Some animals, such as bees, are however vital to pollination processes. In
the development of any conceptual preoccupation, "wildlife" tend
to take the form of invasive, uncontrollable, alternative perspectives. These
may be demonised to mobilize and focus action against them, although some
may have a vital role to play in forms of "cross-fertilisation"
important to the productivity of a field of knowledge.
- Gardening: Here the focus may be on the aesthetics of plants -- in
terms of flower scents, displays and their appropriate placement, or the development
of collections, including rare species. Culture and its development may be
considered the equivalent in the conceptual case. Here the focus is on the
array of complementary concepts to which a person has access and amongst which
the subtlest associations may be appreciated ( see Knowledge
Gardening through Music: patterns of coherence for future African management
as an alternative to Project Logic, 2000). This is exemplified by
Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game (1943) and the archetypal woman or
man "for all seasons".
- Zoological gardening: There is a major challenge to holding a range
of undomesticated animals in any coherent system. This can obviously be achieved
by caging them separately in a zoo or a menagerie -- effectively containing
each in what amounts to a laboratory environment. Conceptually this points
to the challenge of embodying an ecosystem of a wide variety of processes
such that each constrains and sustains others.
Journeying metaphors, where the focus is on displacement:
- Life as a journey: George Lakoff (see Lakoff
on Conceptual Metaphor) analyzes a purposeful life as a long-term,
purposeful activity, and hence a journey. Goals in life are destinations on
the journey. External events may be impediments toward life goals.
- Love as a journey: Lakoff also analyzes events in a love relationship
as special cases of life events. It is characterized by two lovers, who are
travelers, and the love relationship is a vehicle. Because the lovers are
in the same vehicle, they have common destinations, that is, common life goals.
Relationship difficulties are then impediments to travel.
- Career as a journey: Again Lakoff analyzes a career as a special
instance of the life as a journey metaphor.
- Spiritual questing: The quest remains an important metaphor because
its structure mirrors the quest of humanity searching not only for wisdom
and truth, but also values worth believing. As the goal of a quest, the Holy
Grail, for example, is purported to have the power to endow unending life,
demonstrating that the search for knowledge to vitalize meaning, purpose,
and value in daily life, remains of ultimate importance
- Dream journaling: This is a method, originally articulated by Jung
(and notably promoted as the Progoff
method.), of regularly documenting dreams as a record of an inner life
- Space travel:
- Time travel:
- All-terrain travel (between fields)
Relationship metaphors, where the focus is on how design features relate
to one another:
- Eye movement in which the eye continually scans from point to point
over the field of view, effectively establishing and maintaining a protective
shield as with the movement of a quarterstaff (discussed above). It might
be argued that thinking is characterized by a similar viewpoint-to-viewpoint
movement between concepts.
- Design may be understood as ensuring "goodness of fit"
(cf Christopher Alexander. Notes on the Synthesis of Form, 1964), namely
ensuring appropriate relationships between objects. This is extended, notably
in the fundamental sciences, into a recognition that theories characterized
by a degree of elegance in their formal relationships tend to have a higher
probability of being correct.
- Kinship patterns, in which the person recognizes their position within
a network of relationships. The conceptual equivalent might be understood
in terms of the network of peers, notably described in terms of "invisible
colleges", or mutual citation networks.
- Partnerships, especially in the form of marriage and its consummation,
provide a basic metaphor of the complexities of relationship. It was notably
used by Francis Bacon to describe the relationship of Man, through the penetrating
process of the scientific method, to Nature conceived as a receptive female
counterpart. The conceptual dance with reality may however also be understood
in terms of the subjective observer and external reality alternating between
initiating and receptive roles. Similarly, problematic partnership relationships
mirror the range of problematic relationships between an observer and external
reality -- even to the point of divorce and mutual alienation (see My
Reflecting Mirror World: making Joburg worthwhile, 2002). The quality
of thinking applied to partnership relationships may engender equivalent,
or compensating, dynamics with extrnal reality as a whole.
Self-reflexive coherence through metaphor
The intention here is to explore how the above metaphoric perspectives might
be used to (re)frame the set of conceptual polarities identified earlier.
A classic approach -- notably in the East -- to self-reflexive coherence is
through the circle, or wheel, as a metaphor. In such a case the polarities are
held by the linear spokes which collectively define a curved circumference.
Much can be made of the conceptual significance of any "emptiness"
at the hub of such a wheel -- as in the classic quotation from Lao Tzu (Tao
Te Ching): "Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub. It is the centre hole that
makes it useful...Therefore profit comes from what is there; usefulness from what
is not there".
In such a case, the spokes as polarities are not "observables". They
are psychodynamic tensions of dilemmas, experienced from within (or participated
in). Chuang Tzu, in another Chinese classic, makes the point that:
The wise man therefore... sees that on both sides of every argument there is
both right and wrong. He also sees that in the end they are reducible to the
same thing, once they are related to the pivot of Tao. When the wise man grasps
this pivot, he is the canter of the circle, and there he stands while "Yes"
and "No" pursue each other around the circumference" (The Way of Chuang
Tzu, interpreted by Thomas Merton, 1970)
There are other dynamics associated with such a form:
- Turning of the wheel: this is considered especially significant in
an understanding of the "wheel of life" and its cycles. Through
such turning different spokes, or polarities, become a point of focus in relating
to external reality
- Opening and Closing: such a wheel may be portrayed and understood
as a petalled flower (most typically a lotus) with the petals holding the
significance of the different polarities. The centre of the flower is a source
of sustaining nectar. The flower may open and close -- a process explored
in relation to information by Orrin Klapp (Opening and Closing: strategies
of information adaptation in society, 1978)
- Configuring tensional integrity: As noted earlier, spherical configurations
of polarities can be well-modelled by tensegrity structures. These are especially
challenging to construct since any initial two-dimensional map bears little
comprehensible relationship to the integrity of the three-dimensional structure.
A two-dimensional map provides an interesting way of representing polarities
in wheel formation but is not suggestive of why the structure only acquires
its integrity through links between polarities in three-dimensions. The integrity
derives in large part from the emergence, as the two-dimensional structure
is folded up, of differently angled great circles around the tensegrity --
which necessarily interlock. In contrast to the turning of a single wheel,
these point to the possibility of interweaving three-dimensional wheels. They
are also indicative of the the kind of stable "orbits" discussed
above in relation to the achievement of escape velocity by space vehicles.
The satiability of such orbits could perhaps be viewed as resulting from the
interlocking of comprehensive, but distinct, conceptual pathways.
- Extending the pattern: The circular array of polarities lends itself
to extension. This could be done **** Islamic patterns
There are other considerations relating to this wheel-based metaphor:
"Stretching a metaphor":
- Openness: ironically the circular configuration of the polarities
recalls the earlier metaphor of cage or stockade construction. However in
this case the primary significance attaches to the spokes -- unconstrained
by an implicit circumference. There is an inherent openness or unboundedness,
recalling the structure of Stonehenge -- it is not a cage. The significance
of the implicit circumference is associated with the boundedness defined by
the limitations of the polarities.
- Container: ironically again, emphasizing the circumference as a container,
the earlier metaphor of an ark-like boat suggests an association with the
legend of Noah's ark -- in particular the requirement of a man of God to construct
an ark large enough to contain pairs of all the animals. Understood as uncontrolled,
animal-like behaviours, this gives meaning to the need to bring these together
as polarities -- "two-by-two", "clean and unclean" --
and put them "into" the ark (Genesis, Chapter 7, verses 15,
24) ) [more].
Ordering the polarities in this way may be understood as means of surviving
an elemental deluge in order to renew the cycle of life.
- Monocycle vs Bicycle: as a means of transport, the challenges of
a mono-cycle compared to a bi-cycle are evident. This points to the possibility
of understanding the circle of polarities in two complementary modes. The
dynamic between them would improve the possibility of balance. An interesting
illustration of this dynamic is offered by a classic circular ordering of
the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. This may be interpreted in two complementary
ways, depending on whether the bottom of each hexagram is considered to be
on the outer or inner side of the circle. Arguably they may be understood
as alternating between the two interpretations (see Alternating
between Complementary Conditions for sustainable dialogue, vision, conference,
policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1983).
- Tensegrity within tensegrity: Just as a two-dimensional wheel can
be viewed bimodally, or extended to form an additional range of "petals",
or can be folded to form a three-dimensional sphere, the latter can also be
developed in ways to model additional forms of conceptual significance. In
the case of a tensegrity, certain non-contiguous polarities can be projected
from around the circumference until they intersect at points defining a larger
circumference sharing a centre in common with that within. This derives in
part from the well-known possibility of nesting of the basic polyhedra.
In making extensive use of metaphor
above, the question this raises is the extent to which any metaphor has been "stretched"
beyond a "breaking point." This question is especially interesting in
relation to polarities (typically represented by linear rods) -- especially when
they are collectively used to define a wheel. The question is given focus in the
above discussion of the transition in metaphoric construction from using straight
rods (cages, stockades, etc) to the deliberate bending of such rods as a basis
for other types of construction (boats, airplanes). It might be argued that the
degree of curvature that a rod can tolerate in construction, without breaking,
suggests a way of thinking about the degree of stretching to which a metaphor
may itself be subjected. The degree of curvature is also relevant to reflection
on self-reflexive conceptualization. The curvature of the rod, and the tension
under which it is maintained, may be understood as being sustained by associations
"tied" to the ends of polarities (simply illustrated in the case of
an archer's bow). Such end connections are effectively "associative knots"
-- possibly to be understood like hypotheses or theories.
In response to the initial preoccupation regarding thanking about thinking
in the writing process over a period of decades, the exploration above suggests
that the process might be understood through the interrelationships between
the following metaphors :
- carpet weaving: The process might be understood as one of weaving
richer and more complex carpets or tapestries to furnish a conceptually congenial
shelter. Such carpets might even be understood as having functions intuited
in the myth of "magic carpets".
- poetry-making: Equally it might be understood as one of articulating
subtler associations between the disparate features of reality to bind them
into a single aesthetic pattern.
- playing: Or the process might be understood as the playful exploration
of patterns, using the totally contrasting primitive forms of rods (polarities,
dilemmas, paradoxes) and strings (associative relationships), to render explicit
or comprehensible values that would otherwise remain hidden, implicit or unsaid.
- journeying: travelling *****
- uterine muscles: The circular configuration of the muscles of the
uterus suggests a degree of isomorphism with the magnetic bottle. Their contractions
at birth, suggest that configurations of conceptual polarities may be associated
with a form of conceptual birth or renaissance (Challenges
of Renaissance: suggestive pattern of concerns in the light of the birth metaphor,
2003). This understanding relates to the vesica
piscis (with its mandorla), as a classical symbol of the birth
passage and the divine feminine.
The recognition of polarities, and the avoidance of being trapped within (or by)
any one of them, is an attitude traditionally articulated in Buddhism as the Middle
Way: "Too tight, and it'll break. Too slack, and it'll be loose. Neither
tight nor slack, and it will turn out right".
Characteristically -- as
in the polarities of walking -- this avoids avoidance, seeking a balance between
attachment and detachment. (see Victor Mansfield. Time
and Impermanence in Middle Way Buddhism and Modern Physics
Classic Buddhist Texts on the Middle
). This balance has been explored elsewhere through the dynamics of
of Alternation: their significance for development policy-making
Responding to the constraining configuration of polarities points to another mode
Whatever the defining metaphor, the stages in the conceptual process may be
fruitfully viewed as stepping stones -- models only capable of bearing weight
temporarily as part of the dynamic of crossing the river of change. Progress
through the above text could also be understood as following the notes in a
musical score -- "plucking" or "bonging" (as on a child's
xylophone) at each point!
The future may come to think of the conceptual activity in the thinking process
over decades as somewhat akin to playing on the many keyboards of a conceptual
organ. In this sense, and following Varela's enactivist articulation of "laying
down a path in walking", the future is then composed and played into being
-- offering far richer dimensions to the meaning of organ-ization (see also
through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation
in the present moment, 1997). Varela's phrase might be reworded as "laying
down a score in thinking".
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