Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Beauty of Fractals - Images of Complex Dynamical Systems

... I realised that the straight line leads to the downfall of mankind. But the straight line has become an absolute tyranny. The straight line is something cowardly drawn with a rule, without though or feeling; it is the line which does not exist in nature. And that line is the rotten foundation of our doomed civilisation. Even if there are places where it is recognised that this line is rapidly leading to perdition, its course continues to be plotted... Any design undertaken with the straight line will be stillborn. Today we are witnessing the triumph of rationalistic knowledge and yet, at the same time, we find ourselves confronted with emptiness. An aesthetic void, desert of uniformity, criminal sterility, loss of creative power. Even creativity is prefabricated. We have become impotent. We are no longer able to create. That is real sterility.
Friedensreich Hundertwasser 

As Galileo Galilei so powerfully stated the credo in 1623:
Philosophy is written in this grand book -- I mean the Universe -- which stands continuously open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language in which it is written...
This statement is at the basis of much of the spiritual exploration of humanity. In Judaism we have the Torah, which is the Word of God - and Hebrew which represents the primordial alphabet. Each deep exploration into the complex environment in which we are born follows a similar path. Just as our lives being knowing nothing, and we have to explore our own (and others') grand narratives through the world around us.

He continues to make a definitive statement, and this statement has become an axiom of belief, one of the basic tenets of the what I would term the modern religion: science.
It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.
The three pillars of that world view - Euclidean geometry, Galilean mathematics, and Newtonian physics. They formed a mighty edifice and it stood for over 300 years, eventually ruling over us with a might that has never been seen before. As we stand on the precipice of a new age.

However, that is not where our story ends. For some 350 years later, Benoit Mandlebrot, in 1984, asked - just as Galileo questioned the geocentricity of the solar system:
Why is geometry often described as cold and dry? One reason lies in its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline, or a tree. Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line... ...Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity. The number of distinct scales of length of patterns is for all purposes infinite.

 He continues, and I think that in this is a recipe for our future:
The existence of these patterns challenges us to study these forms that Euclid leaves aside as being formless, to investigate the morphology of the amorphous. Mathematicians have disdained this challenge, however, and have increasingly chosen to flee from nature by devising theories unrelated to anything we see or feel.
And this is where I will leave this for today.

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Monday, July 13, 2020

Four days of Quiet

Living up in the Amatole Mountains in the Eastern Cape, we often encounter nature in a more personal and rather intimate fashion than I have experienced in more urban environments. For the last four days we did not have any electricity, though we do have running water fed from a nearby stream. Consequently, I am behind in some important near-term goals that could positively impact my future, and thus I cannot spend as much time describing this morning thoughts as I would have. There are also some interesting jewels of thoughts that arose during my four day Sabbatical during which I was reading a book of Chassidic tales, mixed with a deep dive into the some of the underlying mathematics and thus philosophical ideas at the base of fractals and the Mandelbrot set. Fascinating stuff.

But, to remain present for now, the thought this morning was regarding the feeling of sitting last night, once again, in the shadowy flickering lights of candles and firelight, unwashed and silent. The night sky clear and full of twinkling stars, deep darkness whispering all around. I was still, but waiting. And this morning, with electricity coursing through our home, revelling in the feeling of hot water cleansing me after four days, and thought of all those who are cannot wash when they need to, and how it is to live under that duress.

I am humbled and grateful for the blessing that I have in my life, and my prayers and thoughts go out to those who do not have this blessing of water, and comfort.

We say prayers and blessing for the sunlight and the moon, the seas and the water that sustains us, the food that nourishes and the love that surrounds us. But we do not bless the light that comes from this power that we have named electricity. It is, in fact, a "greater" light than that that has come from the sound. Some say it is ancient sunlight. It provides us power, and at present, we can no longer survive without it. 

Once the lights came on again, what did strike me was the difference in the electrical light versus the firelight. The former radiated its light outwards, illuminating all in its path, whereas the latter, fire light, was much more seductive in its interplay of dark and light, and drew one in to its flitting center.

Have a wonderful day.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Radio inteview with Lyn Spirit Eagle

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Morning Thought

Every morning while luxuriating in the incredible privilege of having heated water running over my body, a "thought" enters my mind. It generally crystalises enough to enable me to capture it. For we all know how many thoughts, ideas, concepts, are like wisps, misty fingers almost touching for a moment, like the promise of a caress - for a moment there, and then gone... forever. Whereas our feelings are more like that of reacting to the touch of someone - whether liked or not, attractive or not, allowed or not.

What is a thought anyways? How do we even manage to think thoughts? Even dreaming up such a mechanism is amazing. Scientists spend their time collecting data, and trying to find the "thing" that thinks. Is it the brain, or the electrical synapses? Those that delve into such things are becoming quite esoteric, talking about Bose-Einstein condensates, and other such amazing concepts to try and explain this incredible event.

The outstanding event is not that we think at all - for we assume that many more evolved animals both on sea and on land, are able to think. Even, perhaps, the awareness that we think, and exist, might not be special, for animals might be able to do that too.

No... the actual element that differentiates us, is not that we think, or are aware that we exist, but of death, and the time that stretches from your birth to your death. (tombstone with date picture). That time in which we create a narrative that runs parallel with your actual life, and has a big part in determining who you will be (if a youth) and who you are (once mature).

This morning my thoughts were around the Covid-19 pandemic raging in this time as I was considering a journey to the closest major city - East London. The images of entering this world of masks and crazy responses to the spread of a flu flitted through my mind. Imaging interacting with this world, and like a worm retreating from an unpleasantness, so I felt myself retracting. As long as I can keep away from the Covid-19 infection, I will. And it is not the virus I am afraid of, but the people's reaction to the threat of viral infection is scaring me. It has that brutish, reactive, thoughtless feeling like a mob preparing for a rampage. At this point, it is still just small breakouts, like little flames. The conflagration is yet to come.

What if we declared a Covid free zone where we lived? I mean, one in which we just live normally, and accept the fact that we have a flu moving through our village, and it may infect a certain number of people, and some may even die. But we need to deal with those who are in need, and the rest of us need to continue living our lives and supporting and sustaining one another.

For I can promise you one thing, that the aftermath of this pandemic will be catastrophic. We can already see that the world we will emerge into, will not be the same as the one we have left behind. Even if it is only with masks, and disinfectant, and plastic shields, that we will be living with now, that will not be what the "end game" will be. With the amount of power politics in the world. With men (and women) with egos massive enough to believe that they can make rational decision for millions  - an absurdity which we have bought into as well as we continue to vote for people to hold such positions of power over us.

Either we believe that our government and governing bodies have the ability to sort out this mess, or we don't. If the former, then wait and see. If the latter, then we need to get off our butts and start organising ourselves out of this mess before it is too late - otherwise we are going to descend into the same sort of quagmire as Zimbabwe - an economic mess with a dictatorial overlords ruling over everyone and luxuriating in the spoils of their lifestyles.

I did not think it was going to end up here, but once again, my call is to organise ourselves into a self-sustaining network of communities.  Let's call it the Tree of Life Network.

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