Friday, 6th April 2012
I’ve been reading about the origins of Chaos Theory in ‘Chaos: The Amazing Science of the Unpredictable’ in James Gleick’s book. I bought it in 2009 after Ruth Little’s workshop on The Next Stage and only now got to read and finish it. I can’t understand all the mathematical equations or all the scientific jargon, but the underlying discovery by different people across different fields is fascinating. Their individual discoveries building towards a coherent theory that changed how The Natural world and The Life is understood. I can only read it in a philosophical way because I don’t understand the science of it, but it’s fascinating…
“…Feigenbaum used an understated, tough-guy vocabulary to rate such problems. Such a thing is obvious, he might say, meaning that a result could be understood by any skilled physicist after appropriate contemplation and calculation. Not obvious described work that commanded respect and Nobel prizes. For the hardest problems, the problems that would not give way without long looks into the universe’s bowels, physicists reserved words like deep. In 1974, though few of his colleagues knew it, Feigenbaum was working on a problem that was deep: chaos.”
I’ve started to see this, our city differently since I came home from Annaghmakerrig. I see doorways and bridges and steps down into the water, the height of the river, I see the Luas stop at Euston Station and I give money to everyone who asks, everyone I can, if I have it to give. Last night I left the Abbey with my mother and walked across O’Connell Bridge and a very old man was sitting on the bridge asking for money, “Sorry for beggin'’” he said as we passed, and I gave him some change, “sorry for beggin'’” he said.
“To some physicists chaos is a science of process rather than state, of becoming rather than being.”
I’ve started to tell people what I’m planning, started to tell my family, it’ll take them a while to get used to it, so I’ve started telling them. Both my father and mother individually have concerns. My aunt asked, “Will you be all right doing that?” It’s a good question! I don’t know yet if I will because I haven’t started. I need to start soon. I’ve been waiting on a few factors, the first is money to buy the bits and pieces I need, like the two sleeping bags, for me and my guest. I’m waiting on my feet to get better, the eczema is very bad at the moment, and I’m waiting on the good time to start, because I want to start with my sister and she’s busy right now.
“They believe they are looking for the whole.”
I also have concerns, the ethical considerations I mean rather than the obvious safety ones. When I started seriously considering this my circumstances were very different. I was unemployed for the last six months, and was really struggling to pay my bills and keep my house. I still am. So I felt like I was in a position where I might become homeless. I might have become homeless. That’s true, if my network of family and friends wasn’t so strong. I’m blessed with the people in my life. But I have got some freelance work now and also a grant, well, it’s on the way. The reality of it is though that there are more people in danger of becoming homeless now, than probably in any other time since the formation of the state. I’m not sure if that’s an actual fact. One to research, but with the decrease in available social housing, and the massive increase in people buying their own homes prior to ‘the boom’ time, the massive mortgages people were given during ‘the boom’ and now the crash, it seems obvious enough to assume that there is more potential for homelessness, among a greater percentage of the population, because there’s a greater percentage buying their own homes, having been encouraged to do so. The ideology of ‘owning the land’ permeating the Irish psyche for generations.
“At the same time, objects of everyday experience like fluids and mechanical systems came to seem so basic and so ordinary that physicists had a natural tendency to assume they were well understood.
It was not so.”
The possibility to buy your council house, the current Tenant Purchase Scheme 1995, encouraged tenants to buy their rented homes, offering a 3% discount for every year of dwelling, up to a maximum of 30%. The Housing Act, 1966 made it possible for Local Authority Tenants to buy their own homes, my Grandparents did it in Ballyfermot, lived frugally for the rest of their lives and the house has been on the market since my Grandfathers death in 2008, they lived in it, that’s all, they made it a cosy and modest home, there were no other benefits to owning it, for them or their children. In the last five years the number of local authority tenants opting to buy their home has dropped by nearly 90%. It makes sense, the communities where local authority tenants dwell have been hit especially hard, the suffering is starting to show in the communities, not helped by the severe cuts to the community sector.
“…you can always try to solve a problem by proving that no solution exists.”
– Lorenz’ father told him…
And that old man is sitting on O’Connell Street bridge at 10.30pm on a cold night in the wind saying “sorry for beggin'’” and there’s a good chance that he’s been there all along, all through ‘the boom’ and how did we let that happen? How are we letting that happen here and now?
“Nonlinearity means that the act of playing the game has a way of changing the rules.”
And I’m still wondering about the ethics of all this, this research and ultimately this durational performance, who I am trying to be? No one other than myself. I’m not going to pretend I’m homeless. That’s not the point. I’m not homeless. I have a home. I’m making myself homeless for a fixed period, performing homelessness in a way, but also being homeless for that period of time. If I do this though, how will that old man on the bridge feel? How will it affect him if I’m wandering around this, our city, making myself homeless? What will it do to the dynamic of my interactions with people, with my forming relationships with the people I meet who are actually homeless? I need to be really clear in my motivations and in how I relate to every one I meet. I have to stay with the Truth. This is not a game. There has to be set rules which I think through and decide on, interrogating each aspect so that I’m sure what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I think Phase II ‘Will You Sleep Rough with Me?’ will help, because I’ll have 12 hours at a time out with people I trust and can debate these questions and clarify them.
“And yet relation appears,
A small relation expanding like the shade
Of a cloud on sand, a shape on the side of a hill.”
- Wallace Stevens, “Connoisseur of Chaos” “
This has to be my story, because that’s the only story I have full permission to tell. I can’t take about this issue in the abstract. It’s not right or fair or equal to make presumptions on a life other than my own. I only know what you tell me, you only know what I tell you. I have to experience it myself to understand, to experience in a very small way, within limited parameters, and then maybe I can talk about it. There’s a difference between knowledge and experience, book learning and The Life.
“The notion of self-similarity strikes ancient chords in our culture. An old strain in Western thought honors the idea. Leibniz imagined that a drop of water contained a whole teeming universe, containing, in turn, water drops and new universes within. “To see the world in a grain of sand,” Blake wrote, and often scientists were predisposed to see it. … But self-similarity withered as a scientific principle, for a good reason.”
My Grandfather told me I was very adaptable. “Your very adaptable” he said to me not long before he died. I didn’t really understand what he meant when he said it, I wasn’t sure why he was saying it. I suppose he meant that I could change, or react to change and make it positive, I can work with the circumstances as they present themselves and do what I can within them. And I think he meant it as a compliment, I’m sure he did, and I’m glad he said it to me, because it’s stayed with me and it’s not something I would have noticed about myself, it reassures me now. I can adapt to the circumstances outside myself and work with them. I’m not always aware I’m doing that when it’s happening, I just react and go with it. I don’t always find it easy either. Change is hard, it’s tricky and confusing and sometimes I spiral into small mode, I become small in the world, less than I used to, it’s subtler now, but it still happens. Then I notice it because it’s not comfortable for me any more and I make adjustments and get back to myself again. I know that I’ve learned to do that over the last ten years, become self aware and gained, incrementally, the ability to develop the aspects of my character for the better. And I suppose that’s the inside part of me that doesn’t change, that’s the core of me that’s solid, no matter what the external circumstances, and I’m wondering more and more about that. What is it? Can it be defined as mental health? I think that’s reductive. It’s an essence, a core, a solid place inside that I think every human being has, and I think that’s the part that grapples with the darkness that struggles with being alive and why we’re here. That comes to terms pushing that rock up the hill in the society we have and are constructing. I’m not sure it’s quantifiable at all but I’m interested in investigating it.
“For now, the excitement went beyond pure science. Scientists who saw these shapes allowed themselves to forget momentarily the rules of scientific discourse. Ruelle, for example: “I have not spoken of the esthetic appeal of strange attractors. These systems of curves, these clouds of points suggest sometimes fireworks or galaxies, sometimes strange and disquieting vegetal proliferations.
A realm lies there of firms to explore, and harmonies to discover.” “
Here & Now is happening, right now. I’m in it. I have to remind myself to practice that. I have to practice here and now “I have no future, I have no past, just here and now”. My Grandfather used to say “Yesterday’s history, Tomorrow’s a mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s Why we call it the present”. It turned up in ‘Kungfu Panda’ after he died and I cried in the cinema in Finchley Road. I love that. I loved his optimism and his small joys in his life and he lived to be 92 so it was obviously a trusted philosophy for him.
“Schwenk did not believe in coincidence. He believed in universal principles, and, more than universality, he believed in a certain spirit in nature that made his prose uncomfortably anthropomorphic. His ‘archetypal principle’ was this:
that flow ‘wants to realize itself, regardless of the surrounding material’.”
I met her today getting up out of a car park doorway and turning up into Wicklow Street. She was crying and we walked in step for a while. “I’m sick of this life” she said, “I can’t do this any more” I asked would she not call into Focus as I gave her the change I had in my pocket, “No, I’m going into a hostel” she said, “I’m not on drugs” would you not go up to the place off Thomas Street, get a sandwich even, talk to a key worker, “I can’t do this any more” she said, tears on her young face. “That’s me brother” she said and walked into the street to meet him, her sleeping bag wrapped round her waist flowing behind her. And I realized I needed the information, and I needed not to cry myself, not in the moment, I need the information, because I’m not homeless, and I won’t be pretending I am. I won’t be passive in this, our city, if I can take any action I will, if I can, if it’s appropriate. And I wondered how I’ll gauge that. I am myself, I am only myself. So that’s how I’ll gauge it, just like I did this evening. In the moment. I’ll know. When I know I’ll do, when I don’t I won’t.
I need the information.
Saturday, 7th April 2012
“Every new molecule would be surrounded by its own spirals and flame-like projections, and those, inevitably, would reveal molecules tinier still, always similar, never identical, fulfilling some mandate of infinite variety, a miracle of miniaturization in which every new detail was sure to be a universe of its own, diverse and entire.”
I dreamt last night that I was buying two tiny sleeping bags, water proof and shiny. I was consulting with the person in the shop asking questions and looking at how small they folded up, compact. And in the dream I knew that I wouldn’t have them for long, but I was buying them any way. And then at some point, in another place not near the shop, I was told by some one in the dream to look down at my bare feet, and I looked down and moved my foot up and as I looked it was all perfectly clear, the skin was perfectly clear, the colour typical and I was really happy.
“The concept of entropy comes from thermodynamics, where it serves as an adjunct of the Second Law, the inexorable tendency of the universe, and any isolated system in it to slide toward a state of increasing disorder.”
My sleep pattern flipped about a month ago now. It flipped to me being still awake at 5am, 6am in the morning looking out the window at the sky, turning over, trying to sleep, turning back on the light, reading another chapter of Chaos, turning off the light, closing my eyes, not sleeping, looking out at the sky. Partly because of the new things happening, partly because I’ve a pain in my soul, partly because of the eczema which is hurting my feet, especially the left, for ages now. I then miss the morning and miss part of the day sometimes. Yesterday I thought I’d get up, after about an hours sleep and push through to regulate this. I got up at 6am and pushed through the day, very tired. I had lunch with a friend, went to my other friend’s gig in Tower Records, (she was amazing!) went to Project to see The Fall (Beautiful and Amazing), stayed in the bar talking to friends and then went home relatively early in the hopes of getting a proper sleep. It didn’t really work, I didn’t really sleep again last night, and got up late again today. The feeling of being out of sync, disorientated, not in the same pattern as the societal world infuses my life right now.
“Entropy is the name for the quality of systems that increases under the Second Law – mixing, disorder, randomness. The concept is easier to grasp intuitively than to measure in any real-life situation.”
I think its part of this. Sleep deprivation, not sleeping comfortably, sore feet, looking out at the sky, not sleeping.
“’You don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to perceive it’,
Shaw said, echoing Thomas S. Kuhn.”
“Dynamical things are generally counterintuitive, and the heart is no exception.”
The heart is no exception. There are no exceptions, everything is fluid. I woke up with the thought that part of the problem is trying to fix the whole. The whole is not the reality. The girl said, “I’m not going into a hostel, I don’t take drugs.” The solution for the girl on the street getting up out a doorway and crying that she can’t live this life any more, is currently a hostel. Considering the whole, the whole society, it appears reasonable, there’s a dry warm bed there in a hostel staffed by key workers, she’ll be ‘safe’ there. She doesn’t think so, she doesn’t believe that and she knows because she’s experienced it. The solution offered to her is no solution. For her. It is not a solution for her last night as the temperature dropped and she cried “I’m sick of this life”. She wasn’t more than 18 if she was even. The solution can’t be so broad, so concerned with the whole that it misses the individual within. This, our city, is made up of individuals, all living in the same space, all not living in the same space simultaneously. The solutions to what’s ailing and failing us require us to see each person in the system. To look at the individual needs within the whole. And I know that’s complicated and I know its more complex than large, the large brush strokes approach, but it has to be considered. There has to be a focus on that young girl and her needs last night. In some way there needs to be an attempt to view the world from the perspective of each person within it. It’s not enough to presume the solution based on the majority and put it into action, if it doesn’t apply to each person within. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m thinking about it now.
I should have asked her what she needed instead of offering her solutions that I hadn’t experienced myself.
“With all such control phenomena, a critical issue is robustness: how well can a system withstand small jolts. Equally critical in biological systems is flexibility: how well can a system function over a range of frequencies.
A locking-in to a single mode can be enslavement, preventing a system from adapting to change.”
How can the system support every individuals needs? It doesn’t seem feasible, and yet it seems to me more reasonable than leaving that girl walking the streets last night in this, our city. It also feels like there’s potential there to explore. The Life is big enough for every one, there is space for every one, if we choose to see it, and make the room. If I look from too far a distance I see the bigger picture, perhaps, but I also miss the small details, the intricacies of things, and the Truth is in the detail, the small details tell me things that the bigger picture avoids. I am myself, I am only myself. Becoming. I believe every other person is too. I’m becoming in myself, and each person is too. I’m not moving at the same rate, in the same way, in the same direction as everyone, even if I’m in the same space. I have my own kinesphere within that to navigate. There’s cross-over, there’s similarity, but there’s also complete difference of experience, even within shared experience there’s the issue of perception.
“Arnold Mandell: Is it possible that mathematical pathology, i.e. chaos, is health?
And that mathematical health, which is predictability and differentiability of this kind of structure, is disease?
(...) When you reach an equilibrium in biology you’re dead.”
I like that. I like that I can be part of society and yet be an individual within it. I can be part of my peer group, which is a kind of a ridiculous phrase actually as I write it, peer group? Who is that? I have a number of groups of friends that come from all different times and places in my life. They are not a cohesive group. There are a number of individuals that I am friends with, have shared time and experiences with. One to one, as a group, but ultimately each friend I have remains an individual connection I’ve made in The Life. A few years ago, I thought this was a problem, and I wanted all my friends to meet each other and become friends also, so I organised a trip to the Zoo for my birthday because a number of my friends have children now, I thought it was a good shared activity for this experiment! It didn’t go that well! It was a lovely day, but I failed to reach my objective! Some people couldn’t come at all, others came and did their own thing in their own group, and people came at different times and took different paths around the Zoo. All perfectly reasonable, and I walked between people and had different interactions with them over the course of the day and time there. Just like in The Life. And I like that now. I meet people and share time and a connection with them on an individual basis, even in a group situation.
“Pattern born amid formlessness: that is biology’s basic beauty and it’s basic mystery.
Life sucks order from a sea of disorder.”
And still we are all connected. We are all part of the whole, but as individuals. Each person has their own relationship to the every other person. Big or small, miniscule in some instances, but all are connected, there is a thread connecting all of us together in The Life. As Moby so dynamically put it “We Are All Made of Stars” !! And I love that. I love that idea. Why do I love that? I suppose because it’s infused by energy and potential. It’s the notion that The Life is dynamic, it is moving toward something, it’s changing and growing and moving always. That there’s the potential for something to happen in every moment, ever second a microcosm of forever and ever, it can change on a pin. And without rationalizing, looking back, I can usually see the why of each situation and how it moved me forward, moved me toward something better, moved me into the here and now. And I love that.
“Somehow, after all, as the universe ebbs towards its final equilibrium in the featureless heat bath of maximum entropy, it manages to create interesting structures. Thoughtful physicists concerned with the workings of thermodynamics realize how disturbing is the question of, as one put it, ‘how a purposeless flow of energy can wash life and consciousness into the world’.”