Tag Archives: data

… ambiguity – living & writing the mystery …

‘The Magician,’ a painting by Silvia Pastore

Ambiguity is my name. I’m burdened or blessed with a self-reliant streak. Major decisions in my life were made intuitively, magically, spontaneously. I tend to escape the tedium of – must – have to – social coercion – small mindedness, and the like, via stretches of doubt, waiting for the sixth sense and moments of clarity to kick in.  You guess right, I dislike rigid structures, uniformity and over regulations that kill creativity. I juggle for authenticity. A glimpse into the psychology of this stance appears in this post from 2012 – the wild horse of the mind,  but possibly rebels are simply born with a disposition to serve social balance and individual autonomy.

Ambiguity moves (as in emotion) – is subtle – complex – questions facts – tolerates uncertainty – leaves doors open – is universal and timeless – playful and iconoclastic – tends to link dust motes to the cosmos and embraces multiple meanings.

I climbed into the plum tree and ate the grapes I found there. The owner of the garden called to me, ‘Why are you eating my walnuts?’    …  Yunus Emre

My son ordering my stone collection …

There is beauty in order and certainty.

 There is beauty in chaos and uncertainty.    

Ivan Aivazkovsky – Between the Waves

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life serves up both, be it in slow motion or in rapid succession. 

From the tension between order and chaos springs creativity.

To strike a balance is becoming difficult. Scientists, today’s explorers, provide useful facts that endlessly improve our lives, bless them, but unlike individuals and small businesses, they can indulge in mistakes, because science funding continuous even when facts prove wrong and change, because it aids the economy. To use a quaint example, one moment coffee is said to kill us, next it is lauded as beneficial. The list of contradictions is endless, and amusing. Statistics, as expedient as they are, skip the varied metabolisms of individuals, the whim and wisdom of the body. Some bad stuff, in moderation, actually maintains the body/mind equilibrium. And there are the cosmic and psychic weather changes we have no control over that affect individual moods and attitudes. In short, the tyranny of algorithms that dictate what is good for us can be counterproductive.

Since having taken the risk of making time for writing, with less duties and roles to consider, I’m tolerant of disorder. My personal erratic filing, analogue or digital, starts out well, but as data builds up, valuable notes, articles and images sit unattended and unconnected, until I vaguely remember an item that might fit a present concern. It takes a day or two day fretting over, but if I open the question as to the whereabouts of particular information in the Noosphere  my brain eventually makes the connection and goes ‘ping.’

I prefer this disorderly memory system. It liberates and enables me to switch off  ‘overwhelmed,’ providing a descent amount of inner peace.

John Keats (in 1817) coined the term negative capability for his preference of intuition and uncertainty above reason and knowledge. His definition chimes, though for me, ‘living the mystery’ sums it up better.

Writing from intuition resulted in my first novel, ‘Course of Mirrors, continued with a sequel venturing into SF, and a third book. There was no plan, only an initial image. From there on the characters created their world. My personal myth added spice and deepened the narrative, making it universally relevant.

I write for the pleasure of sharing the diverse experiences of my personal myth. My gut feeling tells me we need more living and writing through mystery.

another relevant post  the magic of remembrance

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… moans from an unruly writer …

Installation by Frederick Franck

Installation by Frederick Franck

While I write, wrestle with style, query words battling for attention and set out sequences to string ideas together, anyone watching me might assume I’m a nervous wreck. My body, perfectly able to string an arrow to a bow and hit a target, has a wild notion of focus when it comes to writing. It shifts and wriggles, gets up pretending I need a coffee, ends up cleaning the sink, checks the porch for post and so on, all the while allowing my word sculpting to continue until, bingo …. I rely on intuition, which slips into little silences, opens a crack in the surface of things and reveals a hidden layer, and, occasionally offers a glimpse into the infinity of now. A tiny glimpse is all it takes to relax, sharpen senses and spark a creative dialogue between my inner voices that often quarrel and fool around like the average family.

I respect moderate conflict, it stirs up mud but clears the air, and even when the inner crowd gets fed-up with listening – grace, solitude, or a good night’s sleep bring additional insights, bridge divides and re-establish a tolerable rhythm of chaos and peace.

Am I fooling myself? Is my knack for intuition just guesswork. Is it inborn? Does it evolve with experience, as a kind of deeper listening skill humanity moves towards? Can it be learned? Is it worth defending? Or is it the relic of a go-with-the-flow philosophy that avoids closer analysis of my thought processes and behaviour? I seem to struggle with two kinds of temperaments, one looking for the particle and the other for the wave, stretched between rational and irrational numbers. The two temperaments compete but need each other.

Pilgrim Fool by Celcil Collins

Pilgrim Fool by Celcil Collins

Scientists and statisticians tend to approach the unknown rationally, and seem set to eradicate human incompetence and messiness. Some frenzied rational prophets go as far as knocking anything that can’t be quantified and evidenced. I value logic, what annoys me is the attitude that scoffs at people who hold hands with the fool.

There are more reliable methods than the vagaries of intuition, shown in a New York Times piece by Gary Wolf ‘The Data Driven Life’ from April 2010,  a long but brilliant article that received many pages of diverse comments. Not everyone is keen on the Quantified Self.

I resist being monitored and quantified by data, fixed as particle, ticked off for my risk-taking folly, my random cross-referencing. The geeks and outliers the article describes have fun recording their every move. And I grant that someone suffering from high blood pressure or apnoea benefits from being nudged by a gadget to take a deep breath. I remember being excited and applauding the first biofeedback devices that affirmed how thoughts affect our physiology and vice versa. When it comes to data dependency, I have a hunch it will starve emotional intelligence, which I strongly believe develops through mastery of language.

Working a few years for Social Services, we used to write narrative assessments until a computer programme with tick boxes was introduced. We hated it. Conveying observations in writing was shoved aside as time-consuming, subjective and vague, while quantitative recording was hailed as reliable, though its data hinges no less on interpretation and application.

Recently I skimmed an article suggesting future novels will be written by computers. My cynic leapt from its slumber and argued that a machine hasn’t got 100 Billion neurons and can’t be intimate with nature, is immune to changing metabolisms and moods – hour by hour, night and day. Immune to what comes on the breath, with wind, dust, rain and radio waves that travel through the cosmos, nor is a machine influenced by dreams, synchronicities, diets, layers of revolving memories, kind gestures, general anxieties, rejection, loss of control, loss of a loved one, global news … the unpredictable influx of thoughts and emotions that our mind continuously sifts, evaluates and re-interprets.

Irrational humans can’t be quantified and controlled, which may be why since ancient times there has been an ambition to create artificial beings.  Here a bit of fun from Turing and his colleague Strachey – a reasoned-out love letter, achieved through programming a 1951 computer to make sentences via algorithms, having been fed on love synonyms from a Thesaurus:

Honey Dear – My sympathetic affection beautifully attracts your affectionate enthusiasm. You are my loving adoration: my breathless adoration. My fellow feeling breathlessly hopes for your dear eagerness. My lovesick adoration cherishes your avid ardour.

Yours wistfully, M.U.C. (Manchester University Computer)

…. M. U. C. is eager, if a little verbose and breathless 🙂

Since then, artificial intelligence is even more breathless with numbers, but operates highly sophisticated technology that improved the quality of our lives. I admit I’m fascinated by the concept of cyborgs, but don’t want to get plucked into the human network protocol .

Our privacy is at stake. And our relationship with nature? … its record of life and the human experience, the treasure house of the collective unconscious, translated and re-membered through DNA, invisible spheres and the very light we breathe. Anything alive changes from moment to moment. And our experiences, insights and expectations have a vital part in the changing.

Nature is the book I grew up with, it taught me stuff:                                                                                                       About growing … put a seed into earth, tend to its needs and its story flowers.                                                        About resilience … a seedling lost in a dark corner will grow towards any spot of light, no matter how it must bend and curl its stalk around obstacles.                                                                                                                                       About connections … the dynamic geometry of the tiniest plants and vast galaxies are reflected in each other.

Enough samples to show the obvious – nature teaches through metaphors. My theme is resilience. I take risks and accept that struggling makes me inventive, expands my consciousness, polishes my heart and challenges me to think for myself.

My moan extends to the growing practice of enticing people to emulate machines in service of progress and economic efficiency, in jobs that dull the senses and dull the mind.

Meanwhile I cheer the unruly folk, including fools, dreamers, innovators, artists, poets and writers with an ear towards the hidden – who translate past and future newly into the present – the open-minded, who can tolerate conflict, value intuitive signals that chime in the heart, and who can occasionally endure being suspended like a leaf on a gossamer thread.

What do you, my reader, think?

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… storytelling and the primary world …

Knowledge is not the rare gem it used to be. Then again, without recording, analysing, sorting, summarising, calculating and disseminating mega quantities of data we’d have none of our ingenious toys to play with. Without statistics our systems would grind to a halt, and, yes, it’s annoying that almost daily yet another quantitative study announces what’s good, or detrimental, for our well-being. Thankfully, none of the churned out evidenced facts can make a claim on meaning. Humans remain idiosyncratic. We apply messy values to our life-choices, and we frequently ignore the logical road signs of scientific landscapes, or blank out the hassle of linear time.

Wind

 

Instead, we are tossed along by emotional encounters, the unexpected, are awestruck after a quantum leap of intuition, and are generally guided by what appeals to a body/mind that likes the stimulation of nature, her moods, seasons, the phases of day and night suggesting action or repose, like the in-and-out-breath, between which we may catch a glimpse of a dream, a relevant truth, an eternity even. Hardly anyone I know is without this conflict: liking order and control, as well as yearning for rapport with the dance and rhythm of nature.

Over 300 years ago G W von Leibnitz, who could’ve been a poet, was gripped by an emerging idea, to collate all human knowledge and to systematize it via a common language. Computers would have been his bliss. He loved to correspond with most scholars in Europe during this baroque era. And he might have gone some way to explain the whole universe in the hope to solve every conceivable problem. Paradoxically, he also stated … the universe had to be imperfect otherwise it would not be distinct from God. Near the end of his life, Leibniz wrote in a letter that combining metaphysics with mathematics and science through universal characters would require creating what he called:

a kind of general algebra in which all truths of reason would be reduced to a kind of calculus. At the same time, this would be a kind of universal language or writing, though infinitely different from all such languages which have thus far been proposed; for the characters and the words themselves would direct the mind, and the errors — excepting those of fact — would only be calculation mistakes. It would be very difficult to form or invent this language or characteristic, but very easy to learn it without any dictionaries …

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characteristica_universalis

I’m not doing honour to this remarkable man, so here is a sketch of a biography … http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Leibniz.html … should you have the patience to read this, note the time it took for letters between Leibniz and Newton to be delivered, which makes me admire the tenacity of these scientists.

The notion of a calculus for a universal language intrigues and troubles me. Nature speaks a language everyone understands. Key-terms of my mother tongue (see my last blog post) easily bring back the plot of land my toddler feet bounced across. The stories I most enjoy writing grow organically, with tendrils of their roots nourished by the alpine woods and hills of my childhood.

But things change. Data collation is now available to authors, promising control, over marketing, though formulas and blueprints are now offered for the creative process, like how to write a novel in four week. Imagination serves many masters and is not easily controlled – its life-sap flows through all forms. Totempole 4

We can only explore everything known continuously in fresh situations and move on, in the way that children and creative people place a familiar object into a new context. The play of imagination destroys and creates, and has the power to shift the meaning of our past, present and future.

‘There is the truth of truth as well as the truth of fact.’                   D.H. Lawrence

Being part of the dynamic process of evolution (which Philippa Rees ingeniously terms ‘Involution’ in her book of that title) we are walked by the tightrope of ecstasy and pain, of dependencies on environments and people, for better or worse, dependencies on beliefs too, mostly not by choice, but driven by binding needs.

Couple shadow series, 3a small

We face exploitation, conflict, sudden change, harmony alternating with phases of chaos – the story of life, a record marked in DNA and every tree trunk. Instigating control, or preaching harmony while shading off the dark, the chaos, the collective psyche of humanity, will only repeat the distortions of otherwise genuine messages from enlightened thinkers, sages and prophets.

It would serve us as well to teach our children how to accept the dark and how to deal with conflict. Reading the collected folk tales of the Grimm Brothers to children would be a start.

Dore - public-domain-image

Dore – public-domain-image

The inspired P L Travers, author of Mary Poppins, had a talent for highlighting the vital function of myth, symbol and story. She shared her reflections in a collection of essays that appeared in Parabola Magazine. The essays were later published in a book, titled: ‘What the Bee Knows.’

She wrote … The Primary World, in order to go on living, needs the things man cannot create – the earth with all its composted dead, the rain that raineth every day, the seasons, nightfall, silence – and the ear free of all pulsation but that of its own blood.

… The Primary World is that which has never been invented but came into being, along with the blood stream, as a legacy from the Authors who, according to Blake, are in Eternity. All the rest is manmade, or as Tolkien has it – sub-created.

As a writer I sub-create and grow stories from within, using images and words that resonate with personal experiences, myths and visions that provide an ever-changing way of relating to myself, to others and the worlds we share. So when Travers says … nothing is truly known until it is known organically … this chimes for me.

We forget – a happy fault – imagine there was no pause between one dream and another, no night. We forget so we can re-member creatively, which takes practice. We walk on star dust and ancestral bones that inform our bloodstream, as much as the stories of this world nourish our imagination, continuously re-shuffling our psyche, which explains our function as being the bridge between matter and spirit. Every bee knows this.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

What the Bee Knows, by P L Travers http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Bee-Knows-Arkana-Travers/dp/0140194665/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376737128&sr=1-3&keywords=what+the+bee+knows   Wow, no reviews

Parabola Magazine: http://www.parabola.org/

‘Involution’ by Philippa Rees: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/30171.Philippa_Rees

 

Images are mine unless the captures say otherwise.

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