Photos of collaborative artwork spearheaded by Sara London, of Mexico City.
Have you ever met a population?
Have you ever engaged in a conversation with, had an argument with, made-love to a population?
Research in the social and the biological sciences has a perpetual interest in studying populations. Every day on the TV and in the newspapers you hear about research done on populations – could be studies about men, women, various minorities; or maybe studies about people within certain income brackets or who are connected to types of workplace -- the various ways to distinguish populations is endless.
Yet, generally speaking, populations are not things we encounter in daily lives, they are academic distinctions, they are distinctions which usually have to be imposed upon life. Albeit, there may be some value in distinguishing such populations, in seeing what learnings can be gained from such distinctions, but still the distinctions are artificial, they are removed from life as it is lived. We do not meet populations. We do not engage in conversations with populations. We cannot make-love to a population. We can distinguish a population, we can take action upon a population in academic ways, but we cannot truly encounter one.
Even the most basic of distinctions such as male/female describes a combination which can only, in lived life, exist together. Concepts such as men and women, boys and girls cannot make any sense separate from each other. And not only must the two parts of the male/female distinction be acknowledged together, such conjoined distinctions can only be seen within a vast network of other distinctions and parts. Male/female only exists in worlds which might also require children, houses, jobs, money, cars, animals; it also requires things such as night and day, seasons, food, air, water, soil; and it also necessitates such things as love, hate, sex, health, illness, and on and on...
However, there is a politics of populations which must be taken account of. Population distinctions take on certain political currency. People are supposed to identify themselves as belonging to a population. In fact, community is often identified with populations.
However, I argue that community is only possible because of a vast network inclusive of much diversity. Difference, not the singularity of population, is the basis from which community is able to emerge. And perhaps here comes to light one valuable outcome, one possibility which appears from the act of distinguishing populations – we are able to use these distinctions to draw out the full richness of that which we consider to be community. For community, therefore, is not made up of single populations but of a vast diversity which includes the possibilities of men and women, children and the elderly, gay, straight, transgendered, bisexual, Christians and Sikhs, atheists and religious zealots, poor and rich, healthy and ill, etc. The population distinctions only seem to approach the realm of the alive when they are recombined, brought back together into a communal place, amidst rhizome connections, thereby assisting in the creation of that untidy and boundary-less coherence we call community.
The distinctions which interest me, however, are not the institutionalized ones, not those which have been heavily politicized, but those which are created amidst our daily interactions in life, those which appear as people interact with each other, make room for one another. These are distinctions which, ironically, enable the individual to emerge into life; that is a person with numerous unique dimensions, shifting and flowing dimensions, marking spaces in the alive which have never appeared before, and will never appear before. A person is born. A person we can meet, we can talk with, we can argue with, we might even make-love to. This person comes into life amidst the endless distinctions which the communal realm can make. Through such a process an individual is created, a person emerges who comes once into this world, and will never, ever be able to return again.
Within the alive, a rhizome muddle comes to the fore, and it is within and because of such a chaotic jumble that the very idea of community becomes even possible.
This particular passage was contributed by Lynn Hoffman, who admires, as I do, the writing and philosophy of Christopher Alexander. ________________
The word which we most often use to talk about the quality without a name is the word "alive."
There is a sense in which the distinction between something alive and something lifeless is much more general, and far more profound, that the distinction between living things and nonliving things, or between life and death. Things which are living may be lifeless; nonliving things may be alive... Beethoven's last quartets are alive; so are the waves at the ocean shore; so is a candle flame...
Christopher Alexander The Timeless Way of Building
Now I am aware of another shift. I find that I am using a channel that has to do with sensed feelings and emotions -- not the within-person kind bequeathed to us by individual psychology, but something more like an underground communication system. Being touched or moved, sending signals, receiving images, this is the vocabulary that keeps beckoning to me now.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.
And there is a distinction between finding oneself at home and trying to make oneself at home... To that extent one is not part of the ecology of what-is.
Education and the Alive
Today, we pump a little natural history into children along with a little "art" so that they will forget their animal and ecological nature and the aesthetics of being alive and will grow up to be good businessmen.
Gregory Bateson From: Mind and Nature
Something of the Body
Bearing witness is not through and through and necessarily discursive. It is sometimes silent. It has to engage something of the body, which has no right to speak.