Category Archives: experiential learning

Collaboration & Serendipity

Cleveland Ohio artist Stephen Calhoun
I.

FORTUITY [f. L. fortu‹imacbreve›t-us, f. forte by chance, f. fors chance + -ous.]

That happens or is produced by fortune or chance; accidental, casual.
OED

Between 2005-2012, when I was researching serendipity as a decisive aspect of adult development, I brought together a simple insight with the older language of Albert Bandura to formulate a central concept, strategic fortuity.

This concept describes the accidental event that changes everything, and so generates ensuing connective reconfigurations far into the future. But this is not linear at all, so the actual cascade of fortuity acts as a multiplier–as the singular event broadcasts potential and actual instantiations causally related to, but not necessarily in the same order, of the originating serendipitous event. This applies also to the conditions at the time of the eventuated fortuity because those conditions are themselves brought about by prior fortuities.

Example. You met your partner through a marvelous happenstance and soon enough this happenstance sets you on the doorstep of a new house and as it turned out this new dwelling came to you by accident. A strategic fortuity concretely synergizes other fortuities, fortuity fueling fortuity, contingency chained to contingency.

Once you know how strategic fortuity works as a kind of gating and connective circuit completing factor in a social cybernetic routine, there can be very few truly innocent (and naked of contingency,) arrivals of novel data, and, at the second order, of transformative experience, and, at the third order, of novel opportunity or exceptional possibility.

Artist Stephen Calhoun's studio

Amina and grandfather Roger

II.
My studio in our house on a quiet inner ring suburban street on the east side of Cleveland is, during its summer season, split between the garage bay where an assembly line dedicated to sorting materials is located,  the front porch where most photographs are taken, an attic that houses the old recording studio and now is transformed into the computer-based image processing, printing, a framing center, and, the lower rear porch that is where materials are organized and stored and the still-lifes are set-up. This last location provides me with my own magical cabinet of curiosities. My art practice is centered in this room that overlooks the flower garden.

An inveterate collector of possibly useful materials and items, the set-up room inventories both the objects and the experience of obtaining each bit of stuff. Garage sales are prime sources. In 2015 I picked up a gaudy Chinese ceramic lamp and chatted up the owner, a new media curator at Oberlin. I told him how “you never know what you’ll find,” and he responded,

Of course all art is based in serendipity.

This surprised me. The normative supposition is that art reflects the masterful, thoroughgoing, control of the application of technique to materials, and these then are dynamically brought together to serve and realize an artistic vision. Because, at the time, I was clear about the odd element of serendipity, and, moreover, of underdetermination, in my own art practice, I was not prepared to embrace the man’s assertion, thinking I was a different kind of artist who was really using serendipity. Although it seemed to me that there might be a similar relation between fortuity and event in art-making as there is in scientific research, the confidently delivered ‘of course’ threw me; at the time.

III.

stephen calhoun, cleveland ohio artist
Last year the neighbor’s granddaughter expressed the single best thought yet said to me about my own art. In response to being asked what her experience of Four Observers was, Zoe, eleven years old at the time, told me,

“I had to re-adjust my brain to see farther into your picture.”

Zoe and her younger cousin Amina came to visit their grandparents a few weeks ago. When I learned the two girls were coming for a few weeks, I decided to hatch an experiment involving the two coming over to my studio to intuitively piece together set-up still-lifes. It seemed to me it was likely the girls would jump into playing around creatively in a medium not part of everyday artistic/kids’ routines. I thought I would then photograph what the two came up with and set the girls to discovering what manipulation of their own image each liked best. The bonus for me was an opportunity to do some informal, observational, qualitative research about how young people might approach a simple request to use stuff from the room full of dried plant material and objects to learn and build a, by definition, unique and personal still-life.

The experiment developed to the point I was able to capture photographs on my iPad and import the photos into iColorama, an application that provides an entire suite of manipulation routines. I showed the two how to create the mirror symmetries and other geometric recastings of the source image.

I asked the two to save favored images, as each took turns to use the iPad to manipulate the source images taken from their still life. Then each pointed out which manipulation was their single most favorite. (Those choices were later published to my timeline on Facebook.

IV.
A few days ago, while exporting photographs from my DSLR camera, I noted I had taken photographs of their set-up still-lifes! I had forgotten I had done this, and then recalled I took the raw set-ups outside to photograph right before I deconstructed the still-lifes.

The deconstruction process was one of the remarkable aspects of the experiment’s qualitative aspect. (I primed the girls’ agency right before setting each to the task by reviewing what it means to approach creativity and creating by using intuition, setting aside rules and ‘right ways,’ and, from their own sense, using the ability to ‘wing it,’ and ‘go for it.’) As I deconstructed each piece, I noted a whole slew of qualities, made especially clear by virtue of my understanding the difference between their fresh and inexperienced (with respect to my experience,) operation of the task, with how I tend to build a still-life.

Amina&Zoe_DSC0037

For example, I noted both gravitated to larger objects. Both also seemed to realize a set-up that could stand on its own. I noted there were some concealed yet clear positional coherencies. Amina’s still life is more densely packed than that of cousin Zoe.  Were either girl trying to tell a story?

Yet, it wasn’t until I saw the high resolution images pulled off the camera that I was struck–and I gasped–that I was looking at two completely novel images that could not be obtained except through the realized agency of the two cousins, and, crucially, the images could be entered into my own creative process.

Both creative products were obviously consequentially serendipitous. And, anything I might produce by subjecting the images to my own experienced, (and less fresh!) ability to manipulate the images would represent in a singular way my own result being entirely contingent upon, anchored to, the outside creative product of the two cousins.

Any art I might create from the source material provided by others would denote a collaboration forged by means of starting from novel, and, (in my terms,) a “non-reflexive” starting point. Looking at the opportunity with my own eyes I soon saw how I could leverage each of the image’s distinctive compositional and ‘field’ qualities. The images possessed strengths I could not have intentionally brought forth on my own. The strengths were of a different sort than the ones I tend to realize.

By doing a series of manipulations, I generalized and greatly abstracted the objects and object relations of the two still-lifes. The result was this art work.

artist stephen calhoun

I’ve worked in this vein several times in the past. This bundle of approaches yields a curvy dancing psychedelic energy.

V.
Next, returning to the originals, I spent time in trial-and-error mode, a mode itself networked via fortuity and possibly happy accidents. I played around with the integration of both of the cousins’ images in a single image for the sake of retaining their detail and some of their object, (or symbolic content.) Eventually, I came up with a circular mandala-like image that is tagged by several whimsical features, none more so than the lips originally found in the mask in Zoe’s image.

Unity for Zoe & Amina #1 (2017) 36x36a Stephen Calhoun

Unity for Zoe and Amina #1
 is, in my own judgment, a terrific art work. It is demonstrably so in my art practice’s given aspirational terms, in that it scaled up to a thirty-six inch diameter circular image able to realize what I am usually after: an overwhelming experience of intriguing detail and dynamic, visual, object relations. (The piece will go into my primary catalog and someday will be exhibited along with my best 36-48 inch diameter mandalas, mandala-like, and, what I call, unity, pieces.) This art work will always conceal its story of collaboration and serendipity.

VI.
The imperative of being open to unusual and original instances of source material is a pragmatic consequence of understanding that one of the only ways to assure novelty is to network and collaborate with definitively external human agencies and their unique capacities. In the case discussed here it matters very little that the capacities are naive because it matters greatly that the capacities would nevertheless support the distinctive production of materials unable to be realized any other way.

Agents like this, collaborators like this, bring unique potentialities to the table. The threads of serendipity are structurally most obvious in setting to a task people about which little is known, or, are in practice, strangers, unpracticed, inexperienced, outside the norm, or, even, randomly selected.

The over-arching conditioning of new collaborative potentials are also constructed out of all the hidden and obscure factors which, were these concretized and examined, would showcase all the accidental developmental relations which arrived to produce the actualization of exact contingent conjunctions of agency in time and space. You knock on the wrong door, I invite you in anyway!

The shorter idea about this concerns what had to happen to bring the collaborators together in the instance for which collaboration is possible. The example described here possesses critical ‘priors’ which set my studio down across the street from Roger and his granddaughters. These necessary fortuities are, as I like to put it, innumerably prolix.

The promise of novel heuristics was clarified in the experiment and its later ramifications in my art practice. It is worth supposing that there could be a possibly worthwhile problem-solving routine that involves running the problem by, for example, your children. The point of doing so has to do with networking potentially fruitful resources that are by definition possibly powerful precisely because the steward of the external resource, the outside agent, is going to come up with provisional discoveries and findings which may only be sourced in the agent’s unique flux of experience, global and local aspirations, resourcefulness, and, as it is described, fresh eyes.


 

Grandpa Roger’s blog, Fear Not, Living the Second Half of Life Unafraid, is superb.

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Live From the Well

The idea that what one has long held of a person is apt to stop one’s eyes and ears. —Marcel Proust

Elders from GLEN MILNER on Vimeo.

The self is a metaphor. We can decide to limit it to our skin, our person, our family, our organization, or our species. We can select its boundaries in objective reality As the systems theorists see it, our consciousness illuminates a small arc in the wider currents and loops of knowing that interconnect us. It is just as plausible to conceive of mind as coexistent with these larger circuits, the entire “pattern that connects,” as Bateson said. Do not think that to broaden the construct of self this way involves an eclipse of one’s distinctiveness. Do not think that you will lose your identity like a drop in the ocean merging into the oneness of Brahma. From the systems perspective this interaction, creating larger wholes and patterns, allows for and even requires diversity. You become more yourself. Integration and differentiation go hand in hand. From: ‘World as Lover, world as Self’ — Joanna Macy

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.
(Rumi, version by Coleman Barks)

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Instructed

Sol LeWitt 1928-2007

bonus:

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Sound and Sense

Music of the Spheres from Emic Films on Vimeo.

I say we are obviously as nature around us is. So that is also how our music is. But then our music must also be as we are (if two magnitudes both equal a third . . .). But then from our nature alone can I deduce how our music is (bolder men would say “how the cosmos is”). Arnold Scho?nberg

When I began, I had a very weak voice although with some melodic quality. I did not feel at all in touch with my body.

Through the use of the various sound practices, I occasionally developed a vague sense of being enlivened and having more energy, but this sensation came and went. About one year after beginning, in a group musical practice, I experienced feeling as though sound were coming, not from my vocal box, from my a place in the middle of my chest, near the pulmonary center. At the same time, I heard a ringing sound above the musical notes. These, I later found, were called overtones. I also felt a warm, expanding feeling from the heart and a kind of emotional release of joy.

This condition came and went for another 6 months. Then I had another “heart-opening” experience, which was felt as both massive pain and release of tension around the heart; I cried uncontrollably and felt I was coming apart.

Following this, I began to use the primary sound/music practice of finding a note that resonated in the heart, and singing that note every day for 15-20 minutes, using various mantric sounds. At the end of about 8 months, I could always find my way to this sound. At the same time, any catches in my throat, voice or breath that came up I began to re-experience as inhibitions and old memories that prevented me from intoning a natural sound (that is, saying who I was). report of a client of Dr. Klotz; The Key in the Dark: Self and Soul Transformation in the Sufi Tradition Neil Douglas-Klotz

A Beethoven string-quartet is truly . . . a scraping of horses’ tails on cats’ bowels, and may be exhaustively described in such terms; but the application of this description in no way precludes the simultaneous applicability of an entirely different description. -William James

Rana Gorgani – Sufi dance – Auditorium Musée Guimet – Paris from Rana Gorgani Official on Vimeo.

What we call music in our everyday language is only a miniature from that music or harmony of the whole universe which is working behind everything, and which is the source and origin of nature. It is because of this that the wise of all ages have considered music to be a sacred art. For in music the seer can see the picture of the whole universe. (Pir H.I. Khan)

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Sitting On a Porch, but not any porch

david kolb

Dave Kolb and I enjoyed the longest conversation we ever managed to conduct over the fifteen years we’ve been friends and something like, but not really exactly like, colleagues. Our shared interest is the experiential learning theory* he helped conceptualize in the late seventies. He is its principal conceptualizer over the past thirty-three years, a span that began with the publication of the cornerstone presentation of this theory, Experiential Learning, Experience As the Source of Learning and Development(revised 2015).

When Dave signed the copy of the revised edition he gave me, he named us fellow travelers. I like it. Our paths have crossed in conferences and symposia, in workshops and, especially on the softball field on Sundays in Cleveland Heights, at 10am. I encountered Dave and Alice Kolb, his wife and most essential collaborator, back in 2002 when I ventured out to thie softball field for the first time, believing at the time that I was going to assist a documentary filmmaker who wanted to make a short about the Free Play Softball League the Kolbs started as an experiment in open system and experiential learning on the old Adelbert quad.

Yet, the three hour dialog we built together this week was the longest sustained chewing session we ever attempted or accomplished. This moment was favored by dave and Alice being between book writing projects, or, otherwise freed from the usual bearing down of their research agenda. I know this from their presentation at the June conference, a presentation offloaded into a nicely organic collaborative discussion about several of their current interests.

In our dialog, after we covered sundry subjects of interest to aging men and softball teammates, we latched onto one of several subjects that interest me as an independent scholar an fellow traveler. As it turned out, this subject, where is the ongoing theory-making in experiential learning theory happening right now, had come up between Dave and Alice on their morning walk the day Dave and I settled into our chairs on his spacious front porch. After we noted that there aren’t many scholars besides the Kolbs that you can point to, we started to ideate together on shaping (just the beginning) of what the extension and further elaboration of experiential learning theory might grapple with.

This is a big subject. We touched on examples from our different interests that bend the theory-in-use a bit differently than the most secure current conception of the theory supposes is phenomenally the case. This is not a disruptive tangent to the theory because one of the enhancements of the theory would, were it to begin to be formulated, configure the theory to flex more to particular contexts. For example, my creative process does not align with the cyclical or spiral process of the current theory, rather it oscillates between concrete experience and (what I would term,) spontaneous revision, a quality of active experimentation.

We made our beginning in any case. It would be really fascinating to continue and especially to put the handful of inspired (by theory!) persons in our community or out there in the wild together, to do some chewing.

Nowadays, almost all the action in ELT is rooted to its use in consulting, pedagogical, and coaching practices. This usefulness has put evaluative and assessment tools close to the center of those activities. The biggest impact extensive new theory-making could have on current day practice would result from theorizing context-dependent, and therefor distinct differentiations according to context pressures, of the theory-in-practice. This could be given by, for example, idiographic or qualitative difference-making that is focused on particular situations and their particularities. Certainly, from the several ways I may contextualize my own practice as an experiential learning endeavor, I’m able to lightly suggest that enactive, or social cybernetic, or, negative-capable, or, neurophenomenological, or ecological, perspectives, each create different and cogent and positive pressures when these outlooks are used to describe particularities given in specific situations.

Dave and I have noted that the enactive perspective is very sharply appropriate to elaborating a bit more about the instantaneous presence involved in reacting in an embodied and learning ‘full’ way in response to being thrown a pitched ball while acting as a batter.

KOLBELTSIMPLECYCLETHEORY
The triangle at the bottom of the ELT schema reflects a kind of liminal or boundary condition for holding theorization away from its being made practical. Theorizing is begun as an impractical matter.

*Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory is a theory of learning, not a theory of learning-by-doing. It would pose itself as a meta-theory of learning-by-doing were learning-by-doing ever to be rigorously theorized.

(h/t to Mai P. Trinh for first entertaining my sense that ‘where are the theorists?’ was an interesting question.)

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Six days I stray, on number seven I try to be a little better

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0122

Here And Now
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Here, in the heart of the world,
Here, in the noise and the din,
Here, where our spirits were hurled
To battle with sorrow and sin,
This is the place and the spot
For knowledge of infinite things;
This is the kingdom where Thought
Can conquer the prowess of kings.

Wait for no heavenly life,
Seek for no temple alone;
Here, in the midst of the strife,
Know what the sages have known.

See what the Perfect Ones saw-
God in the depth of each soul,
God as the light and the law,
God as beginning and goal.

Earth is one chamber of Heaven,
Death is no grander than birth.

Joy in the life that was given,
Strive for perfection on earth.

Here, in the turmoil and roar,
Show what it is to be calm;
Show how the spirit can soar
And bring back its healing and balm.

Stand not aloof nor apart,
Plunge in the thick of the fight.

There in the street and the mart,
That is the place to do right.

Not in some cloister or cave,
Not in some kingdom above,
Here, on this side of the grave,
Here, should we labor and love.

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0112

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0113

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0114

The Choice
by William Butler Yeats

The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.

When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0115

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0116

freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0117

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freeplay 2017 July 2_DSC0119

Perfection
by Robert William Service

If I could practice what I preach,
Of fellows there would few be finer;
If I were true to what I teach
My life would be a lot diviner.

If I would act the way I speak,
Of halo I might be a winner:
The spirit wills, the flesh is weak,–
I’m just a simple sinner.

Six days I stray,–on number seven
I try to be a little better,
And stake a tiny claim on Heaven
By clinging close to gospel letter.

My pew I occupy on Sunday,
And though I draw the line at snoring,
I must admit I long for Monday,
And find the sermon boring.

Although from godly grace I fall,
For sensed with sin my every act is,
‘Twere better not to preach at all,
Then I would have no need to practice.

So Sabbath day I’ll sneak away,
And though the Church grieve my defection,
In sunny woodland I will pray:
“God save us from Perfection!”

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Visual Thinking Strategy

A VTS Discussion with First Grade Students from Visual Thinking Strategies on Vimeo.

(source) In his 1997 article Thoughts on Visual Literacy, Philip Yenawine describes visual literacy as:

“…the ability to find meaning in imagery. It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification (naming what one sees) to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. Many aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing. Objective understanding is the premise of much of this literacy, but subjective and affective aspects of knowing are equally important.”

The three fundamental questions of Visual Thinking Strategy:

VTS

Abigail Housen and, later partnered with Yenawine, structure a theory of development around the experience of art. It has become popular as a basis for pedagogy in some schools, in many museums, and, as a foundational practice for art teachers and docents. (See: VTS Basic Manual: Learning To Think And Communicate Through Art; Housen, and Theory into Practice: The Visual Thinking Strategies, Yenawine. The latter article is available at VTShome.

VTS is very close to being in alignment with my own artmaking ethos, except it is missing the body. The body in this case is the viewing subject.

Here are four questions that could restore the body in the process of aesthetic inquiry:

(1) What do your findings feel like as emotions?

(2) What do your findings feel like in your body?

(3) Characterize your sense of your own experience?

(4) What are you doing to understand your experience?

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As If, a yoga of the practice of irony in a cosmos of contingency


A leading moral and political philosopher, Kwame Anthony Appiah is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. He explores the ideas of the philosopher Hans Vahinger, who argued that our theories of the world involved understanding things “as if” what is in fact false were true.

Vaihinger

via: http://gradlectures.berkeley.edu/lecture/

I had begun this article with reference to Hans Vaihinger’s examination of the two simple words, as-if, which he posits as a fictive device. Until I read his book I was completely unaware that I used them in daily life. Once I did, I couldn’t get as-if out of my mind. Not only that, I found it was fascinating to observe how other people used these words. When I asked if they were aware of the fact, invariably the answer was no. Nevertheless, once they did, they were delighted at finding a treasure right under their noses. From these observations I gathered that the various ways we employ as-if reflects a desire to step outside the routine of daily life, the easiest way being to entertain fanciful thoughts. Such thoughts aren’t to be dismissed outright as a waste of time. If we were asked about them, we’d respond that they constitute an important part of our lives, indeed, are essential to our psychic health. At the same time these thoughts have basis in reality–they arise from experiences in real life–and can reflect our deepest desires. excerpt Some Reflections on Hans Vaihinger (Richard McCambley)

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Opening Day, Free Play Softball League 2017

Free Play 4232017

Opening Day, Free Play Softball League 2017, first game in the age of Trumpism. It was a closely contested game if you forget the results of the first and last inning.

This season we’re hoping to attract new players to our league that is ideally described by elder Tom: “It’s a game that people of any skill level can come and play in and learn how to play.”

I convened some of our elders to find out if it growing the game was doable. Oh, and I suggested we’d have to dial back the game’s sometimes fractious, and, at times overly competitive atmosphere. We devised a series of guidances, responses, and contingent interventions, for the sake of recovering the founding ethos of our pick-up game, a game that aspired to be inviting to any gender, and any age between 16 and 96.

Caption, Please?

Think of a good caption —

What Gurdjieff calls ‘Objective science’ uses the musical analogy to depict a universe composed of a chain of energies that stretches from the lowest octave to the highest: each energy is transformed as it rises and falls, taking on a coarser or finer nature according to its place in the scale. At each specific level, an energy corresponds to a degree of intelligence, and it is consciousness itself, fluctuating within a wide range of vibrations, that determines human experience. (Peter Brook, in notes to his play, Gurdjieff)

Free Play 4232017

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Three Into Four, Repeat. . .

zontalstainedglass

The shuttling to and fro of arguments and affects represents the transcendent function of opposites. The confrontation of the two positions generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third thing—not a logical stillbirth in accordance with the principle tertium non datur but a movement out of the suspension between the opposites, a living birth that leads to a new level of being, a new situation. (C.G.Jung)

Four-Elements

see:

On the Importance of Numinous Experience in the Alchemy of Individuation Murray Stein, Ph.D.

River Dharma 46x46

RIVER DHARMA (2017) Stephen Calhoun

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Synchronicity and Wheels

Monday, February 13, I was driving to Wadsworth, listening to a CD, thinking about my livelihood as an artist–such as it is–and a tune started up from my single most favored rock record of all time, The Gilded Palace of Sin, by The Flying Burrito Brothers.

The song was Wheels.

We’ve all got wheels to take ourselves away
We’ve got the telephones to say what we can’t say
We all got higher and higher every day
Come on wheels take this boy away
We’re not afraid to ride
We’re not afraid to die come on wheels take me home today
So come on wheels take this boy away

And when I feel my time is almost up
And destiny is in my right hand
I’ll turn to him who made my faith so strong
Come on wheels make this boy a man
We’re not afraid to ride
We’re not afraid to die come on wheels take me home today
So come on wheels take this boy away
Come on wheels take this boy away

The record was released February 11, 1969. I would hear it for the first time at the Amazing Dynamo Man’s house, draped over his bed, in September 1970. He, Jamie Cohen, and I, had just met, just begun tenth grade as first year sophomores at Hawken School in Cleveland. We fell into each other like rain drops into the ocean.

Me, Hoon, atop the Amazing Dynamo Man

Me, Hoon, atop the Amazing Dynamo Man, 1972

Forty eight years later, I’m reflecting on art matters having to do with commerce, Wheels comes on, I glance out my car’s driver-side window, and see a flatbed truck passing me on I71.

It’s badged with this logo:

arts-way3col

I chuckle, then laugh heartily. The moment was not just a gilded moment of synchronicity, it was a text book synchronicity!

Shit.

“We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the wheel depends. We turn clay to make a vessel; But it is on the space where there is nothing that the utility of the vessel depends. We pierce doors and windows to make a house; And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the utility of the house depends. Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the utility of what is not.” ? C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle

Kabir's Sobriety #2(16x16base)

Kabir’s Sobriety 2016 Stephen Calhoun

A synchronicity worthy of the term is required to be deeply disturbing, or deeply disruptive, or deeply derailing. What I have to offer are my happy delusions! I’ve been revisiting Kabir. #326 of his Bijak:

No customers for the word:
the price is high.
Without paying you can’t get it,
so move on by.

In January I had a very simple dream–simple as far as its arc.

(1) I’m on the side porch of a gothic church. It’s a fall day, and the church’s porch is the scene of a rummage sale. I’m picking little costume jewelry pieces up and putting each one back down. I notice some nice oak chairs and old brass floor lamps. I say to the lady, “You have some nice stuff.” She answers back, “I see you’re not in a buying mood, but the prices are right.”

(2) Walking down the steps, with the front of the church rising to my right, I cross a lawn and walk toward an old Chevy station wagon. I walk to the driver’s side and their is a man with a hat, and his wife is to his right, and his son and daughter are in the back seat. The rear has suitcases. I think to myself, ‘It’s an all American family.’ The man asks if I will help him get unstuck. I put my shoulder to the frame of his window to push, and, without much effort I push and feel his car rise a bit and become unstuck.

(3) The car gathers speed and then veers slightly across the front lawn of the church. It crashes into the wall of the sanctuary. I run toward it, but am halted when I see a bloodied brown panther or mountain lion, seemingly crushed between the grill and limestone wall, pull itself out of its predicament and jump over the hood. It stands on the grass and shakes its head once vertically, runs off.

Yes.

The-Guilded-Palace-of-Sin

My favorite track from my favorite record.

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Pure Experience

http://artiststephencalhoun.com

Organized Detritus (2017) Stephen Calhoun

What is left of experience if from it are erased feeling it, thinking it, feeling about it, thinking about it?

I’ve been reflecting on the paradox of mindfulness. Mindfulness, over the last several years, is among the hottest trends in management and organizational “self-improvement.”

It seem to me partly counter-intuitive in that mindfulness’s site is individual consciousness, whereas both managers and organizations tend to strongly focus their collective consciousness on some master plan given by holistic “master” assumptions.

Yet, there is the lower level paradox found in the second/third order appreciation of mindfulness, which is: to speak of it is not to be it.


Carl Manchester reads Chapter 2 A World of Pure Experience, from:

William James: Essays In Radical Empiricism (download via archive.org)

Pure experience is the centerpiece of a larger, radical empiricism, one that rejects the assumptions that created the epistemic gap between experience and reality in the first place. This gap is predicated on “an artificial conception of the relations between knower and known,” James says, and this fake problem is his first target. The history of philosophy has shown that all sort of theories have been invented to overcome this gap, he says. Some theories put a mental representation into the gap, common-sense theories left the gap untouched, believing that our minds could just make the leap and, he tells us, and the Transcendentalists brought their Absolute in to perform this epic task. James and Pirsig, on the other hand, say that subjects and objects are not the conditions that make experience possible. Instead, they have been carved out. As James puts it, inner and outer are just names for the way we sort experience. They are linguistic affairs, products of reflection, concepts derived from experience. To supposed that these terms mirror Nature’s own divisions or otherwise correspond to pre-existing ontological categories is to reify these concepts. Under our radical empiricists, subjects and objects are stripped of their metaphysical, ontological status and otherwise demoted to the rank of mere concept – thereby eliminating Cartesian dualism and replacing it with an experiential monism. For the radical empiricist, experience and reality amount to the same thing. This is the context in which James and Pirsig make their claims about pure experience or the pre-intellectual cutting edge of experience. Pure Experience and Dynamic Quality February 16, 2012 by David Buchanan partiallyexaminedlife.com

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A Myth of Isolation and a Fairy Tale of Causation

The notion of the individual entity having agency is confused by a paradox. The confusion lies with the idea of individuation. The entity (organism, person, or organization) is bound to its unique perspective or epistemology, and in that sense is identifiable as a separate source of responsibility. But, there is no aspect of that entity that is uninfluenced, uninformed, or unbound to the larger contextual interactions. On closer examination we begin to see that agency is diffused into the larger contextual processes that are shared by the entire community. Agency is a paradoxical product of mutual learning within and between people, nature, and culture.

Leadership does not reside in a person but in an arena that can be occupied by offerings of specific wisdom to the needs of the community. So leadership is produced collectively in the community, not the individual. The individual’s responsibility is to be ready and willing to show up, serve, and then, most importantly, stand back. Leadership for this era is not a role or a set of traits; it’s a zone of interrelational process. Step in, step out.

Nora Bateson LEADERSHIP WITHIN THE PARADOX OF AGENCY

ADD EIGHT MORE RIGHT NOW!

ADD EIGHT MORE RIGHT NOW!

ADD THE HIDDEN OPPOSITES!

ADD THE HIDDEN OPPOSITES!

Context transcends causality.
Causality transmits content.
‘A Content’ turns over to reveal ‘an’ other side.
This other side reveals a hidden context.
Do this over and over.

example of inferring causality from content:

context

Context is hard. Contexts are much harder.

(Semi) Final test:

Ford Clitaurus from MP Cunningham on Vimeo.

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Stirring Together, In the Midst of the Unending Stream

I traced a circle on the ground,
It was a mystic figure strange
Wherein I thought there would abound
Mute symbols adequate of change,
And complex formulas of Law,
Which is the jaws of Change’s maw.
My simpler thoughts in vain had stemmed
The current of this madness free,
But that my thinking is condemned
To symbol and analogy:
I deemed a circle might condense
With calm all mystery’s violence.
And so in cabalistic mood
A circle traced I curious there;
Imperfect the made circle stood
Thought formed with minutest care.
From magic’s failure deeply I
A lesson took to make me sigh.

Alexander Search (Fernando Pessoa)
July 30th. 1907. [1]

artist Stephen Calhoun b1954 USA

Twin Study I. (2016) Stephen Calhoun

“I have always been particularly interested to see how people, if left to their own devices and not informed about the history of the [Mandala] symbol, would interpret it to themselves. I was careful, therefore, not to disturb them with my own opinions and as a rule I discovered that people took it to symbolize themselves or rather some- thing in themselves. They left it as belonging intimately to themselves as a sort of Creative background, a life-producing sun in the depths of the unconscious mind. Though it was easy to see that it was often almost a replica of Ezekiel’s vision, it was very rare that people recognized the analogy, even when they knew the vision -which knowledge, by the way, is pretty rare nowadays.” C.G. Jung, The Terry Lectures

Gemini with respect to psyche, broadly conceived, brings into ‘co-motion’ the regressive chthonic and the transgressive totality. At a higher, finer grain, the twin–as image–represents the prospect of the alchemical marriage. As Gemini, its transformative operations take up scattered elements and brings these back into order.

The Twin is the archetype of recursion. With this repetition, the twin holds the potential for any reassembly, be it playful or serious or trial-and-error. The gesture bends back. Its sound is the yielding reassembly of harmony, via sonic palintropos.

Overnight contents separate, and come to be stirred back together. Gemini.

Cleveland artist Stephen Calhoun

Twin Study II. (2016) Stephen Calhoun

What gets hatched at night, in the lunar phase?

Sometimes the organic pair is subject to fierce moralizing. For example, what of the facile distinction oft made between thinking and feeling, or, head and heart? Their deep structure is blanketed. Heavy associations weigh one of the poles down, like a cinder block tied to a victim’s ankles.

This is like mashing two things together, pulling them back apart, and, finally deciding one has to go! The shadow of the twin is found in the demonization and suppression of the organic opposite, in the making of, and, next, sanctioning against this fallen angel, and finally turning it out (or away.)

(Gemini forensics! Where is the antimony buried?)

A theory of recurrence, such as that of Yeats, in exemplifying the cycling between lunar Antithetical and solar Primary tinctures is a twin study. Fusion with the ideal, and disavowal of the organic opposite provides for the violent dismissal and covering over of this other side.

Where feeling reigns ‘apart,’ this may move vast numbers of voters toward the light cast by the idealized father, concretized to be, well. . .

rather

Leaving, returning. Turning back. . .

[2]

Uncovering bends back the cover.

They do not understand how, though at variance with itself, it agrees with itself. It is a backwards-turning attunement like that of the bow and lyre. -Heraclitus

It lifts up the buried: part, aspect, inferior. The twin is at once separate and a unifier.

Gemini’s hidden holistic relationship to all the houses, tracks the pairings which are the relations discoverable in all projections. Cast from to you.

The phenomena of the twin anchors the resurrection and recovery of the opposites.


see:
The Rhizome and the Flower: The Perennial Philosophy, Yeats and Jung, By James Olney

The Harmonia of Bow and Lyre in Heraclitus Fr. 51 (DK)
Jane McIntosh Snyder, Phronesis Vol. 29, No. 1 (1984) JSTOR

[1] Sacred Geometry of Being: Pessoa’s Esoteric Imagery and the Geometry of Modernism
Patrícia Silva McNeill, Pessoa Plural 6, 2014 (pdf)

[2] Beyond Fascism: W.B. Yeats’s A Vision and the Complexities of His Authoritarian Politics
Justin Abel, Eastern Washington University (pdf)

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A Magic Trick: Explain By Creating

In trickster’s case, how did mental fakery come to replace incarnate fakery?

It is one thing for trypanosomes to change their skins; another for Raven to become a leaf floating in spring water; another still for storytellers to have imagined Raven in the first place, or for one of us to reimagine him. Before picking these strands apart, however, we should remember that the mythology itself asks us to confuse them. Coyote stories point to coyotes teaching about the mind, the stories themselves look to predator-prey relationships for the birth of cunning. These myths suggest that blending natural history and mental phenomena is not an unthinkable conflation, but on the contrary, an accurate description of the way things are. To learn about intelligence from Coyote the meat thief is to know that we are embodied thinkers. If the brain has cunning, it has it as a consequence of appetite; the blood that lights the mind gets its sugars from the gut.
-Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art.

Creating Is Explaining

in Jonas, see (*) below

The subject becomes a game that hides through and in his cause from his cause, the (external) precondition laying bare the (internal) foundation. – Julie Kristeva

FB-Wild-Dialog

The tracking that any [image] instrumentalizes is an adventure that is always immediate, happening now, registering the dynamics of belief.

(adapted, substituting |image| for |text|) via, -Elaine Jahner, “Trickster Discourse and Postmodern Strategies.”)

Stephen Calhoun, Cleveland artist experimental photographer

The Jester (2016) Stephen Calhoun

“Play around with it, intentionally.” That would be the clue. I’m wandering around the following: participation, experience of art, play, cleverest trick.

If you could give up tricks and cleverness, this would be the cleverest trick! (version of Rumi, John LeMoyne)

An example of a clever trick in the experience of art is any expert critical opinion that is by (socially-constructed) necessity blinded to, unbounded from, the actuality of the embodied knowing which emerges from consciousness being aware and present as a matter of experiencing art, or, experiencing any ‘scene,’ so-to-speak.

Opinions like this are like standing at the end of the diving board and not wanting to dive in.


Do playful systems know that they play? [pdf]
Michael Straeubig, Plymouth University
The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference, Malta 2016

From autopoiesis to neurophenomenology: Francisco Varela’s exploration of the biophysics of being [pdf]
Antoine Lutz, et al 2003

Toward a neurophenomenology as an account of generative passages: A first empirical case study [pdf]
Antoine Lutz
LENA – Neurosciences Cognitives et Imagerie Cérébrale 2002

(*) A cybernetic model of design research: Towards a trans-domain 1 of knowing
Wolfgang Jonas, The Routledge Companion to Design Research 2014

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Working Away From the Center


Family Synergy Mandala(Stephen Calhoun)

Virgins with T-squares
and compasses, guarding
the heavenly blackboards.

And the angel of numbers
reflective, flying
from the 1 to the 2, from the 2
to the 3, from 3 to the 4.

Dead chalk and sponges
rule and erase
the light of the heavens.

Not the sun, moon or stars,
not the sudden green flash
of the lines and the lightning,
nor the air. Only haze.

Virgins without T-squares,
without compasses, weeping.

And on the dead blackboards,
the angel of numbers,
lifeless, laid out
on the 1 and the 2
on the 3, and the 4…

(The Angel of Numbers, Rafael Alberti, translated by Jerome Rothenberg)

The First Snow, Ever(Stephen Calhoun)

Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation. And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions. (Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections)

FB-Quiet-Window-Mandala-Film

So you see, in a moment during a patient’s treatment when there is a great disorder and chaos in a man’s mind, the symbol can appear, as in the form of a mandala in a dream, or when he makes imaginary and fantastical drawings, or something of the sort. (Carl Jung)

TW-Loosening-Mandla-I-Stephen-Calhoun

A mandala spontaneously appears as a compensatory archetype during times of disorder. (Carl Jung) [h/t carljungdepthpsychology.wordpress.com]

There are four notes, (suppose these to be notes-to-self,) that come all the way up and to the center when I reflect on why it is that the mandala has taken over my creative practice.

These are simple notes too, and these represent the starkest capture.

(1) Depressed at the rise of Trump and nihilist Trumpism.

(2) Demoralized at the failure to satisfactorily meet my worldly obligations.

(3) Understand the inner order reflected in the enthusiasm for manifesting mandalas is only a potential reordering, and the proof of this is in the outer disorder.

(4) Unhappy and tired in the wake of the sharp arrivals due to the constant processes of death and loss that have struck over the past years.

I wear my depression very lightly. Optimistic. Youthful outlook.

My contemplative practice is the first balancing act. I note my creative agency is powerful too, yet, I haven’t a clue as to what is going on, except to distrust to a niggling degree that I am on the right track. I have to suppose this distrust of my own creativity is something to work through at this rather early yet auspicious juncture. This has nothing to do with my personal qualification of my creative product, it has to do with what this feels like in the context of outer disorder. It comes as no surprise that powerful inner motives are working me over a bit at the expense of outer order.

There is in this a fraught paradox: betwixt the rush and rushing forward of inspiration and ideas, and, the yet to be shaped command to, in actuality, set this aside for the purpose of getting the house in order.

FB-Mandala-Five-One-Fifty---ExLg-Urban-install-(Stephen-Calhoun)

The energetic aspect is clear enough to me. After all, I am not painting mandalas or setting fine grains of sand to a blueprint. Once the mathematics clicked for me, the opportunity presented itself fully: there are all sorts of archival photographs which may lend themselves to manipulation. These photos now come up again to be resuscitated.

(One image in this post presents how this is done.)

Still, am I creating mandalas? What is coming up and out seem to me reductions too, and also pieces symbolize eyes and sphincters. The images that consist of patterns of concentric circles nevertheless are unitary objects. Also, the direction of experimentation already is disrupting the simple concentricity.

Severity Mandala

Yes, creating mandalas is soothing. It occurs to me also that this is of a piece with my artistic mission, and, this also puts in 2nd order cybernetic relations a deeper aspect of the kitschy facile gimmicks I am employing as propositions in various visual experiments. Those relations are about learning.

As for my own psyche, I’m waiting for the dream. The only dream that recently arrived was optimistic, and this seemed to me its fault.

A magical, sacred, and perfected environment of the Buddha, which
denotes the order and harmony of an enlightened mind, and built on their
perfect wisdom. The purified circle of an enlightened being, an environment
wherein the endless compassion of the enlightened one is expressed.”
(C.G. Jung: ‘Mandala Symbolism’)

Oh, there’s this–see its opening and conclusion:

Theoretical Foundation for Jung’s “Mandala Symbolism”
Based on Discrete Chaotic Dynamics of Interacting Neurons
Vladimir Gontar (International Group for Chaos Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel)

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Unities

Mind-Reading Cartoon

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one

No is the saddest experience you’ll ever know
Yes, it’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know

‘Cause one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
One is the loneliest number, whoa-oh, worse than two

It’s just no good anymore since you went away
Now I spend my time just making rhymes of yesterday

One is the loneliest number
One is the loneliest number
One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

One is the loneliest
One is the loneliest
One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

It’s just no good anymore since you went away

(Number)
One is the loneliest (number)
One is the loneliest (number)
One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

Nillson/Edwards

Stephen Calhoun artist

I’ve been making mandalas. This represents a regression in both the terms of psyche, and, my own growing artistry. This is a local reconfiguration for the sake of doing different experiments concerned with the singularity given by the whole “O,” the eye, the core, the centrifugal oneness. Empirically, mandalas don’t grip the viewer for the same reasons a complex work chock full of partially hidden patterns and relations grip someone. Yet, as the dictionary tells us, mandala means magical circle.

http://artiststephencalhoun.com/image-sets-and-series/mandalas/

Yet, everybody at times enjoys partaking of some regression! Going backward sometimes means moving back in time toward innocence, or moving to a previous point at which point the bad mojo had not arrived, or been elected.

Mandalas are the warm blanket of the world of created manmade forms.
My mandalas…

Read more: Three Dog Night – One (is The Loneliest Number) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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Spontaneous Dialectics In ‘Problem Depth’

Familiar Matrix series-blank

Problem-solving oriented version of a four-square matrix.

Familiar Matrix series 2

I’ve added (and overlaid,) two valence drivers–these are the typical pairing used to deploy evaluation of antipathy and sympathy, a basic starting point.

Familiar Matrix series 3

An intention for learning is articulated.

Two dichotomies are randomly drawn from the master set of 96 dichotomies, a part of the tool, Playing With the Opposites. These are next plotted, with Plot #1 placed first.

Comment:

The obvious location of a dialectical tension first jumped out from the upper left quadrant.

Bring creative work to the world pushes away the mysterious element in the actual problem, yet, this antipathy is conjoined with a sympathetic mystery located in the setting.

The question for further wandering or exploration is to, I propose, locate the nature of the sympathetic mystery in the setting of the problem, in the art world. This mystery’s nature would be something deeply obscured yet attractive as a matter of what little is known about it.

The other drivers, familiarity/unfamiliarity might serve as kernals for winding up/down the dialectical reflection.

In each quadrant of the matrix there are two dialectical loops given by each pair of valences. For example, in the lower right quadrant are:

Problem / toward / inner masculine // (2) Setting / away from / inner masculine

Problem / familiar / inner masculine // (2) Setting / unfamiliar / inner masculine

 

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Direction of the Possible

changedirection

Man can live the most amazing things if they make sense to him. But the difficulty is to create that sense. It must be a conviction, naturally; but you find that the most convincing things man can invent are cheap and ready-made, and are never able to convince him against his personal desires and fears. — C.G. Jung, The Essential Jung: Selected Writings, p. 90

Teaching Cartoon-Possibilities

One day the Nasruddin went with some men a-fishing. They cast the net into the sea, and the Nasruddin cast himself into the net. ‘O Nasruddin,’ said they, ‘what are you about?’ ‘I imagined myself a fish,’ he answered.

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The Plan

ABC from Alan Warburton on Vimeo.

An old Zen master always told this fable to unserious students: Late one night a blind man was about to go home after visiting a friend.

“Please,” he said to his friend, “may I take your lantern with me?”

“Why carry a lantern?” asked his friend.

“You won’t see any better with it.”

“No,” said the blind one, “perhaps not. But others will see me better, and not bump into me.”

So his friend gave the blind man the lantern, which was made of paper on bamboo strips, with a candle inside. Off went the blind man with the lantern, and before he had gone more than a few yards, “Crack!” — a traveler walked right into him. The blind man was very angry.

“Why don’t you look out?” he stormed. “Why don’t you see this lantern?”

“Why don’t you light the candle?” asked the traveler.

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