Category Archives: my research

The Fate of Public Libraries


The fate of public libraries is unknown. However, perhaps a random delivery from the Cube-O-Probe set to the Heaven & Hell four square format could induce compelling intuitions and predictive  abductions.

This capture might benefit from facilitation.

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New squareONE Tool: Cube-O-Probe


Intention: What are clues to the positive and negative aspects of using the Cube-O-Probe?



[Above: random Cube-O-Probe “roll” nailed to the Heaven & Hell Mandala. In this form for interpretation, the Heavenly opportunities are betwixt the cubes in the upper right quadrant, and the Hellish obstacles are between the cubes in the lower left quadrant. These two conventions are explicit conceptual anchors given to the heuristic means of the tool. Less explicit would be what Ken and I call the flickering aspects in the other two quadrants.]

I invented, with assistance from Kenneth Warren, two new squareONE tools over the last several months. Both have applications in discovery-based self-knowledge. Additionally, the Cube-O-Probe has already been given a trial run as a method for adducing insight about organizational development. As it turns out, the Cube-O-Probe is organically integrated with the earlier tool, Calhoun/Warren Heaven & Hell Archetypal Assessment Mandala because the form of the Mandala provides a very sharp interpretive format for the roll of the cubes.

The ‘Archetypal Assessment Mandala,’ as this is being written, is being beta tested  by intrepid volunteers. It was rolled out to participants at Ken and my program Repairing the Opposites, Doubling Stars, Turning Swine Into Pears, that we presented at the Analytical Psychology Society of Western New York December 12th.

I am working on a post to explain how I came to liberate astrology from the confines of space and time, and also free astrology from its deterministic meta-theories. In doing so, I could add on additional cubes to the new tool the Cube-O-Probe. Those add-on cubes increase the original set of cubes based in masculine, feminine, mythological archetypes, and psychodynamic polarities (or dichotomies,) and, the explicit so-called oppositions of the typological constructs taken from Dr. Jung and variously identified by John Beebe and John Giannini.

These new cubes, based in a matrix devised from the basic developmental psychological positions given by the twelve houses and twelve signs–think of the signs as a Y axis, and the houses as a X axis–implicate those positions and also the polarities given in the astro-psychology to be food for reflection/exploration/self-discovery.

The Cube-O-Probe is anchored to my theoretical wondering about the role of generative inducements for praxis using polarities in personal meaning-making. In turn, this has to do with freeing practical means for self-knowledge from linear and stage-based regimens of self-seeking. Both these ‘second orders’ of experiential learning aim at providing spontaneous ‘third order’ methods for self-recognition and self-development, or, alternately, for synchronic (insight-based,) individuation.



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Fall of the Rebel Angels

4x Fall of the Rebel Angels

4xFall of the Rebel Angels (S.Calhoun, 2014 remix of Peter Breughel)

For three years I have been creatively launching visual experiments at a rapid pace. Although my sense of what this is about is theorized to a lesser degree than it would be if I was working a great or robust theory, nevertheless, I do comprehend what is a creative impulse when this impulse is about the artistic intention being overwhelmed by generative routine and stochastic disruptions.

Especially this summer my experiments have been gripped by the procedures for mirroring photographs and the work of Peter Brueghel and Tibetan Tangkas. (See public artworks: symmetry-hypotheses@tumblr)

The question I pose to myself about this weird form of channeling of the fragile random into a moment in which I finally decide to capture and etch a selection is: why has this been compelling me?

My creative preoccupations are in some relation with my investigations into serendipity in adult development, and I have been exploring day in and day out, as against becoming sunk again into the thin, question-less titanisms of the workaday world. Ken and I have been working on a folk neuroscientific, phenomenographic form for self-evaluation that captures its data in the mandala of a four quradrant matrix, (or Johari Window.) My production of symmetry oriented kitsch is related to that too.

  • Contemporary Western consciousness may not be able to experience the mythic world as the ancients did, but simply to engage with it may be the beginning of that remembering which the undying deities demand. The intellect may be drawn not to ego’s greedy colonizing—”gods and goddesses in everyone” as both description of and justification for known states—but to a meeting with the symbolic. Those old tales, with their impossible metamorphoses, their incomprehensible plotlines, their evocations of terror and of bliss, can act as a series of Rorschach tests. Which is the moment in the tale, which is the image, that seizes me? Who is the character with whom I identify, whom would I hiss off the stage? At which moment do I burst out “But it’s not fair!”’ and have to remem- ber once more that in these just-so stories, that’s simply the way it is? Thus I learn again about myself, and in doing so may also learn about others, as I am recalled to that dream image, this fantasy, that unexpected affect, which has entered the consulting room from an ancient place.As Jung (1968) emphasized, this is far from being a parlor game: “When archetypal contents assume grotesque and horrible forms and lead to fears of madness, it is absolutely necessary to supply these fantastic images that rise up so strange and threatening before the mind’s eye with some kind of context, so as to make them more intelligible. Experience has shown that the best way to do this is by means of comparative mythological material” (para. 38). And as well as “calm- ing and clarifying a consciousness that is all at sea” (ibid.), attention to the myth- ical may help both therapists and those with whom they work to reach a deeper understanding of what it is to be human. Donald Kalsched (1995) expresses this eloquently in writing of his own approach to psychotherapy:

We must remember that mythology is where the psyche “was” before psychology made it an object of scientific investigation. By drawing attention to the parallels between the findings of clinical psycho- analysis and ancient religious ideation we demonstrate how the psychological struggle of contemporary patients (and those of us trying to help them) runs rather deeper into the symbolic phe- nomenology of the human soul than recent psychoanalytic dis- cussions of trauma or the “dissociative disorders” are inclined to acknowledge. Not everyone is helped by an understanding of these parallels, but some people are, and for them, this “binocu- lar” way of viewing, simultaneously, the psychological and reli- gious phenomena is equivalent to finding a deeper meaning to their suffering, and this in itself can be healing. (p. 6, his italics)

On the Making of Myths:Mythology in Training
Ann Shearer -Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice V6 NO. 2 2004

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Generative Alchemy

Brueghel - The Alchemist

Brueghel: The Alchemist

Calhoun Generative Art
The Alchemy of Symmetry – Excerpt from Brueghel’s The Alchemist
S.Calhoun (2014) 10×10″

This piece is part of a large series that will likely be presented in a short film. The film is intended to show the interplay of manipulations and recursions involved in generating different pieces.

I dedicate this new series to Ms. Uidhi. (I may be one of a handful of artists, or pseudo-artists, focusing on creative luckiness in the context of a post-academic post-scholarly focus on the situation of serendipity in adult development. This could include meandering into philosophical swamps.

IP LAF Forum: Christy Mag Uidhi on Artistic Serendipity vs. Artistic Luck, 25 Sept

Tuesday 23 September 2014


Thurs 25 September 2014, 4.00pm
IP London Aesthetics Forum: Room G34, Senate House, WC1
Artistic Serendipity vs. Artistic Luck
Christy Mag Uidhi (Houston)
Supported by the British Society of Aesthetics

It is standardly thought that artworks may gain and lose art-relevant properties over time (and thereby may also admit of similar gains and losses in artistic value). From this it follows that insofar as such gains and losses may be well outside the control of the artist, we ought to expect any minimally adequate theory of art and its value as such to come with (or at least be amenable to) some minimal notion of artistic luck and artistic achievement (such that ascriptions of the one undermine ascriptions of the other). In this talk, I’ll sketch what I take to be uncontroversial minimal accounts of both artistic luck and artistic achievement. From these I show it to follow that if artworks must be products of intentional action, then there can be no such thing as artistic luck (either descriptively or evaluatively). I claim the only formative role luck might play in our understanding of art and its value as such is to provide the means by which we may productively carve out an informative sub-class of artistic achievement: specifically that of artistic serendipity.


[My bold.] Intention, serendipity. Intentional serendipity is pseudo-serendipity. It is a kind of search routine. I don’t subscribe to the idea that intentionality is properly monolithic or exclusionary. But, I concede that psychologizing the artist’s creative process may take my own considerations and sensemaking out of and away from a proper philosophy of aesthetics.

Nor do I know what Ms. Mag Uidhi has in mind to flesh out the intriguing precis.

For my own part, there is so much in my creative process that permits creative intention-up-to-the-point of pulling the curtains away, and, thus includes less discrete combinations of intention and, fundamentally, hope about the unknown!

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New Music From Kamelmauz – Apparently


My music making alter ego is: Kamelmauz. He does sonic experiments and lets me produce and issue them on Duty Free Records. Finally, these records are issued on Bandcamp, in one of two locations.

Got it? There today exist fourteen different audio productions. Each can be downloaded or auditioned at Bandcamp.

The vein of music I create is variously reduced to categories–experimental/avant-agarde/ambient/industrial/dark ambient–which miss the personal point of my efforts. Oh well. ‘we’ make music for the sake of my enjoyment of the process of making music, and, to actively support my enthusiasm for learning, novelty, and experience.

Full length: Kamelmauz.bandcamp
EP’s and single tracks: Kamelmauz-soundz.bandcamp

As you should know by now, my musical activities and interests are documented on the blog of noguts noglory studios.

no guts no glory

I go meta about my creativity. Meta means: I make stuff and I reflect on making stuff.

There’s a video for the new ep, Apparently There’s More.

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Roots of My Urbanology (II.)

Lakewood Totem
Totem For Lakewood; 2010 S.Calhoun

II. Roots of (My) Urbanology (part two of three parts)

In 1972, my mother suggested that I might find Lewis Mumford interesting. Although I was mostly concerned with–in 1972–squeezing through various doors of perception, I managed to wander through Mumford’s The Conduct of Life, along with Huxley and Laing and Watts. The Conduct of Life was written in 1951. (I suppose hardly anybody reads Mumford anymore.) A few years after returning to Cleveland in 1992, I remember revisiting Mumford in a series of conversations with my mother about Cleveland, cities, the de-industrialization of the Mid West, and, the curse of Ronald Reagan. She insisted I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. (1961!) I did so. I re-read Mumford’s The City in History. I explained to my dear mother what I meant when I described Mumford to be a constructionist mystic.

In the fall of 2005, again due to the result of a remarkable fortuity, I met the Director of the Lakewood Public Library, Kenneth Warren; (to myself I noted: heck, a constructionist mystic!) I learned of the Visionary Alignment, the Lakewood Observer Project, and soon enough–even though I was a wash-a-shore–was in the thick of it. At the outset, among the suggestions I introduced to the Observer crew was a ripe and dangerous speculative question:

What would it be like to live in a city devoted to knowing itself better than any other city ever has known itself?

I didn’t really get at the time that I was both implying a name for the practical learning process of the project being unfolded by a handful of intrepid Lakewoodites and Observers, and, idealizing a highly charged constellation of conflicting fantasies about what is the very stuff of civic knowledge-seeking and civic knowing. The name/process is simple: civic self-knowledge, but the charging of the civic constellation is altogether complex, entangled, and, as we soon enough came to understand, is plain difficult.

Community, know thyself? Really? Plug into the circuit and call forth shadow, and every variety of impossible dream, and quixotic obstacle?

LAkewood prism
Lakewood Prism (demographic analysis schema)

(from a presentation by Kenneth Warren, – Lakewood Future Tools – Understanding Lakewood: Communities and Memes; March 2005) See also the pdf, Community Capacity.

(Lakewood Ohio) Place-Making with Good Neighbors on the Lake
· Flow =Quality of Life
· Increase the flow states in the community.
· Refresh the conventional sense of local living in Lakewood by engaging good neighbors.
· Cultivate the habit of good neighbors listening to one another.
· Activate through the Lake a sense of the liminal among good neighbors, that is, the threshold of physiological or psychological response to the unique energy that permeates the people and place.
· Make Lakewood permeable to new experience, ideas, mechanisms and structures among good neighbors
who are joining society to economy, conscience to knowledge.
· Obtain commitments from good neighbors to act on projects that will stretch beyond circular, selfjustified egocentric gated communities.
· Know there is a beginning point and ending point to each good neighborhood.
· Realize that a commitment to sustainability is shift in consciousness; it is not about constructing a pretty
· Understand that places and institutions can get high-jacked by interests that lie outside the particular community, i.e. absentee landlords, absentee corporations and absentee public employees.
· Construct IEDs – Improvised Economic Devises
Ken Warren, Lakewood Visionary Alignment

During the summer of 2006 I happened upon my current research focus, serendipity in adult development. Under the auspices of The Lakewood Observer and Lakewood Public Library, I devised a small project. I would quickly teach street anthropologists to conduct a survey, and then from their gathering of this data set, build out with them a very constrained ethnography focused on a single question, What brought you, [the subject,] to live in Lakewood?

For two weekends a dozen or so of us fanned out through Lakewood and conducted this survey. We then spent an afternoon debriefing the results. We never assembled the final work product, but, in reviewing the surveys on my own time, I realized an amazing quality threaded itself through many of the survey results.

I can capture this quality in one of the answers to the signal question.

My husband and I came to live in Lakewood because he had just taken a job at the hospital in Fairview Park and we were in a very temporary sublet in Rocky River. One day, at the grocery store there, I asked the gal at the cash register if she knew of any good resources for tracking down nice rentals in Rocky River. Before she could answer a woman standing behind me in the checkout line tapped me on the shoulder and told me that her sister had a first floor, two bedroom apartment available in her Lakewood house. I jotted her sister’s number down and we moved in the very next month.

Not only were the surveys littered with similar narratives, but having my nose pushed close to such stories compelled me to consider my own.

So: I had to reckon with the robber in 1974 who made it all possible by trying to kill me.

In other words, I discovered my interest in the problem of serendipity in adult development by reflecting on my apparently fortuitous encounter with a robber in 1974. This reflection itself was inspired by asking residents of Lakewood what was it that brought them to Lakewood to live.

Keynote: communities collect the results of serendipity.

(Technically speaking: communities aggregate the product of intricate conjunctions of agentic, environmental, and temporal fortuities.)

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Leave-taking is as necessary as the homecoming (I.)

Coventry Homes

I. Home Coming (part one of three parts)

I dig Cleveland Heights; I’m from Cleveland Heights. My wife digs Cleveland Heights too, and we count ourselves blessed that after the challenging circumstances of my mother’s illness and passing, we moved from the apartment in her home in Shaker Heights we rented from her for almost five years  to our new home in Cleveland Heights.

This new home is almost exactly one mile from my first family home on Ormond Road, and a tad more than a mile from the succeeding family home on East Overlook Road. It is the first home Susan and I have owned together and comes after twenty years of our being renters, most of the time in various neighborhoods of, yup, Cleveland Heights.

Personally, as an independent researcher recently concerned with the role of constructive fortuity, or serendipity, in adult development, it is worth noting three of many fortuitous events that staked me to my home town. The first was a family emergency that brought me back from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1992, and the second was the teamwork of two realtors, and the intuition of one of them, to show us our current beloved house on the great Cleveland Heights street of Coleridge Road. Our house here is five blocks from where I went to elementary school between 1959-1961. The third lucky event is bookended by the aforementioned two: meeting my future wife and partner Susan as the result of a fix-me-up sponsored by a mutual friend. This first meeting unfolded at a September party on Grandview Road in 1993, in, sure, Cleveland Heights.

For Susan and I Cleveland Heights is congenial ‘to-the-max.’ Yet, a final fortuitous event was primarily instrumental in both my leaving Cleveland Heights, and, eighteen years later, returning. On a Thursday afternoon in June 1974, a guy walks into the record store I was assistant manager of, Music Madness. It was located next to the old CH Post Office on lee Road. He found me alone and more than willing, at gun point, to give him the contents of the cash register, and walk with him to the back room office, and give him the rest of the day’s cash. Then, after a frustrating for-us-both few minutes during which I tried to–by myself–tie up my hands, he beckoned me to lay down on the floor and once prostrated, he next shot me in the back at point blank range.

(Good ol’ Cleveland Heights; Lee Road could be a bit like the wild west in the mid seventies.)

I got the hell out of my home town, and took the bus to Vermont by the end of July.

Nevertheless, the way the very long chains of contingency, necessity, and fortuity operate to constitute the foundation of future events, the leave-taking is as necessary as the homecoming–is, in actuality, its required precedent.

Cleveland Heights news and Resources (these links will remain in the sidebar)

Cleveland Heights vCity Data
Cleveland Heights (City Hall)
Cleveland Heights Historical Society
Heights Observer
Future Heights
Sun Press
Cleveland Heights (Plain Dealer)
Cleveland Heights Patch
Coventry Village

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Now Returning to Our Irregularly Scheduled Programming


Kizzy. Looking over the wash of posts oriented to the recently past political season, and the interjections of Freeplay Softball reports and a few postings of my art, I see right away the points of emphasis will soon be shifting. I don’t plan much out, still, I’ve been collecting teaching cartoons, and interesting captures from the web tubes, and, other stuff, while I neglect packing up for the big move into the new house–except I’m remaining behind in important respects until the current house is sold!



People who know me well might find it amusing to learn my preoccupations aren’t throwing me all about as they usually do. Ironically, the research project into Strategic Serendipity is on hold just as the whole field blows up on the breath of several best-selling, albeit non-technical, treatments of the subject.

Occupy Me.

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Science and Serendipity

clip serendipity

Not sure the exact date of this clip from an old issue of Science; (early twenties?)

The concept of serendipity that is the most robust is found in the field, sociology of science. My opinion is that this is the only robust treatment of serendipity.





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Transformative Anthropology. The Picture Inside


[…] Feynman visualized the world with pictures rather than with equations. Other physicists in the past and present describe the laws of nature with equations and then solve the equations to find out what happens. Feynman skipped the equations and wrote down the solutions directly, using his pictures as a guide. Skipping the equations was his greatest contribution to science. By skipping the equations, he created the language that a majority of modern physicists speak. Incidentally, he created a language that ordinary people without mathematical training can understand. To use the language to do quantitative calculations requires training, but untrained people can use it to describe qualitatively how nature behaves.

Feynman’s picture of the world starts from the idea that the world has two layers, a classical layer and a quantum layer. Classical means that things are ordinary. Quantum means that things are weird. We live in the classical layer. All the things that we can see and touch and measure, such as bricks and people and energies, are classical. We see them with classical devices such as eyes and cameras, and we measure them with classical instruments such as thermometers and clocks. The pictures that Feynman invented to describe the world are classical pictures of objects moving in the classical layer. Each picture represents a possible history of the classical layer. But the real world of atoms and particles is not classical. Atoms and particles appear in Feynman’s pictures as classical objects, but they actually obey quite different laws. They obey the quantum laws that Feynman showed us how to describe by using his pictures. The world of atoms belongs to the quantum layer, which we cannot touch directly.

The primary difference between the classical layer and the quantum layer is that the classical layer deals with facts and the quantum layer deals with probabilities. In situations where classical laws are valid, we can predict the future by observing the past. In situations where quantum laws are valid, we can observe the past but we cannot predict the future. In the quantum layer, events are unpredictable. The Feynman pictures only allow us to calculate the probabilities that various alternative futures may happen.

The quantum layer is related to the classical layer in two ways. First, the state of the quantum layer is what is called “a sum-over-histories,” that is, a combination of every possible history of the classical layer leading up to that state. Each possible classical history is given a quantum amplitude. The quantum amplitude, otherwise known as a wave function, is a number defining the contribution of that classical history to that quantum state. Second, the quantum amplitude is obtained from the picture of that classical history by following a simple set of rules. The rules are pictorial, translating the picture directly into a number. The difficult part of the calculation is to add up the sum-over-histories correctly. The great achievement of Feynman was to show that this sum-over-histories view of the quantum world reproduces all the known results of quantum theory, and allows an exact description of quantum processes in situations where earlier versions of quantum theory had broken down. The ‘Dramatic Picture’ of Richard Feynman New York Review of Books July 14, 2011 Freeman Dyson (reviewing Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science by Lawrence M. Krauss; Feynmana graphical biography by Jim Ottaviani

You see, when you ask why something happens, how does a person answer why something happens?

For example, Aunt Minnie is in the hospital. Why? Because she went out on the ice and slipped and broke her hip. That satisfies people. But it wouldn’t satisfy someone who came from another planet and knew nothing about things… When you explain a why, you have to be in some framework that you’ve allowed something to be true. Otherwise you’re perpetually asking why… You go deeper and deeper in various directions.

Why did she slip on the ice? Well, ice is slippery. Everybody knows that-no problem. But you ask why the ice is slippery… And then you’re involved with something, because there aren’t many things slippery as ice… A solid that’s so slippery?

Because it is in the case of ice that when you stand on it, they say, momentarily the pressure melts the ice a little bit so that you’ve got an instantaneous water surface on which you’re slipping. Why on ice and not on other things? Because water expands when it freezes. So the pressure tries to undo the expansion and melts it…

I’m not answering your question, but I’m telling you how difficult a why question is. You have to know what it is permitted to understand… and what it is you’re not.

You’ll notice in this example that the more I ask why, it gets interesting after a while. That’s my idea, that the deeper a thing is, the more interesting…(Richard Feynman. src: Kallos)

Why was she on the ice in the first place?

Eventually, in my consideration of the analytical frame for constitutive fortuity–eg. transformative anthropology–I’ll be fitting taxonomy to the richer, higher order conceptualization for eventuation. Eventuation means for this purpose the conjunction of events necessary to prime a fortuity. One of the intriguing and hard difficulties in wandering around the current mixture of term and operation is that the informal language used to denote folk conceptions about serendipity, fortuity, inter alia, are weighed down by all sorts of divergent connotations.

For example, Paul Lester describes in his book The Spiral Web a restaurant’s assembly of strangers being there all by coincidence.

OED travels from definition of coincidence, 1 to 4, like this:

1. a.1.a The fact or condition of being coincident; the occupation of the same place or part of space.

4.4 A notable concurrence of events or circumstances having no apparent causal connexion.

The strong connotation in every day use does attach notability, or, the exceptional, or another similar sense, and attaches also an underlying sense of there being no causal connection between two isolate and discretely caused events. This leads the meaning enough so that normal use in English-speaking cultures–for example: what a coincidence!–distinguished between the happenstance circumstance of being in a room full of strangers, and, encountering in this room a stranger, only to find enough of a commonality for the happenstance, to morph into notable coincidence.

However, as much as this leads to semantic, conceptual, and terminological conundrums, it is becoming increasingly clear that the causality that differently situates strangers so him or her come to occupy the same part of space may come to collapse together, as-it-were, in the conjunction given by a fortuitous event.

In which case, the folk phrase what a coincidence stands in for: these disparate events come to eventuate together in a single conjunctive event

Feynman Diagram

Feynman Diagram

This got me to thinking of both the metaphoric semblance, or, analogous collapse of histories. And of Dr. Feynman! With a kind of rubric, or top level category, constitutive fortuity, in hand, the sketching of a structural framework nears.

Something about the Feynman diagram compels me to play around with how elements of such a framework could be depicted.

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What If Your Parents Had Never…?

In my continuing research into what I term transformative anthropology, or, into developmental serendipity in the human life cycle, every question or speculation is worth investigation. This includes questions considered ridiculous:

“What if your parents had never met?”

To which I respond: Indeed. (So, I gently pull it into my mental lab.)

I had an opportunity this fall to pose clinical-like questions to one of my softball associates, a pediatrician, Dr. Art. What I was wondering about was whether or not it would be equally correct, given the what if you’re parents never met query, to pose a similar question: “What if your, (or my own, or anybody’s,) parents had instantiated the fertilization at some other timely point, say seconds, minutes, hours, the next day, later, other than at the time at which point you, me, anybody came to be?”

Here’s the encapsulation of my questioning of Dr. Art.

Given the chanciness of what comes together at point of fertilization, is it correct to state that the fertilization that produced me, you, anybody, exactingly reflects the outcome of a single and unique outcome of sperm meeting egg? (In other words, fertilization is not able to be comprehensively duplicated in anyway.)

Okay, so, the nature of fertilization is a spectacular instance of something, a human he or she, in its generative case, created and necessarily from this, completely unique.

Dr. Art’s answer was,

“As far as anybody can know, human fertilization causes a unique person.”

Its instance comes down to a singular event and a rapid unfolding of unique configuration. This is entirely given by the nature of the mechanics involved. A different instantiation would unfold under the slightly different conditions given by these same mechanics.

Several aspects of this (class of) instance figure into how one thinks about it–as a matter of these mechanics. Fertilization’s uniqueness is not repeatable. Nor is this like shuffling a deck of cards or rolling the dice. The unique result is singularly so. There are many many possible outcomes when the deck is shuffled. Yet, over time, and with enough shuffles, the outcomes aren’t singularly unique. Likewise if we pose such an instance as a roll of the dice. I don’t know what a rigorous mathematically-minded appreciation of the consequential uniqueness of fertilization would be, yet I suspect the analogous two dice have to have an odd, not finite, configuration.

The scale of the temporal condition is something like: instantaneous, yet this also reflects the physical conditions through which fertilization happens as a result of one sperm actor, so-to-speak, being successful against all the other actors. It’s a measurable amount of time too, this instant.

A consequence of this set-up is that the instantiation of one’s own self hangs on the slender thread of these conditions. If Marvin Gaye comes on the CD player, and one of the parties to conception gasps, “Hold On!” then the internal process will be configured differently. Yet, consider how even this kind of adjustment occurs at an almost ridiculously huge scale given how the outcome of fertilization is itself contingent on the tiny scale at which the jockeying of sperm happens.

Perhaps, say you, “So what?”

As I mentioned, I take this seriously because I’m researching the element of fortuity as it plays a part in the resolution of human development at any scale of condition or time. I’m tracking back here to what I term the primordial biological dependent contingency. This is where any map of fortuitous contingency tracks back to. However, at the same time, there is also the implicit regress, ‘what if your parents’ parents had never met?’ And, the circumstances for consequential conjoinment, and for relationship, are entangled in vast, requisite ‘narratives’ for which all the necessary human players, and time-and-space, features necessarily are in some exacting way configured by long chains of, well, fertilization!

Backing up from this, we can sift through other consequences (of primordial biological dependent contingency) at much larger scales of relationship and agency. The evolutionary perspective warrants consideration of where this all can be said to commence and how the two, at least, most primal actors came to make something like the first instance, and how the original hims and hers were instantiated in kind.

Also recognized are other perspectives and the explanations or suppositions each invokes. The idea that a unique soul animates the physical instance of fertilization is, obviously, a very ancient idea. This same idea is deeply embedded in many varieties of how persons culturally grappled with the presumably self-evident unique outcome of procreation. Actually, is there a good reason to presume even this was so? I’m willing to wager without knowing–yet–conceptions about the soul finding its physical incarnation predate ideas about every born human constituting an utterly unique instance of human being.

Obviously, fortuitous dependencies track backward from biological scales ‘down and further’ back through material and temporal scales. My main research interest lies in the other direction, long after the presumptive collapse of enjoined human wave functions (!) granted in fertilization have occurred. Still, it would remain true enough that the serendipity decisive in later human development all are in the light of the strange and implicit fragility of fertilization, and, the: “I might never have come to be!”

Except for this crucial feature: successful fertilization and thus the biological evocation of a him or her sets up this new person as a unique in stance of human being, but is not the whole story by any means.

So much for the notion that DNA determines what an organism is like; it doesn’t. There is, in principle, no one-to-one relationship, no “mapping,” from DNA sequences to characters. (Of course, we can map differences of character– like albinism or Parkinson’s disease–to species differences in DNA.) The whole process of development, from ovary- making egg to mother-making ovary, holds itself together. Each bit of information context, like the egg mechanisms, is necessary and specific for each bit of information content, like the DNA. What makes the fly, or you, is the complete process of development. All of it. Can you blame your DNA for your funny squiggly handwriting, your passion for Fats Waller and
Burmese cats, your blue eyes! Well, perhaps the last, but certainly not the others. You can’t blame the DNA for what you’ve made of yourself. You, the process, are responsible for what you are, what you do. And for what you become. (biologist Jack Cohen)

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