I’ve been ill for almost exactly a week. I’ve been describing it as a cold. That may have been a mistake. A cold can be be miserable, uncomfortable and, maybe, even need a day or so in bed, but not the disabling assault that I have been experiencing, where half an hour to do something I absolutely have to do is paid for with a collapse into a mildly delirious state of immobility for several hours.
But, this is the bit I am curious about. While doing a simple task like writing a simple e-mail took on the attributes of a mission like climbing Everest or crossing the Sahara on foot, the periods of lying flat on my back, neither sleeping nor fully wakeful, seemed to release a flood of creative ideas that will probably keep me going for several months ahead as I work out their viability and their implications.
So here is the paradox: for most of this week I have been staggeringly unproductive in terms of actually producing stuff, with a mind like a bucket of sludge whenever I sat down at my computer, but in the drifty periods of collapse among a whole lot of misty weirdness there have been the moments of laser like clarity where some really sharp ideas appeared. So a time of both stagnation and fertility. What strange creatures we are.
“The inventor Buckminster Fuller was fond of holding up his hand and asking people. ‘What is this?’ Invariably, they would respond, ‘It’s a hand’. He would then point out that the cells that made up that hand were continually dying and regenerating themselves. What seems tangible is continually changing: in fact, a hand is completely re-created within a year or so. So when we see a hand – or an entire body or any living system – as a static “thing”, we are mistaken. ‘What you see is not a hand’, said Fuller. ‘It is a “pattern integrity”, the universe’s capability to create hands'”
(From Peter Senge et al, “Presence” pp6)
It’s John Chris Jones’s eightieth birthday today. A day worth celebrating.
I have many things to thank him for, because over the years he has influenced my thinking in many ways.
I owe him a particular debt of gratitude, because I got the “purposive” in purposive drift from him.
It is from one of my favourite books, one that I return to time after time, “Essays in Design” (page 162 John Wiley & Sons, 1984 if you want to look it up):
“When you go to process, you lose the goal, you lose the aim.
I’m beginning to see it now …..THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF PURPOSES……the purpose of having a result, something that exists after the process has stopped, and does not exist until it has stopped….. and there is the purpose of carrying on, of keeping the process going, just as one may breather so as to continue breathing?……the purpose is to carry on.”
So Happy Birthday, John Chris and may you carry on for many years to come.
I started reading John Berger in my teens in the much missed (by me) “New Society”. Over the years I read his books and article with a mixture of interest and ambivalence. In the last ten years or so my attitude has shifted and my feelings moved to a strong sense that he is a good man, who is worth listening to carefully. If you want to know what I mean buy a copy of his latest collection of thoughts and observations, “Hold Everything Dear”. His fundamental decency and humanity come shining through. But first a quote from one of his rare interviews:
“‘What seems to have been abandoned of late,’ he tells me at one point, sounding, for the first time, regretful, ‘and what is absolutely fundamental to all we have talked about, is the notion of solidarity. And it is not only to gain something that we should seek solidarity, because solidarity, in itself, is a meaningful quality, that is to say, a quality that gives meaning to life, which makes sense of life. So, I hope it’s there in my work.'”