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vigilance for emergents: anticipating primordial potential
october 30, 2011



I’m behind in reading—or rather, behind in archiving articles unread (mostly). Usually not making enough time for all the reading I want to do, I obsessively archive for various projects—a lot of projects. I’m behind in that. At the moment, I’m behind the NY Times a week; behind two issues of The New York Review of Books (biweekly); 2 issues of Science (weekly); 5 books from the UC Berkeley Library (including my unfinished weekly café reading of a few pages from To Follow, still unfinished); and last but not least, today’s online news via Google (an ephemerality I’ll catch up with, later tonight). I did get weekly shopping done yesterday. And I got lots else done that afternoon (not worth listing: normal life)—seeming here now like a “Status Update,” but feeling allegorical (in the flow, like anyone, of the day’s emergents).

Dare I get obsessed with Twittering comments on the news? The emergent gravity of that (so many moments of cryptic observation) would be very singular—but not idiosyncratic, I hope; but also worth more than 140 characters per opinion.

However, I expect that on the other side of my prevailing Project (which will gain closure, if only because I’ll one day be unable to do any more), I’ll have nothing to do but provide my view of days going by, in terms of news (typical of emergence in our evolving).

Appropriation of the familiar world via transformed imaginability

Our intrinsic human interest in flourishing nourishes itself on the emergents, usually novelties, but also enchantments, excitements, mysteries, discoveries (disclosures), challenges, and so on we go loving to be drawn into appeals.

Purely letting be—letting arise—without expectation, whatever may emerge, can become a self-fulfilling motive or appealing pleasure in learning, exploration, and enlightenment. Hidden in advents is potential for epiphanic Flow, from childish elation through scientific eureka.

But the hallmark of enlightenment is not passive, like waiting for the solution to a problem rather than seeking it out. The hallmark of enlightening is prospective, constructive, and imaginative, because emergences tend toward plurality, likely incongruous, before there’s a “snap-to-grid,” presuming crystalization of a prevailing gestalt—paradigmatically, relative to conceptual coordinates (e.g., a theory or explanatory narrative). Indeed, conceptual imagination is our great resolving capability for cohering incongruous emergents we otherwise would have go away (because dissonance is inherently aversive—unless it holds a reliable—albeit still hidden—promise of release). In resolving incongruities or finding focus over a field, we enrich our presence as enriching presence in itself, like an intangible feeling-of-being drawing us to highly appealing views (a higher scale of Flow).

We can transform a topology of belonging. Some wholly new Way can become embodied, inhabiting one sustainably (at least as conceptual gardening). There is Originality.

And I’m merely a promissory note in so many flavors? No.

There’s ecogeny in the free-associative writing of mine online. Non sequituriality (love it) in blogging is allegorical of life itself. Things “make themselves” salient, as if calling to belong in a gravitating pointillism of it all.

My increasing links to my own writing expresses a sense of meandering through my own landscape in an unnamed direction that—I connote (and claim)—also may integrate the landscape as such, way up a winding narrative, wherein each page becomes an experimental gestalt of themes and links in the venture, altogether (as the Site) emergently regioning some Way (which will gain well-formed formulation, I promise). TrOpicality (like gardening) will yield to topocality (like biology), and conceptuality is a living Thing stringing itself through time-space by whatever lucidity that-which-regions (a “mind”) can grant and bear.

A specific venture can be a partial gestalt in vining the entire cohering (its entirety still far away). Ambiguity in exact conceptual stringing (due to the historical character of concepts available) can be generative for an evolution of conceptuality (which invites neologism; but so it goes). My sense of coordinates—or conceptual constellating—is not like a grid in timeless space (though I’m enchanted by Escherian transforms), but like a net in water implying topogenic enfolding (as if conceptual molecularity has its own kind of protein folding—ha!: protean enfolding).

Imagine developing a categorial coordinating taxonomy relative to years of notes (shaped into a numerically-ordered array, as a kind of thematic Movement from proximal [01.xx.yy] to highly derived [15.xx.yy], spanning approximately 400 foci—with “xx” subthemes and “yy” sub-subthemes of the xx sets—all conceptual foci), then organizing thousands of notes relative to the resulting ordered (telic) constellation (including later notes added into the constellated landscape, as life goes on relative to a thematology). I have two such databases (one with 6500+ items, using the 400 foci; and another database with 7600+ items, using a much-larger constellation). They’re delightful to play with: Searching item titles (which are the lead theme for each record’s little narrative or/and set of information/resources) results in an emergent ordered array that I can abundantly write in light of—but I don’t yet do that (never have), since that’s not the simple purpose of those archival resources and provisional notes. My point, though: Online improvisations about selective pointillism can have a massively literal correlate as emergent thematics.

Modes of presence

However one approaches conceptual constellating, there are clearly different levels of organization, though my scalarity below is very general. (It’s hilarious that tech talk includes allusion to “fine-grained” and coarse “granularity” of articulation. Love them, though. Here, I’m to be “high level” or showing coarse granularity.)

It’s useful to think of modalities in terms of conceptual legacies. Least legacial are heuristics, usually improvised relative to particular project needs. Modalities are also genric: The types of visual art or types of music or types of psychology, etc. that have historically sedimented. There, though, the difference between visual art, music, and psychology is domainal (standardly called “disciplinary,” which I don’t like). Genric differences imply different modes of interest (standardized academically or economically). Also, modal differences can be model-theoretic within and across domains, as each has its own kind of inquiry.

Genres can transcend domains, domains transcend genres, models transcend domains, and domains transcend models—altogether as if modalities can be different dimensions, as if perpendicular to each other such that a given complex of understanding may inhabit multiple dimensions.

All that is the most ordinary thing, of course: All kinds of well-known categorialities are implied by what we do, also emergent in the doing, e.g., as narrative shifts genre “unwittingly,” or a medium “incriminates” its mode through transgressive exploring.

Committing to what dimensions there “are” depends on one’s scale of engagement. So, too, for discerning what dimensions are appropriate for understanding emergent things. Once upon a time (like, for centuries) it was thought that conceptual internality could be ultimately secured (metaphysicalism). Failures of that nonetheless taught humanity great things about cognitive evolution. But ultimately evolving goes on “across the board” (and “all the way down”).

How it goes on is a philosophical thing, likely understood singularly, as in the legacy of entire conceptual paradigms gaining a proper name: “Kantian,” “Derridean,” etc. It’s almost scary how conceptual possibility is attached to individual talents: “Einsteinian,” “Hawking radiation,” etc. The concept of a Nobel Prize expresses the oddity of our evolving: there being emergent Singularities of the highest kind. Psychologist Howard Gardner made a career of trying to understand how this happens (as have other inquirers): that individuation leads to “extraordinary minds” or epochal salience.

Indeed, the most elusive mystery in the known universe is here: the emergence of mind. Coincidently, Terrence Deacon’s magnum opus appeared at Moe’s Books this week, and I’m forcing myself to his Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter, 2012, into the later context of my reading list where it “belongs,” rather than delving into it soon. But such chapter titles!: “Homeodynamics,” “Morphodynamics,” “Teleodynamics,” and “Autogenesis,” from which evidently emerges the common phenomenalities of “Significance,” “Evolution,” “Self,” “Sentience,” and “Consciousness.” Deacon is Chair of the UCB Anthropology Department. That makes me giggle.

O, but look at this (back from the bookstore earlier today): Survival of the Beautiful: art, science, and evolution, by philosopher / musician David Rothenberg, 2011, who finds the nature of art in the emergent intelligence of natural design. Hail, biophilia. (He also composes music to weave into his field recordings of birds, whales, and cicadas: a kind of conceptual design inspired by—entwining with—natural design?).

Are we not already in heaven, just in being alive?

The great biologist Edward O. Wilson coined the notion of biophilia around 1983 (published 1984), then coined the notion of consilience around the turn of the millennium, the latter notion now re-emergent for a new generation of engagement (which avoids Wilson’s biologism—I’ve so often mentioned).

Derrida and singularity

It’s not that singularity can be captured, as if “the” singularity of a mind is [a given discursive conception]. There’s no integrable conception of Jacques Derrida’s thinking, because “Derrida” is a way of conceptually working, not any particular result. Ultimately, a singularity is untranslatable into something else. Its appreciability is the way it lives on, not being regarded as an “end in itself” (which was so characteristic of German Idealism).

Peggy Kamuf doesn’t try to capture him, but she provides many evocative “takes,” including J.D.’s sense of primordial emergence in there being anything, lived as vigilance for what is unexpected. In her essay “From Now On,” in To Follow, Kamuf regards Derrida’s thinking as epochal: “...thought that will divide our age from what came before....[I]t is the certainty of uncertainty and incalculability in which, paradoxical though it sounds, Derrida placed his faith” (94).

With unequaled acuteness and vigilance, he listens for what might be coming, to the yet-unknown who or what he dubbed the arrivant....It is as if with one hand he could appear to point to the coming of a future while the other hand were all the same compelled to go on writing in the dark...[the hands belonging together in] a question of the future arrivant who or which remains always to come in relation to knowable possibilities. To put it another way: Derrida’s thinking makes its way by not losing sight of what it cannot see coming. But also...by affirming a certain faith in the future that the other, the arrivant, is bringing. [ibid.]

Somehow, that’s what It All is (I extrapolate): emergences of Emerging—in the cosmos, of our planetarity, for unpredictable lives—proximally via the quotidian, mediately as what's exotic, primordially...

Anticipating primordial futurity in promising potentials, what thematic—what thematology, what trOpical coordinate system, what conceptual constellating, what topology—shows best promise for telic cohering irt (of and for) our evolving?

I don’t know.

Next: Part 2 of “autotelic mind


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