Unreal Nature

December 31, 2016

The Least Amount of Hunting

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… To many people nature suggests nothing, signifies nothing, is nothing.

Continuing through The New Landscape in Art and Science by Gyorgy Kepes (1956; 1967):

… Central in the creation of self-regulating systems has been the grasp of the significance of feedback, of the circular causal process, or, to express it more generally, interdependence. We ourselves are self-regulating systems; when we put out our hand for an apple, our movement sends back to us a continuous indication of where we are; similarly to the guided missile, we continuously correct for error as we seek our destination.

[line break added] The proportioning of our flow of effort in accordance with the flow of return information brings us to our goal with an accuracy which is impossible to the infant who, not yet able to bring these opposites into harmony, overshoots or undershoots his mark. The engineer, too, in developing a guided missile, must learn to synchronize error and correction of error to avoid “hunting,” excessive oscillation about the point of coordination in order to obtain a design that will carry out its assignment.

[line break added] Every purposive movement is composed of two processes, not one; their symmetry in action is the measure of its success. The “elegant” — or most successful — mathematical solution is that which has involved the least amount of hunting, as shown by its minimum number of steps.

[ … ]

… They saw the men about them coerced by outer pressure and inner weakness into a uniform grey pattern, assuming personalities that offered the least friction to the regimenting processes of machine civilization.

Ruskin was among the first to sound a warning that technical discipline was robbing men of creativity by atomizing their work, letting them see only a part and never an integrated whole:

We have much studied and much perfected, of late, the great civilized invention of the division of labor; only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labor that is divided, but the man: divided into mere segments of man — broken into small fragments and crumbs; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in man is enough to make a pin or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the head of a pin or the point of a nail. Now it is a good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins a day; but if we could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished — sand of human souls — we should think that there might be some loss in it also.

Sullivan, the great architect, justly complained that men had been deprived of imaginative and affective power, their closest tie with nature’s embracing wealth:

That is because they have lost natural spontaneity of feeling, the capacity to enjoy simple pleasures, and to discern the beautiful when it is before their eyes. To many people nature suggests nothing, signifies nothing, is nothing. When the sun sets it means for them that the light must be struck. When the trees and fields are rich in summer verdure, that means nothing — one mosquito will outbalance it all; when the trees are bare in autumn, that means nothing; the awakening of spring with all its fantasy of joy, of color, of youth means nothing to them — other than colds and wet feet.

My most recent previous post from Kepes’s book is here.

-Julie

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