Monday, February 16, 2009

Organic, natural design and cyberculture. Three stages of trance states.

I do just about everything on the internet now; some days I forget to leave the house, so engrossed I get in what I'm doing. But I do come from a tree hugging, Earth Mother type background, despite the Protestant work ethic my family tried to beat into my skull. The interest in human nature and relations with the natural world remain strong. In fact, some days I represent myself on the innerwebs as a puma, whom I describe as my Power Animal, or Totem.

Be it supernatural in origin or a quirk of random evolution, mankind goes through three stages of hallucination when the appropriate conditions occur. In some people, this occurs spontaneously, in others it takes chemical ingestion or periods of physical exhaustion through extreme exercise (trance dancing) or fasting. Stage one is generally geometric patterns appearing before the eyes. The second, the patterns evolve into more organic shapes, the mind making some sort of sense or interpretations of the abstract shapes. The third, the organics fade and the mind enters a more peaceful resting state that fades back into consciousness (or sleep).

Cave paintings all throughout the world, though still heavily debated, have me convinced that the ancient artists were trancing before or during their painting, and that the state of trancing, and attributing meaning to symbols became the foundation of our written languages and our religions, and possibly our intelligence as we understand it. It's a wild guess that this might be the case, and worth study, the study of human nature always is.

Modern architecture, from the Gothic to the present, reduced to impressions appears in my eyes to be similar to this first stage of trancing, patterns, and more patterns. Step from the urban areas into a natural surrounding, the second stage appears, with spirits lurking behind every tree, and even the trees look back at you. Each rock looks up at you and reminds you that it is they who live forever, not you. Clear your way through the woods to the side of a lake, and you've traveled from busy angular imagery, through the wild natural, and to the serene for reflection upon what you've experienced.

This is what I miss on those days I forget to leave the house. And those forget to leave the house days often are the least productive of all.

So regardless what the modern law says about hallucination, it is a capacity of the human mind to traverse through those stages. And given that it strongly appears to me that these stages led to the human capacity to interpret symbols into meanings, to utterly divorce ourselves from the biological into the machine would be the end of humanity, not an evolutionary step at all. An extinction. Whether or not this is a good thing is open to debate.

Chinese gardens balance these elements well, thoughtfully laid out, and moving form section to section is like moving from world to world, the ordered, to the wild, to the serene. Looking backward at these designs is important in looking forward. Studying the works of the most ancient artisans and designers of our species tells us about how we became. Looking at our designs now tell us who we are. None of this is outdated, or outmoded, or ever will be. Design tells our story.

1 comment:

Vivito Volare said...

I am apt to agree.

Paraphrased from an old associate, in the context of human mythmaking:

"The young man leaves the village because he sees a path others do not. He follows it, getting lost many times along the way, and finds a new and wondrous village. The funny thing is, often, this new village is right where the one he left was."

We thrive, as a species, due to these "stepping outside" sort of moments. They infuse us with new insights, bring perspective, and sometimes inspire questions a whole age will try to answer.