Monday, May 16, 2011

out of Tao into Tao

the Teh of Tao

- 16 -

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

De la causa, principio et uno of Tao

« Thus, it is a universe, infinite, immobile, one is the absolute possibility, one the act, one the form or soul, one the body or matter, one the thing, one the entity, one the most and the excellent; which must not be understood, and therefore infinite and endless, and therefore infinite and limitless and consequently still; this does not move locally, because has no thing beside himself where to carry, since that is all; is not generated because is nothing that he can be derived or expected, given all that has being; is imperishable because there is no another thing to change, since he is everything, can not diminish or increase, since it is infinite, that you can not add, so is that you can not subtract, to what the infinite has not proportionate share »

(Giordano Bruno, De la causa, principio et uno, 1584)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Schizophrenia (2 of Swords)

The person on this card brings a new twist to the old idea of "getting stuck between a rock and a hard place"! But we are in precisely this sort of situation when we get stuck in the indecisive and dualistic aspect of the mind. Should I let my arms go and fall head-first, or let my legs go and fall feet-first? Should I go here or there? Should I say yes or no? And whatever decision we make, we will always wonder if we should have decided the other way. The only way out of this dilemma is, unfortunately, to let go of both at once. You can't work your way out of this one by solving it, making lists of pros and cons, or in any way working it out with your mind. Better to follow your heart, if you can find it. If you can't find it, just jump--your heart will start beating so fast there will be no mistake about where it is!

Man is split. Schizophrenia is a normal condition of man--at least now. It may not have been so in the primitive world, but centuries of conditioning, civilization, culture and religion have made man a crowd--divided, split, contradictory.... But because this split is against his nature, deep down somewhere hidden the unity still survives. Because the soul of man is one, all the conditionings at the most destroy the periphery of the man. But the center remains untouched--that's how man continues to live. But his life has become a hell. The whole effort of Zen is how to drop this schizophrenia, how to drop this split personality, how to drop the divided mind of man, how to become undivided, integrated, centered, crystallized. The way you are, you cannot say that you are. You don't have a being. You are a marketplace--many voices. If you want to say 'yes', immediately the 'no' is there. You cannot even utter a simple word 'yes' with totality.... In this way happiness is not possible; unhappiness is a natural consequence of a split personality.

a perfect Tao for bananafish

THERE WERE ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through. She used the time, though. She read an article in a women's pocket-size magazine, called "Sex Is Fun-or Hell." She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand.
She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.
With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left--the wet--hand back and forth through the air. With her dry hand, she picked up a congested ashtray from the window seat and carried it with her over to the night table, on which the phone stood. She sat down on one of the made-up twin beds and--it was the fifth or sixth ring--picked up the phone.
"Hello," she said, keeping the fingers of her left hand outstretched and away from her white silk dressing gown, which was all that she was wearing, except mules--her rings were in the bathroom.
"I have your call to New York now, Mrs. Glass," the operator said.
"Thank you," said the girl, and made room on the night table for the ashtray.
A woman's voice came through. "Muriel? Is that you?"
The girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. "Yes, Mother. How are you?" she said.
"I've been worried to death about you. Why haven't you phoned? Are you all right?"
"I tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here's been--"
"Are you all right, Muriel?"
The girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. "I'm fine. I'm hot. This is the hottest day they've had in Florida in--"
"Why haven't you called me? I've been worried to--"
"Mother, darling, don't yell at me. I can hear you beautifully," said the girl. "I called you twice last night. Once just after--"
"I told your father you'd probably call last night. But, no, he had to-Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth."
"I'm fine. Stop asking me that, please."
"When did you get there?"
"I don't know. Wednesday morning, early."
"Who drove?"
"He did," said the girl. "And don't get excited. He drove very nicely. I was amazed."
"He drove? Muriel, you gave me your word of--"
"Mother," the girl interrupted, "I just told you. He drove very nicely. Under fifty the whole way, as a matter of fact."
"Did he try any of that funny business with the trees?"
"I said he drove very nicely, Mother. Now, please. I asked him to stay close to the white line, and all, and he knew what I meant, and he did. He was even trying not to look at the trees-you could tell. Did Daddy get the car fixed, incidentally?"
"Not yet. They want four hundred dollars, just to--"
"Mother, Seymour told Daddy that he'd pay for it. There's no reason for--"
"Well, we'll see. How did he behave--in the car and all?"
"All right," said the girl.
"Did he keep calling you that awful--"
"No. He has something new now."
"Oh, what's the difference, Mother?"
"Muriel, I want to know. Your father--"
"All right, all right. He calls me Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948," the girl said, and giggled.
"It isn't funny, Muriel. It isn't funny at all. It's horrible. It's sad, actually. When I think how--"
"Mother," the girl interrupted, "listen to me. You remember that book he sent me from Germany? You know--those German poems. What'd I do with it? I've been racking my--"
"You have it."
"Are you sure?" said the girl.
"Certainly. That is, I have it. It's in Freddy's room. You left it here and I didn't have room for it in the--Why? Does he want it?"
"No. Only, he asked me about it, when we were driving down. He wanted to know if I'd read it."
"It was in German!"
"Yes, dear. That doesn't make any difference," said the girl, crossing her legs. "He said that the poems happen to be written by the only great poet of the century. He said I should've bought a translation or something. Or learned the language, if you please."
"Awful. Awful. It's sad, actually, is what it is. Your father said last night--"
"Just a second, Mother," the girl said. She went over to the window seat for her cigarettes, lit one, and returned to her seat on the bed. "Mother?" she said, exhaling smoke.
"Muriel. Now, listen to me."
"I'm listening."
"Your father talked to Dr. Sivetski."
"Oh?" said the girl.
"He told him everything. At least, he said he did--you know your father. The trees. That business with the window. Those horrible things he said to Granny about her plans for passing away. What he did with all those lovely pictures from Bermuda--everything."
"Well?" said the girl.
"Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him from the hospital--my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there's a chance--a very great chance, he said--that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor."
"There's a psychiatrist here at the hotel," said the girl.
"Who? What's his name?"
"I don't know. Rieser or something. He's supposed to be very good."
"Never heard of him."
"Well, he's supposed to be very good, anyway."
"Muriel, don't be fresh, please. We're very worried about you. Your father wanted to wire you last night to come home, as a matter of f--"
"I'm not coming home right now, Mother. So relax."
"Muriel. My word of honor. Dr. Sivetski said Seymour may completely lose contr--"
"I just got here, Mother. This is the first vacation I've had in years, and I'm not going to just pack everything and come home," said the girl. "I couldn't travel now anyway. I'm so sunburned I can hardly move."
"You're badly sunburned? Didn't you use that jar of Bronze I put in your bag? I put it right--"
"I used it. I'm burned anyway."
"That's terrible. Where are you burned?"
"All over, dear, all over."
"That's terrible."
"I'll live."
"Tell me, did you talk to this psychiatrist?"
"Well, sort of," said the girl.
"What'd he say? Where was Seymour when you talked to him?"
"In the Ocean Room, playing the piano. He's played the piano both nights we've been here."
"Well, what'd he say?"
"Oh, nothing much. He spoke to me first. I was sitting next to him at Bingo last night, and he asked me if that wasn't my husband playing the piano in the other room. I said yes, it was, and he asked me if Seymour's been sick or something. So I said--"
"Why'd he ask that?"
"I don't know, Mother. I guess because he's so pale and all," said the girl. "Anyway, after Bingo he and his wife asked me if I wouldn't like to join them for a drink. So I did. His wife was horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwit's window? The one you said you'd have to have a tiny, tiny--"
"The green?"
"She had it on. And all hips. She kept asking me if Seymour's related to that Suzanne Glass that has that place on Madison Avenue--the millinery."
"What'd he say, though? The doctor."
"Oh. Well, nothing much, really. I mean we were in the bar and all. It was terribly noisy."
"Yes, but did--did you tell him what he tried to do with Granny's chair?"
"No, Mother. I didn't go into details very much," said the girl. "I'll probably get a chance to talk to him again. He's in the bar all day long."
"Did he say he thought there was a chance he might get--you know--funny or anything? Do something to you!"
"Not exactly," said the girl. "He had to have more facts, Mother. They have to know about your childhood--all that stuff. I told you, we could hardly talk, it was so noisy in there."
"Well. How's your blue coat?"
"All right. I had some of the padding taken out."
"How are the clothes this year?"
"Terrible. But out of this world. You see sequins--everything," said the girl.
"How's your room?"
"All right. Just all right, though. We couldn't get the room we had before the war," said the girl. "The people are awful this year. You should see what sits next to us in the dining room. At the next table. They look as if they drove down in a truck."
"Well, it's that way all over. How's your ballerina?"
"It's too long. I told you it was too long."
"Muriel, I'm only going to ask you once more--are you really all right?"
"Yes, Mother," said the girl. "For the ninetieth time."
"And you don't want to come home?"
"No, Mother."
"Your father said last night that he'd be more than willing to pay for it if you'd go away someplace by yourself and think things over. You could take a lovely cruise. We both thought--"
"No, thanks," said the girl, and uncrossed her legs. "Mother, this call is costing a for--"
"When I think of how you waited for that boy all through the war-I mean when you think of all those crazy little wives who--"
"Mother," said the girl, "we'd better hang up. Seymour may come in any minute."
"Where is he?"
"On the beach."
"On the beach? By himself? Does he behave himself on the beach?"
"Mother," said the girl, "you talk about him as though he were a raving maniac--"
"I said nothing of the kind, Muriel."
"Well, you sound that way. I mean all he does is lie there. He won't take his bathrobe off."
"He won't take his bathrobe off? Why not?"
"I don't know. I guess because he's so pale."
"My goodness, he needs the sun. Can't you make him?
"You know Seymour," said the girl, and crossed her legs again. "He says he doesn't want a lot of fools looking at his tattoo."
"He doesn't have any tattoo! Did he get one in the Army?"
"No, Mother. No, dear," said the girl, and stood up. "Listen, I'll call you tomorrow, maybe."
"Muriel. Now, listen to me."
"Yes, Mother," said the girl, putting her weight on her right leg.
"Call me the instant he does, or says, anything at all funny--you know what I mean. Do you hear me?"
"Mother, I'm not afraid of Seymour."
"Muriel, I want you to promise me."
"All right, I promise. Goodbye, Mother," said the girl. "My love to Daddy." She hung up.
"See more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel with her mother. "Did you see more glass?"
"Pussycat, stop saying that. It's driving Mommy absolutely crazy. Hold still, please."
Mrs. Carpenter was putting sun-tan oil on Sybil's shoulders, spreading it down over the delicate, winglike blades of her back. Sybil was sitting insecurely on a huge, inflated beach ball, facing the ocean. She was wearing a canary-yellow two-piece bathing suit, one piece of which she would not actually be needing for another nine or ten years.
"It was really just an ordinary silk handkerchief--you could see when you got up close," said the woman in the beach chair beside Mrs. Carpenter's. "I wish I knew how she tied it. It was really darling."
"It sounds darling," Mrs. Carpenter agreed. "Sybil, hold still, pussy."
"Did you see more glass?" said Sybil.
Mrs. Carpenter sighed. "All right," she said. She replaced the cap on the sun-tan oil bottle. "Now run and play, pussy. Mommy's going up to the hotel and have a Martini with Mrs. Hubbel. I'll bring you the olive."
Set loose, Sybil immediately ran down to the flat part of the beach and began to walk in the direction of Fisherman's Pavilion. Stopping only to sink a foot in a soggy, collapsed castle, she was soon out of the area reserved for guests of the hotel.
She walked for about a quarter of a mile and then suddenly broke into an oblique run up the soft part of the beach. She stopped short when she reached the place where a young man was lying on his back.
"Are you going in the water, see more glass?" she said.
The young man started, his right hand going to the lapels of his terry-cloth robe. He turned over on his stomach, letting a sausaged towel fall away from his eyes, and squinted up at Sybil.
"Hey. Hello, Sybil."
"Are you going in the water?"
"I was waiting for you," said the young man. "What's new?"
"What?" said Sybil.
"What's new? What's on the program?"
"My daddy's coming tomorrow on a nairiplane," Sybil said, kicking sand.
"Not in my face, baby," the young man said, putting his hand on Sybil's ankle. "Well, it's about time he got here, your daddy. I've been expecting him hourly. Hourly."
"Where's the lady?" Sybil said.
"The lady?" the young man brushed some sand out of his thin hair. "That's hard to say, Sybil. She may be in any one of a thousand places. At the hairdresser's. Having her hair dyed mink. Or making dolls for poor children, in her room." Lying prone now, he made two fists, set one on top of the other, and rested his chin on the top one. "Ask me something else, Sybil," he said. "That's a fine bathing suit you have on. If there's one thing I like, it's a blue bathing suit."
Sybil stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. "This is a yellow," she said. "This is a yellow."
"It is? Come a little closer." Sybil took a step forward. "You're absolutely right. What a fool I am."
"Are you going in the water?" Sybil said.
"I'm seriously considering it. I'm giving it plenty of thought, Sybil, you'll be glad to know."
Sybil prodded the rubber float that the young man sometimes used as a head-rest. "It needs air," she said.
"You're right. It needs more air than I'm willing to admit." He took away his fists and let his chin rest on the sand. "Sybil," he said, "you're looking fine. It's good to see you. Tell me about yourself." He reached in front of him and took both of Sybil's ankles in his hands. "I'm Capricorn," he said. "What are you?"
"Sharon Lipschutz said you let her sit on the piano seat with you," Sybil said.
"Sharon Lipschutz said that?"
Sybil nodded vigorously.
He let go of her ankles, drew in his hands, and laid the side of his face on his right forearm. "Well," he said, "you know how those things happen, Sybil. I was sitting there, playing. And you were nowhere in sight. And Sharon Lipschutz came over and sat down next to me. I couldn't push her off, could I?"
"Oh, no. No. I couldn't do that," said the young man. "I'll tell you what I did do, though."
"I pretended she was you."
Sybil immediately stooped and began to dig in the sand. "Let's go in the water," she said.
"All right," said the young man. "I think I can work it in."
"Next time, push her off," Sybil said. "Push who off?"
"Sharon Lipschutz."
"Ah, Sharon Lipschutz," said the young man. "How that name comes up. Mixing memory and desire." He suddenly got to his feet. He looked at the ocean. "Sybil," he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll see if we can catch a bananafish."
"A what?"
"A bananafish," he said, and undid the belt of his robe. He took off the robe. His shoulders were white and narrow, and his trunks were royal blue. He folded the robe, first lengthwise, then in thirds. He unrolled the towel he had used over his eyes, spread it out on the sand, and then laid the folded robe on top of it. He bent over, picked up the float, and secured it under his right arm. Then, with his left hand, he took Sybil's hand.
The two started to walk down to the ocean.
"I imagine you've seen quite a few bananafish in your day," the young man said.
Sybil shook her head.
"You haven't? Where do you live, anyway?"
"I don't know," said Sybil.
"Sure you know. You must know. Sharon Lipschutz knows where she lives and she's only three and a half."
Sybil stopped walking and yanked her hand away from him. She picked up an ordinary beach shell and looked at it with elaborate interest. She threw it down. "Whirly Wood, Connecticut," she said, and resumed walking, stomach foremost.
"Whirly Wood, Connecticut," said the young man. "Is that anywhere near Whirly Wood, Connecticut, by any chance?"
Sybil looked at him. "That's where I live," she said impatiently. "I live in Whirly Wood, Connecticut." She ran a few steps ahead of him, caught up her left foot in her left hand, and hopped two or three times.
"You have no idea how clear that makes everything," the young man said.
Sybil released her foot. "Did you read `Little Black Sambo'?" she said.
"It's very funny you ask me that," he said. "It so happens I just finished reading it last night." He reached down and took back Sybil's hand. "What did you think of it?" he asked her.
"Did the tigers run all around that tree?"
"I thought they'd never stop. I never saw so many tigers."
"There were only six," Sybil said.
"Only six!" said the young man. "Do you call that only?"
"Do you like wax?" Sybil asked.
"Do I like what?" asked the young man. "Wax."
"Very much. Don't you?"
Sybil nodded. "Do you like olives?" she asked.
"Olives--yes. Olives and wax. I never go anyplace without 'em."
"Do you like Sharon Lipschutz?" Sybil asked.
"Yes. Yes, I do," said the young man. "What I like particularly about her is that she never does anything mean to little dogs in the lobby of the hotel. That little toy bull that belongs to that lady from Canada, for instance. You probably won't believe this, but some little girls like to poke that little dog with balloon sticks. Sharon doesn't. She's never mean or unkind. That's why I like her so much."
Sybil was silent.
"I like to chew candles," she said finally.
"Who doesn't?" said the young man, getting his feet wet. "Wow! It's cold." He dropped the rubber float on its back. "No, wait just a second, Sybil. Wait'll we get out a little bit."
They waded out till the water was up to Sybil's waist. Then the young man picked her up and laid her down on her stomach on the float.
"Don't you ever wear a bathing cap or anything?" he asked.
"Don't let go," Sybil ordered. "You hold me, now."
"Miss Carpenter. Please. I know my business," the young man said. "You just keep your eyes open for any bananafish. This is a perfect day for bananafish."
"I don't see any," Sybil said.
"That's understandable. Their habits are very peculiar." He kept pushing the float. The water was not quite up to his chest. "They lead a very tragic life," he said. "You know what they do, Sybil?"
She shook her head.
"Well, they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally, after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't fit through the door."
"Not too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"
"What happens to who?"
"The bananafish."
"Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the banana hole?"
"Yes," said Sybil.
"Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."
"Why?" asked Sybil.
"Well, they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."
"Here comes a wave," Sybil said nervously.
"We'll ignore it. We'll snub it," said the young man. "Two snobs." He took Sybil's ankles in his hands and pressed down and forward. The float nosed over the top of the wave. The water soaked Sybil's blond hair, but her scream was full of pleasure.
With her hand, when the float was level again, she wiped away a flat, wet band of hair from her eyes, and reported, "I just saw one."
"Saw what, my love?"
"A bananafish."
"My God, no!" said the young man. "Did he have any bananas in his mouth?"
"Yes," said Sybil. "Six."
The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil's wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.
"Hey!" said the owner of the foot, turning around.
"Hey, yourself We're going in now. You had enough?"
"Sorry," he said, and pushed the float toward shore until Sybil got off it. He carried it the rest of the way.
"Goodbye," said Sybil, and ran without regret in the direction of the hotel.

The young man put on his robe, closed the lapels tight, and jammed his towel into his pocket. He picked up the slimy wet, cumbersome float and put it under his arm. He plodded alone through the soft, hot sand toward the hotel.
On the sub-main floor of the hotel, which the management directed bathers to use, a woman with zinc salve on her nose got into the elevator with the young man.
"I see you're looking at my feet," he said to her when the car was in motion.
"I beg your pardon?" said the woman.
"I said I see you're looking at my feet."
"I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
"If you want to look at my feet, say so," said the young man. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it."
"Let me out here, please," the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
The car doors opened and the woman got out without looking back.
"I have two normal feet and I can't see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them," said the young man. "Five, please." He took his room key out of his robe pocket.
He got off at the fifth floor, walked down the hall, and let himself into 507. The room smelled of new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover.
He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, then reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.

complex Tao levels 2-3: Autopoiesis of Tao

The model of Operational Closure of a system, introduced by Maturana and Varela as one of the fundamental characteristics of all the living systems, however is not sufficient as minimum complete set of description. Since the complexity of the living systems it is expected that a single type of description would not be enough but would be necessary a plot of more descriptions at different levels to obtain a minimum complete synthesis.
In the early 70s, and particularly in 1972, Humberto Maturana, subsequently with Francisco Varela, has introduced the concept of autopoiesis or autopoietic system.

What property, then, must have a system to be called truly alive?

We can make a clear distinction between living and non-living systems?

What is the exact connection that exists between self-organization and life?

These were the questions which arose Humberto Maturana, a chilean scholar of neurosciences, in the sixties. After six years of studies abd research in the biology field in England and USA, where he collaborated with the McCulloch group at MIT and was strongly influenced by cybernetics, in 1960 Maturana returned to the University of Santiago. Here he specialized in neurosciences and, in particular, in understanding color perception. As a result of this research, in Maturana mind take form two key questions. As he reminded later: "I found myself in a situation where my academic life was divided, and I turned in the research of the answers to two questions which appear to conduct in two opposite directions" that is:

"What is the organization of the living?"
"What happens in the phenomenon of perception?""

Maturana struggled with these two questions for almost a decade, and thanks to his genius will find a common answer to both. In this way he made possible the unification of two systemic thought traditions which had occupied of the cartesian separation from different point of view. While organicists biologists explored the nature of the biological form, the cybernetics tried to understand the nature of the mind. At the end of the 60s, Maturana realized that the key to the two enigma was in the comprehension of the "organization of the living". In the autumn of 1968 Maturana was invited by Heinz von Foerster to join his interdisciplinary group by the University of Illinois and to attend a congress about cognition in Chicago some months later.This gave him an ideal opportunity to present his ideason cognition as a biological phenomenon. Which was, therefore, the Maturana central intuition?
As he put it:

"The investigations of the color perception led me to a discovery which was extremely important to me: the nervous system operates as a closed network of interactions, in which every change of the relations of interaction between some components always result in a change in the relations of interaction of the same or other components."

From this discovery Maturana drew two conclusions which give him the answers to the fundamental questions he worked. He hypothesized that the circular organization of the nervous system was the base organization of all living systems:

"Living systems ... [are] organized in a causal closed circular process which allows the evolutionary change in the way circularity is maintained, but not the loss of the circularity itself".

Since all the changes in the system happen into this base circularity, Maturana claimed that the elements which determine the circular organization che gli elementi che determinano l'organizzazione circolare must also be produced and maintained by it. He concluded that this network scheme, where any components has the function to help to produce and transform other components maintaining at the same time the global network circularity, constitutes the true "organization of the living".
The second conclusion that Maturana drew of the circular closure of the nervous system equals to a radically new conception of cognition. He suggested that the nervous system not only self-organize itself but it continuosly refers to itself, so that the perception cannot be regarded as a representation of an external reality but should be considered as a continuous creation of new relationships into the neural network:

"The activity of nerve cells do not reflect an environment independent of the living organism and thus do not allow the construction of an outside world that actually exists"

According to Maturana, the perception, and more generally the cognition, do not represent an extenal reality but rather they specify one through the process of organization of the nervous system. Starting from this premise Muturana performed then a radical step postulating that the process itself of circular organization - with or without a nervous system - is identical to the process of cognition:

"Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This declaration applies to all organisms, with or without a nervous system"

There is no doubt that this way to identify the cognition with the life process is a radically new conception; after published his ideas in 970 Maturana began a long collaboration relationship with Francisco Varela, a young student of neuroscieces of University of Santiago, who has been his student. Maturana tells that their collaboration began when Varela,  during a conversation, proposed to find a more formal and complete description of the circular organization concept. They decided immediatly to work on a complete verbal description of the Maturana idea before to attempt to built up a mathematical model and began inventing a name for it autopoiesis. Auto, of corse, means "by itself" and refers to the autonomy of self-organizing systems; and poiesi - from greek poiesis, from which derives also the word "poetry" - means "production". Therefore autopoiesis means "production of itself". Since they have coined a new word, without a history, they had no problems to use it as a technical term to indicate the distinctive organization of living systems. Two years later, Maturana and Varela published their first formulation of the autopoiesis concept in a long paper and within 1975, together with their colleague Ricardo Uribe, had developed a corresponding mathematical model for the simplest autopoietic system: the living cell.
Maturana and Varela begin the essay on autopoiesis defining their "mechanistic" approach to distinguish from vitalistic theoris on the nature of life: "our approach will be mechanistic: no forces and no pronciples will be put forward that is not in the physical universe"
The next sentence, however, immediatly clarify that the authors do not comply with the Cartesian mechanism, but they think in systemic terms:
"However, our problem is the organization of the living, and so our interest does not focus on the properties of components, but on processes and relations between processes realized through the components"
The authors define even better their position through the basic distinction between "organization" e "structure/pattern", which has been an implicit theme along the history of the systemic thought  which was not explicity formulated untill the development of cybernetics. Maturana and Varela make this distinction crystal clear.
The organization of a living system, they explain, is the whole of the relations among components (the system elements) which define the system as belonging to a certain class (for example a bacterium, a cat or a human brain). The description of this organization is an absctract of relationships and does not define the componenets. The authors hyphotesize that the autopoiesis is a general organization scheme, common to all the living systems, whatever is the nature of their componentsi.
The structure/pattern of a living system, on the contrary, is constituted by the real relations among physical components. In other words, the system pattern is the physical embodiment of its organization. Maturana and Varela emphasize the fact the the organization of a system is indipendent from the properties of its components, so that a certain  organization may translate in a physical pattern in many different ways, through many different components types.
After clarifying that their interest is addressed to the organization and not to the pattern, the authors give the definition of autopoiesis, the common organization of all living beings:

It is a network of production processes, where the function of any components is to share to the production or to the transformation of other components of the network. In this way, the entire network "continuosly produces itself'. It is produced by its components and in turn produces its components.
"In living systems the product of their operation is their own organization"

Which is the concept of Operational Closure. In other words:

An autopoietic machine (system) is a machine organized (defined as a unit) as a network of production (transformation and distribution) processes of components so that:
(i) through their interactions and transformations they continuously regenerate and realize the process (relations) network which has produced them, and
(ii) constitute (the machine) as a concrete unit in the space where (the components) exist, specifying the topological domain of its realization as a network.
[...] the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described using dimensions of another space. When we refer to our interaction with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system in the space of our manipulations and we make a description of this projection.

An important characteristic of living systems is that their autopoietic organization involves the creation of a boundary which specify the network operational domain and defines the system as a unit .

Creation of a cellular membrane from the internal dynamic metabolism and, vice versa, the cellular membrane allows the creation of the autopoietic internal domain for cellular metabolism

An image of a human buccal epithelial cell obtained using Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) microscopy
According to Maturana and Varela, the autopoiesis concept is necessary and sufficient to define the organization of living systemsi. However, this definition does not include any information on the physical constitution of the system components.
The autopoiesis becomes therefore the combination between the complementarity of structure-pattern and organization and the operational closure of the system. The process of life born from the
co-emergence between an autopoietic system and the environment in a process which Maturana identifies as cognitive:
"Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organism, with or without a nervous system"
This particular interpretation of cognition as the life process is called "Santiago Theory of Cognition", and has been further elaborated particularly by Francisco Varela in the field of cognitive sciences. To understand the properties of the components and their physical interactions, should be added to the abstract description of the system organization a description of its pattern in the language of physics and chemistry. The clear distinction between these two descriptions - one in terms of pattern and the other in terms of organization - make possible to join the models of self-organization which refers to the structure (as those of Prigogine and Haken) and the models which refer to the organization (as those of Eigen and of Maturana and Varela) in a coherent theory of living systems.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

english Tao lectures

Tribute to Tao: William Blake

"Without Contraries is no progression.
Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys Reason.
Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven.
Evil is Hell." 

red Tao dragon

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun
William Blake
waretcolor 54.6 by 43.2, c. 1805
And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.
— (Rev. 12:3-4)

Metalogue: why do Tao have outlines?

Daughter: Daddy, why do things have outlines?
Father: Do they? I don't know. What sort of things do you mean?
D: I mean when I draw things, why do they have outlines?
F: Well, what about other sorts of things—a flock of sheep? or a conversation? Do they have outlines?
D: Don't be silly. I can't draw a conversation. I mean things.
F: Yes—I was trying to find out just what you meant. Do you mean "Why do we give things outlines when we draw them?" or do you mean that the things have out-lines whether we draw them or not?
D: I don't know, Daddy. You tell me. Which do I mean?
F: I don't know, my dear. There was a very angry artist once who scribbled all sorts of things down, and after he was dead they looked in his books and in one place they found he'd written "Wise men see outlines and therefore they draw them" but in another place he'd written "Mad men see outlines and therefore they draw them."
D: But which does he mean? I don't understand.
F: Well, William Blake—that was his name—was a great artist and a very angry man. And sometimes he rolled up his ideas into little spitballs so that he could throw them at people.
D: But what was he mad about, Daddy?
F: But what was he mad about? Oh, I see—you mean "angry." We have to keep those two meanings of "mad" clear if we are going to talk about Blake. Because a lot of people thought he was mad—really mad—crazy. And that was one of the things he was mad-angry about. And then he was mad-angry, too, about some artists who painted pictures as though things didn't have out-lines. He called them "the slobbering school."
D: He wasn't very tolerant, was he, Daddy?
F: Tolerant? Oh, God. Yes, I know—that's what they drum into you at school. No, Blake was not very tolerant. He didn't even think tolerance was a good thing. It was just more slobbering. He thought it blurred all the outlines and muddled everything—that it made all cats gray. So that nobody would be able to see anything clearly and sharply.
D: Yes, Daddy.
F: No, that's not the answer. I mean "Yes, Daddy" is not the answer. All that says is that you don't know what your opinion is—and you don't give a damn what I say or what Blake says and that the school has so befuddled you with talk about tolerance that you can-not tell the difference between anything and anything else.
D: (Weeps.)
F: Oh, God. I'm sorry, but I was angry. But not really an¬gry with you. Just angry at the general mushiness of how people act and think—and how they preach muddle and call it tolerance.
D: But, Daddy
F: Yes?
D: I don't know. I don't seem able to think very well. It's all in a muddle.
F: I'm sorry. I suppose I muddled you by starting to let off steam.

D: Daddy? F: Yes?
D: Why is that something to get angry about?
F: Is what something to get angry about?
D: I mean—about whether things have outlines. You said William Blake got angry about it. And then you get angry about it. Why is that, Daddy?
F: Yes, in a way I think it is. I think it matters. Perhaps in a way, is the thing that matters. And other things only matter because they are part of this.
D: What do you mean, Daddy?
F: I mean, well, let's talk about tolerance. When Gentiles want to bully Jews because they killed Christ, I get intolerant. I think the Gentiles are being muddle-headed and are blurring all the outlines. Because the Jews didn't kill Christ, the Italians did it.
D: Did they, Daddy?
F: Yes, only the ones who did are called Romans today, and we have another word for their descendants. We call them Italians. You see there are two muddles and I was making the second muddle on purpose so we could catch it. First there's the muddle of getting the history wrong and saying the Jews did it, and then there's the muddle of saying that the descendants should be responsible for what their ancestors didn't do. It's all slovenly.
D: Yes, Daddy.
F: All right, I'll try not to get angry again. All I'm trying to say is that muddle is something to get angry about. D: Daddy?
F: Yes?
D: We were talking about muddle the other day. Are we really talking about the same thing now?
F: Yes. Of course we are. That's why it's important—what we said the other day.
D: And you said that getting things clear was what Science was about.
F: Yes, that's the same thing again.

D: I don't seem to understand it all very well. Everything seems to be everything else, and I get lost in it.
F: Yes, I know it's difficult. The point is that our conversa¬tions do have an outline, somehow—if only one could see it clearly.

F: Let's think about a real concrete out-and-out muddle, for a change, and see if that will help. Do you remember the game of croquet in Alice in Wonderland?
D: Yes—with flamingos?
F: That's right.
D: And porcupines for balls?
F: No, hedgehogs. They were hedgehogs. They don't have porcupines in England.
D: Oh. Was it in England, Daddy? I didn't know.
F: Of course it was in England. You don't have duchesses in America either.
D: But there's the Duchess of Windsor, Daddy.
F: Yes, but she doesn't have quills, not like a real porcupine.
D: Go on about Alice and don't be silly, Daddy.
F: Yes, we were talking about flamingos. The point is that the man who wrote Alice was thinking about the same things that we are. And he amused himself with little Alice by imagining a game of croquet that would be all muddle, just absolute muddle. So he said they should use flamingos as mallets because the flamingos would bend their necks so the player wouldn't know even whether his mallet would hit the ball or how it would hit the ball.
D: Anyhow the ball might walk away of its own accord because it was a hedgehog.
F: That's right. So that it's all so muddled that nobody can tell at all what's going to happen.
D: And the hoops walked around, too, because they were soldiers.
F: That's right—everything could move and nobody could tell how it would move.
D: Did everything have to be alive so as to make a complete muddle?
F: No—he could have made it a muddle by . . . no, I suppose you're right. That's interesting. Yes, it had to be that way. Wait a minute. It's curious but you're right. Because if he'd muddled things any other way, the players could have learned how to deal with the muddling details. I mean, suppose the croquet lawn was bumpy, or the balls were a funny shape, or the heads of the mallets just wobbly instead of being alive, then the people could still learn and the game would only be more difficult—it wouldn't be impossible. But once you bring live things into it, it becomes impossible. I wouldn't have expected that.
D: Wouldn't you, Daddy? I would have. That seems natural to me.
F: Natural? Sure—natural enough. But I would not have expected it to work that way.
D: Why not? That's what I would have expected.
F: Yes. But this is the thing that I would not have ex¬pected. That animals, which are themselves able to see things ahead and act on what they think is going to happen—a cat can catch a mouse by jumping to land where the mouse will probably be when she has com¬pleted her jump—but it's just the fact that animals are capable of seeing ahead and learning that makes them the only really unpredictable things in the world. To think that we try to make laws as though people were quite regular and predictable.
D: Or do they make the laws just because people are not predictable, and the people who make the laws wish the other people were predictable?
F: Yes, I suppose so.


Tribute to Tao: Raymond Carver

copyright Kevin Scanlon

« "And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth." »

--> -->
“. . . The places where water comes together
with other water. Those places stand out
in my mind like holy places..."

(from “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water” by Raymond Carver)