Katarchis

consciousness

Katarchic astrology is a type of astrology that studies the beginning of things. What do the heavens, at the moment of conception, have to do with the unfolding of the thing conceived? With the nature of the thing conceived, the future/destiny/or fate of that thing. Katarchis (really it would be Katarches) is not Katharsis although they both begin with ka. καταρχή vs κάθαρσις. Beginning vs cleanse. Perhaps the katharsis comes after the katarche … katharsis is the middle game. For ending we could have καταργέω (katargeo) .. to cease, or to separate from. I don’t have my Liddell and Scott lexicon here in pandemic paradise, so I don’t know where this word has been used. And that my friends, is another unwritten trilogy… maybe the beginning of a trilogy.

In my personal past I have not paid attention to beginnings, I have been only focused on endings. When I started a company I thought about the exit, when I started a paper I thought about the delivery or publication, when I got pregnant I thought about the birth. This is doubly unfortunate because by predisposition I am really really bad at endings. You should see my terribly pathetic breakups. I recently taught a yoga class and a friend said you sort of crapped out at the end. Mind you I did not feel this, I thought I did a pretty okay job, but I am not surprised at this turn of events. I am not a closer. I do a killer opening meditation however.

Emphasis on finishing, on closing, is a cultural bias of late capitalism. The process is not important only the product. And how you start the process is something to rush through, something to just do, so you can iterate on it and improve on it. This is the mind set of the minimum viable product, and lean startup methodology. It almost does not matter what you begin with. It is like a seed number for a random number generator.

In culture there are particular areas where we do end badly. Where we are not as practiced at endings. In act our destruction of the environment, disregard for black lives, trans lives, and so forth, are the inability to end certain practices and beliefs, to say that something is enough, or to just STOP. In a literal sense, our cultural attitude towards death is a literal representation of this. All our emphasis on endings, but only certain endings, and as it turns on perhaps the least important of endings. If art is the unconscious of the culture, I will now complain about the truly horrible state of affairs when it comes to novel endings. Contemporary novels just don’t know how to end well. Is this something about the ending, or about the beginning about how a novel begins. Because my idea now is, if something is attention is paid to the beginning, then the ending will have similar intentionality.

Curiously though, we as a culture love first lines. So many lists of books with incredible first lines. There are listicles of great first lines. It is a big deal to write a brilliant first line. We really do not remember last lines (probably because they mostly are crap). Although my favorite line in literature is the last line in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Who are the experts in starting? When I played soccer as a young woman, the goal was to be a starter. If you were an ender you were perhaps less skilled, unless the game was close. Then the starters just ended as well. But the starter was a communal activity. All the players on the field at the beginning were starters. There was not a person skilled at starting. In baseball Mariano Rivera, the Yankee’s relief pitcher, was a closer. He was brought in to finish the game. He was skilled at closing. I don’t really know much about pitchers skilled at opening. There is also the famous line from Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross “Always Be Closing.” I am a starter, not a finisher. That is perhaps more accurate.

I am writing about this because I am an opener not a closer. I am a starter, not a finisher. The value of the end over the beginning has so many assumptions: epistemological, ontological, metaphysical. Within this disregard of beginnings is the idea that all parts of a process are of equal importance, like the the minutes of a clock are all 60 seconds. I am just going to name check Bergson … essentially the experience of time has texture and a shape… and move on… maybe I will name check Proust.

And in this commodification of time, making all moments of time, or parts of a project equal, we also make time or process subordinate to the end, time is the build up to the THING! And here I am reminded of the Alan Watts recording that I have pinned to Twitter. So even if all moments of time are equal, the end point, the boundary between process and product, between private development and public launch is given priority… Liminal spaces, moments between worlds or stages are important and should be given particular attention. The beginning is the creation of something out of nothing, and equally important boundary land.

In astrology there is the Doctrine of Origins, that entire outcome of a thing is contained within its origin. That the plant is contained within the seed, that the human is contained within the foetus. This is also a very Goethean scientific world view, that things have forms that they unfold into, that parts are interrelated and cannot be separated.

In any case as I meditate on this, I have decided to lean in to being a starter, and not a finisher. What is the role of the starter once the thing has starter. I feel a bit sad writing this, I want to be around for the ending, the glory, the rewards. This, in itself is a particular world view, because why can’t the glory be in the beginning, in the separation of the waters, in fixing the stars in the firmament. Tomorrow is a new year, a beginning. Although this is an arbitrary beginning… maybe the real beginning began on Dec 26 the day after the solstice when the days began to get longer.

But a new year is a beginning none the less. I wonder how I should end this year, should I reflect, should I journal, should I do a bunch of things I wanted to do before the end of the year. We call it New Year’s eve, not Old Year’s End, which maybe is a look towards starting well, starting before the start, the gestation and the incubation.

Fast Fashion and Accelerate Metrics

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I am working on a project on how space exploration would lead to new fashion, and how fashion is important to culture, and what the relationship of fashion to culture is etc. And by project I mean 3 slide decks.

So let’s start. Think of all the ways fashion intersects with exploration. The diving bell and steam punk, the actual company “banana republic” -however triggering the very name may be for us today, North face and REI, vinyl, mylar (ok so maybe no one really wears mylar). Pantyhose going from status symbol to mass commodity to no one wearing them because we are all wearing sweatpants or pjs. Maybe we need clothing to explore inner space, sleep and meditation.

So this is a rough beginning that exploring extreme conditions necessitates a change in apparel which then filters into the wider culture. Maybe we dress aspirationally, so that we can pretend we are adventurers. Maybe it is just really pleasant to have a light weight but very warm jacket, and maybe we like how we look, the social group that our sartorial decisions identify us with. So this is what fashion does. Is it a need or a want? When I think about presentation I want my outsides to match my insides, to be coherent, to be “in alignment”, to be “in integrity”.

In this sense fashion is important, and in this sense perhaps fashion is a way to further understand who I am. By the act of dressing, an act of creation, I explore new possibilities of who I am and align with how I feel. Or I look the way I feel, or I look the way I am.

Let’s talk for a moment now, about how we get these new clothing. I recently got a ring. I call it my ring of power. It is powerful. It has a black tourmaline stone. Where did this stone come from? I hope someone cut it from the side of a cliff but perhaps it came from a mine, mined in a very unequal and unethical way. I hope not. But I don’t know. I know the man who made the ring. I imagine him, smelting and carving and fashioning the ring, and procuring the stone in an ethical way. There is a snake on the ring, and intricate engravings. I imagine this taking some time. It is a construction of his mind. It is not a mass produced ring. Although who knows, maybe he got it from YiWu.

So let’s talk about how clothing is constructed. People dont really buy clothing in the same way that I bought this ring. Almost all clothing is mass produced and so people generally wear the same things. This is because it is fastest to make the same thing over and over again. We live in the age of optimization. I first considered this 20 years ago when read The postmodern condition by Lyotard. That in addition to the categories of the good, the beautiful, and the true, we we have a new category … THE FAST! In fashion, there is fast fashion, that is something that moves quickly from the catwalk to the retail store. When you search for fast fashion on the internet, one of the first links asks… Is fast fashion ethical. When we optimize what do we lose, what are those thing that we are stripping away? Perhaps ethics, social relations, the ability of the body to replicate it self… since this is not easy to capture in a price, and the way to measure these things are not standardized, non-linear, and unpredictable.

In my work in devops this is the area that I focus on – THE FAST. The fast only applies to systems (ie to processes). The fast imagines time as something malleable. Is THE FAST always at odds with THE GOOD. I dont think so. When I automate the creation of infrastructure, so it takes less time to spin up an environment, so that we can move FASTER (mean time to deployment, mean time to recovery, etc), my actions do not have an ethical component. In this regards, the FAST is a natural outcome of ordering. I am ordering actions in the best way, and as a result all these wonderful things happen, all these metrics are optimized. The FAST is a result of THE GOOD. So perhaps we are mistaken to think there are these separate categories after all.

I wonder if it is not like Plato said, that everything flows from THE GOOD, the sun that creates the source of light for both the forms and the shadows on the cave. When are are doing things correctly there is TRUTH, BEAUTY, and SPEED.

Art and Night 4/8

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I have been painting a lot lately. It started when I was trying to find something to do with my kids. After a while I just did it for myself and my kids join in when they feel like it. Here is a painting I did last week. 18×14 acrylic on newsprint.

It’s abstract.

Proust said: ““Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different one from the other than those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us still each one its special radiance.”

When I am creating are my goal is to align with my highest self and to express that.

Anyway I am writing about a painting of night: Starlit night by Georgia O’Keeffe:

Georgia O'Keeffe, 1917

Night is the substance and light is the space. There are different nights, nights with stars and nights without. These stars have no constellations but they have shapes. They are equally in relation but individually different. They are cut out of night, tears in the fabric of night. Night is first and can paint over the stars.

The Weight

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There is this weird thing that happens when everyone is treated as a commodity. We forget that people are different. People have different desires, strengths, roles, experiences etc. There is reason why someone with 1 year of programming experience is probably not going to make as good a lead engineer as some one with more experience. In integral studies this is related to a notion of levels, which smacks of hierarchy. And there is the danger of thinking this way that leads to atrocities like fascism and dictatorships. However I think this is an important concept to think about and one of the most useful ways to think about this comes from family contellations.

Family constellations is a alternative therapy method that looks at the underlying dynamics in a system to heal it. It also honors ancestors… It is a bit woo. Hanzi actually calls out Family Constellations in this Jim Rutt podcast and places it with UFOs and conspiracy theories… But I think there is something interesting going on here.

In any case, in Family Constellations, there is this notion of weight. Certain people have more weight than others. This does not make them better – it is just a fact. And it is important to honor this weight. If a system does not honor this weight the system is off kilter. An example of this is that your grandfather has more weight than your child. Now your grandfather may be an a**hole. But he has been on the earth longer and has accumulated more weight. Your child may be the buddha reincarnated but your child has less weight.

In some systems we are deciding things based on weight when maybe we should use other decision metrics and this is because we are not honoring the value of weight. Once we make this public we can focus easier on how we need to make decisions in general.

Night 3/7 or 8 Collectors and my unfinished documentary

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Today I was going to talk about a figure of the shadows: The thief, the prostitute, the nightwatch man. All noirs take place at night -unless it is the film chinatown. Who are the people that are creatures of the night? What are the archetypes? someone said a collector. I really do not necessarily think a collector is a creature of the night. Unless it is a spider collecting pray like the Shelob the demon spider in LOTR. Or perhaps rats, rats collect things in the dark, probably at night. Kids collect baseball cards on the school bus, back when kids went to school and took school buses, and probably baseball cards are not NFTs on the blockchain. It sounds like a COVID vector to me.

But as some of you may or may not know, I was in the middle of making a documentary on Collectors during my first midlife crisis with Paul. That midlife crisis was much less fun than my current midlife crisis. And the take away from that is, don’t rush your midlife crisis – it wont taste so good and you may need to put it back in the barrel to age it.

But the documentary on collectors… we have like 100 hours of footage, we (me and Paul V) were collecting collectors. Were we creatures of the night? Perhaps. We did stay in many grungy motels which I do associate with night.

What about collecting is night related? Perhaps there is no logic? Collecting is not Apollonic, nor is it Dionysian (I mean the way I collect s dionysian, but I am special like that). No Collecting is Plutonic -related to pluto or hades – the god of the dead. The god collecting the dead he also collected other things like gems perhaps. Plutos means wealth. Here is a great resource on pluto and other mythology.

Collecting is illogical, but also the collector becomes less rational or becomes beholden to the reason of the collection. To complete the collection for example is an organizing principle of collecting. The collector is musty wearing strange devices to help him better understand his collection. The collector becomes his instruments phenomenologically. What is a collector without his instruments??? A collector’s body is the collection. It is distributed like a bee hive or ant colony. The body of the collection of the body of the collector. It is amorphous like the night and to an outsider the uninitiated undifferentiated from the night.

The somatic turn

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I was talking with someone yesterday about Integral theory and I said something about “the somatic turn.” I thought I had just been very clever and made up a new philosophical movementI thought I came up with this phrase and was very excited. And then I went on google and realized I was wrong. Ah well. What is the somatic turn. It what is going on know with Integral (Ken Wilbur, Tom Murray, Gebser), the NLP people, all the feldenkrais/rolphing/body work people, gender theory, queer theory, embodiment orientation etc…

it is the move towards meaning that comes from the body. The language turn in philosophy was turning all philosophical problems into problems of language. The ontological turn – all problems in philosophy are problems of being, the speculative turn – all problems of philosophy are problems of correlationism/anthropocentrism.

Is this related to phenomenology. If we can all agree on a definition of phenomenology – still no. Phenomenology has to do with a structure of experience. When I think of phenomenology I think of Hal from 2001 and space odyssey. The reduction of something to a body part that senses. The somatic turn is first person, how something feels, the orientation towards something. Thats all I got tonight – I just wrote a computer program to help one of my kids practice arithmetic so – #momwinning.

Treasure Continued

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Today I continued my deep dive into Ancient Egypt. I read that the last king of the 11th Dynasty, Mentuhotep IV’s principal accomplishment of his reign was to bring back a block of stone from an expedition for his royal sarcophagus. (ie his coffin)

Mentuhotep IV - EcuRed
via ecured.cu

This struck me. The result of the reign was some luxury product from a foreign land. Some rare and precious thing that was then sculpted into a funerary object. It made me think both of trade and of funerals. We normally associate the first humans (the first hominids) with reverence for the dead (funerary objects). What if in 2001 space Odyssey the monolith resulted in the first Ochre death shroud, or even the attempt to trade with the rival group. Is technology and war technology at that the foundation of humanity?

We could call funerary objects, like Ushabtis – little dolls that will be your servants in the afterlife – or even pyramids as tech. People do. But is this tech?

I am thinking about of the relationship between the symbolic world and the material world.

For example I meditate (right now I ‘m doing Trataka) in the morning and this has an effect on my ability to act calmly during stressful situations. Now some people may say that meditation is actually physical. I am changing my breathing and perhaps my neurochemistry by focusing. But what about something like I wake up and I have a dream about getting into a fight with my mother and then I am sort of irritated at my mother for something that has happened in the symbolic realm of my unconscious. This now has a material impact.

It is the relationship between prayer and ritual and acting in the world. It is the freudian notion that what happens in fantasy is as impactful as what has happened in real life. Now we may find out that there really is no distinction between the symbolic realm and the material realm. That the symbolic realm creates physiological changes that really makes it another type of material realm.

But for now lets say there is a difference -for arguments sake.

The funerary objects operate in the symbolic realm. As technology they are symbolic technology.

A waterwheel operates in the material realm. Or even yoga operates in the material realm on our posture and breathing and perhaps the construction of our ability to create a symbolic realm. As a technology this is material technology.

What is technology – etymologically – the logic of craft. Craft is how you make something, or the notion that you are involved in something where someone can become an expert.

Are all realms of life subject to the possibility of mastery (of becoming an expert)?

The becoming of an expert is aided in technology, an expert is perhaps even an expert at using a technology., That could perhaps be the definition of being an expert.

Night 2/7 or 8

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So Meditating on night again….

This is the shape of the mountain by Etal Adnan, who also wrote a collection of poetry / meditations called… NIGHT.

I probably have already written about it.

Some favorite pieces:

Standing trees sleep in this forest that created the night when the moon was looking elsewhere. Gone the sailboats, the sea, in this obscurity that’s keeping no promise

Night is a subtle rain, wetting body and soul.

The night was clear, and the depth of the mountain’s slopes awesome: rivers were growling down into the valleys. The moon was there, oh yes, speaking her language. My neck was hurting following her journey. On a cliff made of translucent marble, voices had stopped. Then the season showed a pervasive fear within Being’s texture.

I’m asking you to see me lie on the traces that your body has left on the bed, but the heat belongs to you within our souls.

At 20 I was living at the door of reality, but I did not enter. There was no one to enter with, either. By the time I decided to go in, rivers had flowed, trees had grown, the seasons had aged. Soon later, I have had the chance to die, and I let it go; reality had no more reason to be. Like a ship, you can shipwreck against the night.

So many things to say about night. But night is the ineffable so we really cannot say anything about it. Instead we must write poetry or play music, or dance, or do all those things that are the activities of the night.

If I wrote an O’Reilly book what would it be?

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A co-worker is writing an O’Reilly book on k8. Today I was interviewing someone and he asked me if I was would write a book what book would I write about. I did have an idea for a book this summer – I think it was about gitops or something. But today I thought for a moment and I started waxing poetically on GPUs. I have been into GPUs for a long time. Mainly because of shaders…

There are parts of development I like but they have already been covered … who needs another book on docker. But I was thinking it would be interesting to write a book on different machine types for different software solutions. Combine hardware with software. For what software recipe would select a c4 instance vs an m4 (in the aws world, but there are similar variants in the google world) how do we optimize software for hardware now that we have access to so many different types of cpus. We can look at various metrics when we run a particular program on different cpus and what sorts of tweaks we can make to change this performance.

This would be a fascinating book.

It would be a lot of work to write.

Does this book already exist?

Sense Making

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Today I had a sense making breakthrough. I was discussing the film Disconnect, which I sometimes teach. I really don’t like the film, but it is so rich that I feel compelled to return to it.

I drew a network diagram of the film:

We have 3 or 4 storylines that connect with each other via one or two other people. The people within the network are not aware of the connections.

We also have devices that are connecting us with people and creating the conflicts within the storylines.

The crux of the issue, as I viewed it today, was that no one within the network was able to “see” let alone understand the connections they had. These were all obscured (occulted). Our world has always been interconnected – a systems world. But because of technology and organization our the systems are much larger and can have a much larger impact (because of the scale an the force of the vectors in the system). Before we may not have understood the network, or maybe we did, but regardless the impact was not as severe.

Today the impact is severe. There are all sorts of phenomena that seem to make no sense or that we cannot agree upon because the systems are obscured from climate change to fake news.

What is sense making? It’s not necessarily I dont know how to make sense of my life, or I dont know how to solve this problem or diagnose this problem, its about how do I create the conceptual scaffolding to understand these networks.

Technology and organization has created these expanded networks but we don’t have the tools (conceptual or otherwise) to make these connections and their vector magnitudes (the strength of the connection) visible.

To me there is an analogy between the Aristotle’s discovery of rhetoric and the discovery of something new to understand systems.

Imagine, ancient Athens, the agora. People are standing around arguing. Some people are winning arguments, some people are winning followers. Why? Why is one argument better than another? or more convincing than another? Along comes Aristotle he starts to diagram out the ways to make an argument, stylistic concerns and logical concerns (syllogisms/conditionals). Then you can MAKE SENSE of why a certain argument is more convincing or perhaps correct. Before it was obscured like our network, then it became transparent.