Who is John Gestalt?

Wyeth-Amalia

Most of what we perceive does not touch us at the conscious level; it flows to the vast sea of unknown knowledge.
The Book of Rhino

Origin
The Time Project originated from a sense of urgency coupled with social isolation. I was not aware of this when I first thought of the project; I only knew that the prospect thrilled me. As I began working on the project, I occasionally wondered why I was so taken with it but did not actively pursue an answer. I figured that understanding would eventually percolate to my conscious thoughts. The sense of urgency, I knew, was connected to The Book of Rhino; it has been for the past year. Since the publication of the first book, I have been working on the second in the series. However, in recent weeks the sense of urgency has taken on a new flavor, and I wanted to find out what it was and what it meant, so I began an inquiry.

Accessing the Reservoir of Unknown Knowledge
Whenever I have a question to answer, a problem to solve, or an issue to consider, I fully participate in the process. By that I mean I sit with my mind, my body, and my emotions in the present moment and let the vast sea of unknown knowledge flow around me. Eventually, I experience an awareness of ideas poking at me and begin to examine them, one by one. I call this process “de-gestalting.”

Gestalt
A gestalt is something formed by two or more parts in such a way that the parts are virtually indistinguishable one from another. Webster’s dictionary defines a gestalt as “a unified whole; a configuration, pattern or organized field having specific properties that cannot be derived from the summation of its component parts.” A cup of coffee with cream and sugar is a simple model of a gestalt; a tossed green salad is a non-model.

De-Gestalt
When I sit with something long enough, its parts begin to separate themselves. It is not like a random train of thought that travels from soup to nuts. All of the parts are connected to the parent component–like cream and sugar separating from the coffee. It’s these distinguishable parts that are so interesting to me. I know they are connected; I know they mean something. The inquiry process is a guide into what, how, and why.

Knowing the Unknown
The inquiry process is a journey into knowledge. It begins with me in a box; I am unaware of the box for a while, and then, I realize I am in a box. I decided to think “outside the box,” but sometimes all I do is build a bigger box or redecorate it. I have to keep sitting and waiting for the flow of unknown knowledge. Eventually, I am able to step outside the box, and if the tides are favorable, I will come to a place where the box no longer exists. (The latter is rare.)

The Time Project
What this means is that as I embark on the Time Project, I will stop to examine parts that detach themselves from the whole. It means that I may write about seemingly unrelated topics. However, I will write and research from the assumption that they are connected and therefore worth examining. Who knows? I may eventually learn that the box never existed.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and wild
With a faery, hand in hand
William Butler Yeats ~ The Stolen Child

(Next Post: Origin of the Theses)

 

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Daneel Olivaw’s Guide to Decision-Making

Bones and Rocket

Why Starting Well is the Best Option

In a previous post, I introduced the difficulty some people face when making decisions such as whether or not to attend college after high school graduation or go into business. I presented as a guide some of Salvor Hardin’s epigrams. In this post, I would like to offer another set of recommendations, this time from another Isaac Asimov character, R. Daneel Olivaw.

Daneel Olivaw is introduced in Asimov’s novel Caves of Steel. He is one of my favorite literary characters. He is a robot. Because he is a robot, the Three Laws of Robotics are programmed into his brain. To disobey one of the laws would disable him. In my opinion, the Three Laws of Robotics make very good laws for humans as well. I think we humans would do well to let them inform and influence our decisions.

The First Law: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

This law alone would save humanity a world of grief. Can you imagine what it would be like if every choice was filtered through that litmus test? Will the result of my choice injure another human being?

The Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Well, that puts an end to the rich and powerful ordering or hiring other people to their dirty work for them. You want me to go to war for you and kill other people? No thanks.

The Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

This law would allow humans to find their No and give them the right to use it. I am not subject to anyone’s agenda.

Starting Well
Daneel Olivaw had the three laws hard-wired into his system. He had no choice but obey. All of his decisions started from a good place. However, we humans have choices. Why is that? Why is such terrible power placed in our hands? As history shows, humans have injured other humans most dreadfully. The astounding thing is that humans keep inflicting harm, even though it has never, ever turned out well. On the other hand, humans’ capacity for good can exceed expectations. When it comes to benefitting their fellows, some human beings perform spectacularly. By some wondrous arrangement of chromosomes, the Three Laws of Robotics are hard-wired into their systems. They start well. Can everyone start well? Is that a choice people can make? I think it is.

I think that anyone can obey the laws of robotics–call them the Laws of Humanities. I think that anyone can start well. It doesn’t matter if you enter the race after it has begun. A start in the right direction is an excellent start, even if you sneak in and hide in the crowd. Well done, runner, well done. Look around and see all of us who are running alongside you. We shout. We cheer. We have started well.

To very great minds the things on which men agree are so immeasurably more important than the things on which they differ, that the latter, for all practical purposes, disappears.
G. K. Chesterton ~ Heretics

(Next Post: Who is John Gestalt?)

 

Salvor Hardin’s Guide to Decision-Making

Ivan-Waves at Night

Why Finishing Well is the Best Option

During my years teaching high school, I occasionally talked with students about college and career. They had questions about which college to attend, how to get financial aid, and whether or not they should pursue higher education or go into business. For the most part, I provided a listening ear as students answered their own questions.

However, the problem for some people as they wrestle with life-decisions is when they are motivated by instant gratification. There are people who want what they want when they want it. These people are enthusiastic about a variety of things, usually things that are fun and exciting. They are easily impressed by the lifestyles of the rich, famous, and powerful and want to emulate them. They tend to dualistic in their thinking. Everything is either-or, good-bad, win-lose. For them, a simple decision about whether to go to school or go into business can be toxic. For those people, I recommend the epigrams of Salvor Hardin, the quintessential entrepreneur.

Salvor Hardin is a character in the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. A trader by profession, Hardin used his wits and experience to make challenging yet eventually successful decisions. When faced with an either-or decision, he chose the third option, which is running the race to the end and finishing well. For those of you who have difficulty making decisions, I present his epigrams for your perusal and edification.

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”

If one examines the morals of people for whom all decisions are fraught with drama, one can find they are usually based on expediency. Such morals should be rejected at all costs. Expedient morals are transitory morals, available for sale to the highest bidder. I make it a point to consider all decisions based on morals suspect, not to be trusted. History books are filled with political and economic decisions based on expedient morals, resulting in disaster. If you find your morals are at odds with what you know is right, I recommend you go with what is right.

“Nothing has to be true, but everything has to sound true.”

Let us assume for the time being that you do not have your hand on a nuclear button. Then the consequences of your decisions are not going to be the end of the world. To think otherwise is an illusion. I learned this fact my first year teaching, and it saved me a ton of agony. Despite what sounded true at the time, I did not blight my students’ academic achievement if I occasionally made a mistake. I sometimes made decisions that did not turn out well, but life continued anyway. If you are worried to distraction about choosing college or career, you may well be obsessing over something that sounds true but actually is not. You may want to consider if the pressure is coming from someone else’s agenda. One of my epigrams states: Everyone has a plan for you life. People with agendas make everything sound true, but you are not obligated to believe them.

“A nuclear blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.”

Now let us assume that you do have your hand on a nuclear button. If you are making that kind of decision, then DON’T. In other words, DON’T. Let me put it another way–DON’T, especially if you are the type of person who makes expedient decisions. (I don’t know how in the world someone like you would be in charge of a nuclear weapon, but we live in a strange world.)

Nuclear weapons aside, you may find yourself facing a situation in which your decision carries weighty consequences. Remember that the blast you discharge can turn back on you. As Salvor Hardin says, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” So be careful.

Finishing Well

Salvor Hardin made life-and-death decisions, decisions that affected entire worlds. He considered his choices, listened to his counselors, and waited. Then he decided. He was a visionary that looked beyond the expediency of the present to possibilities for the future. In the end, he chose to finish well. I recommend that be your guide in all your decisions. Whatever you do, finish well.

I had always wanted, above all things, not to be interfered with.
C. S. Lewis ~ Surprised by Joy

 

 

The Long Game: Patience and Perseverance

Millais-Children's Tea

Why experience is one’s most valuable asset.

“The Food Walks Out”
Virginia is a retired food caterer. She can look at a display of food in a restaurant, supermarket, or social event and immediately know whether it is done correctly. She says that oftentimes it is not the food itself that is wrong; it is the way it is placed on the table. When pressed why, she says she can’t explain it. “The food just doesn’t walk out” is her best answer. Virginia knows her business. When she took over the kitchen at a small liberal arts college, the sale of food immediately increased. Virginia knew not only how to cook great-tasting food but how to make the food “walk out.” What does Virginia see in a food display that others cannot? Other caterers at the college were educated in the culinary arts and had at least as much expertise as Virginia. However, Virginia had experience.

Tools for Success
Experience can be a person’s most effective tool for personal success, even more so than education and expertise. But it can also be the most frustrating because in real life, there is no “wrinkle in time” shortcut to reach it. Experience can only be acquired by the passage of time.

So what about those who are inexperienced or for whom the long game is too long? Is it possible to achieve success without experience? It depends on one’s goals and definition of success.

Cornfield Goals
A few blocks from my house, there is a cornfield. Every spring new corn is planted; it grows during the summer and is harvested in the fall. Then the ground is cleared and furrowed, and the process is repeated. Some goals are like that­–they are seasonal goals, “cornfield” goals. Winning “American Idol” is a seasonal goal. Like a new crop of corn, every season a new crop of singers shows up for auditions. They are culled and cultivated until at the end of the season, a winner is declared. Then the contestants are dismissed in preparation for a new crop of “American Idol” hopefuls. Seasonal goals can be achieved without much experience, but they are usually short-lived.

Many long-term goals, however, require experience, something that most young people do not have. You may find yourself in this position right now. You know what you want; you have the education and the expertise to get it, but you do not yet have a great deal of experience. I know what that is like. I have some recommendations that have worked for me and may work for you also.

Preview and Prepare
Find someone who is experienced in your field and ask permission to observe them at work. Like Virginia,they may not be able to explain what they do or why they do it, but it doesn’t matter. Observe, listen, and take notes. Document the small details until a pattern emerges. Ask specific questions about things you notice. In my case, I visited a gifted teacher’s classes on a regular basis and watched how she taught.

Practice and Perfect
Identify seasonal goals that support your long-term goal. Apply strategies you observe from those who are experienced to see how they work for you. Revise those strategies until they fit. Monitor their effectiveness in reaching your seasonal goals. For example, suppose your long-goal is to grow your audience. A seasonal goal could be perfecting your content or your performance. For me, I developed lessons for classes I planned to teach.

Perceive and Ponder
The great thing about the passage of time is that we all can experience it moment by moment. I recommend being mindful of the moments. Allow your senses to participate in what is happening in the “Now.” In an age of multi-tasking and urgency, participation in the moment builds a wealth of what I call “Unknown Knowledge”, that is, perceptions and impressions that get stored in the subconscious level. Even though they may never surface to the conscious level, they influence and temper that which does. They add layers of complexity to one’s education and expertise that increase one’s capital. In a room full of inexperienced people, it can make yours the voice to which others will listen.

Participation in the Process
A young woman named Michelle went to get a massage to ease tension in her back and alleviate stress. Before the massage session, she had a cup of tea in an adjoining tearoom. She allowed her senses to participate in the process. She listened to the sound of the water pouring into the cup; smelled the aroma of the tea brewing; she felt the warmth of the cup in her hands and savored the sip on hot tea on her tongue. At one point, she pressed her face to the window as her eyes tracked the height of an aspen tree. Then she looked around the room. Other people were there also having tea while waiting for their massage appointments, but unlike Michelle, they were all looking their computers or cell phones. Michelle enhanced the massage experience for her body by attending to her spirit.

Patience and Perseverance
There are some people that have more difficulty than others in playing the long game. Often they are afraid of missing out, of being left behind when others are going forward. They have somehow infused the idea of quickness with their definition of success. They are the people for whom the words “Get Rick Quick” are not a red flag but a green light. The seasonal goals probably work for them. However, if you have different expectations, if your goals are long-term, then you have a great tool just waiting for you. It is experience, a gift that Time gives to all of us, one moment after another.

You can observe a lot just by watching.
Yogi Berra

 

Time Project ~ Destination

Parrish-Amalia

Preparing For An Unexpected Journey

Sometimes Life takes a person on an unexpected journey, one over which he or she has no control. Bilbo Baggins was a quiet-living hobbit who got swept up in the great war of the Rings. “An Unexpected Journey”, “There and Back Again,” and “And What Happened After” were some of the titles he considered for his story. They all work. The journey was unexpected because Bilbo did not initiate it or desire it. It was part of someone else’s agenda. During the journey, Bilbo’s main thought was returning home. Moreover, unexpected journeys do not happen in a vacuum; once they come to an end, there is an “ever after.” Bilbo was so unprepared for his journey he ran out of his house without a handkerchief. That is another characteristic of an unexpected journey. It catches people unawares.

Currently I am on an unexpected journey. It began last summer when I was diagnosed with cancer. It meets all the criteria of Bilbo’s journey in that it is completely unexpected, I want to get back to where I was, and I wonder what happens after. So how does one prepare for an unwanted unexpected journey?

In the book Perlandra by C. S. Lewis, a Martian tells an Earthman of the time he climbed to a mountain pool, the home of a deadly marine creature called hneraki.

“I stood on the shore of Balki, which is the place of most awe in the world. Because I have stood there alone, my heart has been higher, my song deeper all my days. But do you think it would have been so unless I had known that in Balki hneraki dwelled? There I drank life because death was in the pool.”

Life has taken me on other unexpected journeys, and I have learned a few things. One: I do not like unexpected journeys. Two: People are extraordinarily kind along the way. Three: The key to preparing for an unexpected journey is to choose the destination of my heart. I have decided that whatever the journey, unexpected or not, I want to go to a place where my heart will be higher and my song deeper. I do not know precisely what that means or what it looks like, but that is my destination.

Bilbo Baggins “won” his unexpected journey; no matter what happened along the way, he held fast to his heart. He was faithful, kind, brave, and resourceful. At the end of his journey, his heart was higher and his song deeper, even in the face of loss and disappointment. Another characteristic of unexpected journeys–sometimes they include a farewell.

I have learned one more thing. I am not the only one taken on unexpected journeys. It happens to people all the time. This insight, born of experience, has increased my compassion and sympathy for the human condition. It has enlarged my heart for other people. For that reason alone, I am thankful for the unexpected journeys of life.

 

The Time Project: Journey

Byzantium-Max

On March 31, 2017, The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation was released on Amazon. What began several years ago, as a single sentence, was now a 372-page novel. The elation I felt at the time was tempered by a feeling of sadness that the writing process was finished. It has always been that way whenever I finish a writing project because, when it comes to writing, I enjoy the process more than the product. In a broader sense, I enjoy the journey more than the destination. I prefer a road trip to an airplane ride whenever I take a travel vacation.

When I was a young girl, my sister and I made an occasional trip to “Paris” (my parents’ bedroom.) It was always a special treat to load up our slippers with Skunk, Mole, Troll, and Mountain Horse (the trio) and take them on a journey through our house. Each room was a different country with its own geography and scenic areas to explore. Each country had its own delights and dangers. It took us all day, and when we reached our final destination, all the people rejoiced.

What I think is most illuminating about our journeys is how infrequently we made them. However much we treasured those trips, we did not make them very often. Perhaps some childhood instinct warned us that what made our trips to Paris so precious was their rarity.

The other day I happened upon a website with the following article posted: “How to Write a Book: The Secret to a Super-Fast First Draft.” While I am sure that there are reasons for wanting to write a super-fast first draft, they are a mystery to me–especially if one has a choice in the matter. I have had to write quickly under time constraints. I have had to produce a first draft and a finished product in a matter of days, but I did not enjoy it. It was like flying from California to Colorado in a few hours. Certainly you arrive at our destination, but you bypass the wild canyons and cliffs of Utah.

I have once again started another writing project. Everyday I write and write and write. I am once again on a road trip, passing through other countries in which people whom I don’t know live and move and have their being. Along the way I will stop and look at canyons and cliffs. I will eat lunch in places like McFarland and Lodi, or at Jack Ranch near the curve that took James Dean’s life.

In his essay Odyssey, Aldo Leopold describes the journey of a single atom that, in a year’s time, helps build a flower, which becomes an acorn, which fattens a deer, which feeds a hunter. My current writing project began with a single word Time and is flowering before my eyes. I do not know what it will become; perhaps it will remain a flower. It that is all it does, it will have been a wonderful journey. A real Treat.

 

Time to Rejoice

Happy New Year

Excerpts of Conversation from The Book of Rhino. They bring joy to my heart and encouragement to my soul. They make my spirit sing.

Christensen-Sisters

“Those who wish to live in a civilized society must have a social compact that everyone abides by for the good of the community.”

Parrish-Willow“If there were no shadows, we could not fully perceive the light.”

Waterhouse-Meadow“Why is it so hard to let go of ignorance, when knowledge beckons?”

Waterhouse-Tempest“It is better to let everything fall apart for the sake of the truth than to preserve the illusion of it.”

nolde-sailing

“Most of what we perceive does not touch us at the conscious level; it flows to the vast sea of unknown knowledge.”

Parrish-Pierrot

“If I should lose the ‘me’ that I am, then I would lose everything.”

Mucha-Amalia“When the mind, heart, and body are in agreement, the choices one makes are usually for the good.”

Curious Hart