One of the 15 fundamental properties.
Alternating repetition is the way in which centers are strengthened when they repeat, by the insertion of other centers between the repeating ones.
Centers intensify other centers by repeating. The rhythm of the repeating center, slowly, like the beat of a drum, intensifies the field effect. But this drumbeat, when it intensifies the field effect, is not just simple repetition. […] It is a kind where the rhythm of the centers that repeat is underlined, and intensified, by an alternating rhythm interlocked with the first and where a second system of centers also repeats, in parallel. The second system of centers then intensifies the first system, by providing a kind of counterpoint, or opposing beat.
Somehow the sense of order in a thing comes from the fact that elements are repeated over and over and over again.
Of course, in many cases where a structure gets intense life from repetition the repetition tends to be inexact; it is then the subtle variation which comes with the repetition that is satisfying and life-giving. […] But there is a deeper aspect of the repetition, more vital than its variation. This concerns the fundamental character of the repetition and the way that elements are repeated: there is profound and satisfying repetition of living centers, and there is banal repetition of elements.
Why is alternating repetition more satisfying, more profound, than simple repetition? One answer lies, once again, in the recursiveness of the rule. For what repeats within a whole is not merely the units. In a whole, the space between the units also repeats. And often even the repetition itself repeats. Thus the rule about the repetition applies to all the elements within the whole. When we apply it to all the elements, to the entities, to the space between the entities, and even to the sequences of repeating entities themselves, then there is wholeness in the result. More exactly, it seems that what is really happening is not repetition, but oscillation. The thing repeats like a wave — one, then the other, then the one again, and so on.
Whenever centers repeat within a structure, they will generally unite to intensify a larger center only when a second system of centers is inserted in between them, forming a second alternating system, sometimes even creating a third system of centers mutually caused by the first two, which once again ripple and alternate and oscillate. How subtle the alternation has to be in order to work! In the bad examples the repetition does form some kind of alternation, but there is nothing beautiful or graceful about it: it is mechanical. In the good examples, we see a subtle beauty. The life comes about only when the alternating wholes are beautifully and subtly proportioned and differentiated.
In nature most of the repetitions which occur are alternating rather than simple. Repetition itself of course occurs simply because there are only a limited number of archetypal forms available, and the same ones repeat over and over again, whenever the same conditions occur. […] In most of these cases of natural repetition, the repeating units do alternate with a second structure, which also repeats.
Some of these cases (like waves and troughs) are so obvious that they almost seem tautologous — as if the second repeating structure cannot help being there — not for physical but for logical reasons. But that is not so. In all these cases, the significant issue is the coherence of the secondary centers. The defining feature for alternating repetition lies in the fact that the secondary centers are coherent in their own right, are not left over. This happens in most natural systems because the secondary centers occur as coherent systems in themselves, with their own laws, their own defining processes and stability. It is also significant that the physical size of the secondary alternating units is very often at the same order of magnitude as the size of the primary repeating units.
Interplay with other properties
If we try to define alternating repetition exactly, we need to get clear that there is an alternation between certain things or Strong centers which repeat. These “things” are discernible wholes only because they have a definite shape. Thus the definition of alternating repetition relies heavily on the Good shape of the things that are repeating — and on the good shape of the things between the things that are repeating. Similarily the definition also relies on the Positive space between the things which repeat, and on the Contrast between the two systems of things which are repeating.
Alternating repetition succeeds when the space between the alternating entities is Positive space.
#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/5 Fifteen fundamental properties#
#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/6 The fifteen properties in nature#