Four key ideas that give us the secret of living structure, and of the way life comes from wholeness:
- Each center has its life: Centers themselves have life.
- Centers help one another: the existence and life of one center can intensify the life of another.
- Recursive definition of a center: Centers are made of centers (this is the only way of describing their composition).
- A structure gets its life according to the density and intensity of centers which have been formed in it.
A complex reciprocal relationship
Various zones in the pattern become centers because of their position and character within the pattern. This is turn depends on the relative position and intensity of other centers that spring up all around. Yet that in turn may depend on the life of the original center, since it also helps to determine the life of these others, which support it. All in all we have a bootstrap relation, in which no one center is the origin of the structure or its life — but the various different centers all support each other mutually. Their life arises mutually as a result of the way the centers prop each other up. No one of them comes first; each helps to support the others. Together they all raise themselves to life.
This conjuring trick is something akin to the trick of making Frankenstein. We take dead matter, rooted only in space endowed with the rules governing the interaction of centers, and it can then raise itself to life.
However, to make this work, we do need a conception of a kind of space in which these things can happen. In the end we shall be able to penetrate this apparent circularity only by modifying our idea of space to a form of space which explicitly includes provision for this feature. […] I believe this recursive and apparently cyclical set of relationships will then be seen as the key to the phenomenon of life.
Reminds me of composing music: too few notes over time are boring. Many notes, but in a simple, repetitive pattern are boring too. It is the slight variation of recognizably similar rhythms and melodic themes over time that makes music interesting, as well as an arc that goes through the whole piece.
The process is not additive: it is transformative
The process is not additive: it is transformative. At each step, we do not add things, but transform the previous version, as a whole, to give it more centeredness, as a whole, by inducing more centers to intensify those that exist already.
Applying the process also helps us understand centers better
During the recursion [of applying this process to a column], it is not only the column which is getting better. Our understanding of what a center is, is also getting better. As we see the build-up of centers in the space, we gradually get a more developed idea of the kind of structure needed in order for something to be a center. So the impact of the recursion is not only on the emerging column, but on our understanding.
Perhaps for the first time, in trying to copy such a design, and in failing, we begin to see in real terms — terms that are actually experienced — how the life of the whole depends on the presence of the centers in a strong form, and on the way they help each other properly, and deeply.
A mature artist can use the recursion of living centers in a very powerful way, thus creating centers which have still more life, which extract far tougher and more profound life from one another, and which create, overall, an even greater intensity.
Interdependence of matter in space
An untutored person looking at a column will not understand that the column itself — its life — depends on the life of the space between the columns. These would be thought of as two separate things. It takes a big leap to realize that the shape of the space between the columns not only helps the columns, but actually changes them, and that the wholeness of each column depends on the wholeness of the centers in the space between. They are note merely next to each other. They are interdependent. […] As more and more centers are added to the column, the center which the column “is” itself becomes intensified, and altered, and then intensified and altered again and again, as we develop the centers more and more. It is not the same column “with” some nice extra stuff around it. As a center, it is a different structure altogether.
Strong connection to negative space in visual art (even though we learned that architects like to call it “positive space” instead); for instance remember the popular vase/faces example.
The field of centers is not just a nice way of talking about ordinary structures. In its intense forms, an extraordinary structure, comes to life because of its dazzling and intense structural density. The more the centers are packed and overlapped to fill the space — the more an object is differentiated to produce center upon center, each one helping and intensifying the others, the more it comes to life.
Using digital modeling and AR to iterate faster on creating life
There is something to this process that could benefit from digital tools. With digital tools, for instance 3D modeling tools, all these changes and A/B tests for more centeredness can be done and rolled back easily, while we can look at the result in a realistic 3D rendering, which can even be put into our real environment using AR technology.
#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/4 How life comes from wholeness#