What I'm Reading Now:
Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat
You know how you come across a way of thinking about something that has all the right qualities in all the right places, and its symmetry and its descriptive richness make you tingle a bit, and you just crush on it a little? I'm having that right now with an idea from Bohm and Peat that they call the "tacit infrastructure" of thoughts and ideas.
In short the idea is this: we've all got a stock repertoire of knowledge that comes from the books we've read, the experiences we've had, the people we know, all that. We know this stuff in the same way that we know how to ride a bike, which is to say unconsciously, or tacitly. This is the repertoire of positions we defend in arguments, of assumptions we make, beliefs we hold, things we take for granted. We like the stability of this tacit infrastructure. It makes us feel good. It is good, in fact, because it can help free our minds to work on other things. (We can't think about everything all at once, right?)
But I'm sure you can see that it's also dangerous, this taking things for granted, because those things might be wrong. So part of our job, as thinking people, is to be on the lookout for incompatibilities, irrelevancies, or errors in this tacit infrastructure. And when we see something, we have a choice: we could take a good look at these incompatibilities, or we could ignore them, and pretend that we don't perceive any problem. Indeed, they point out the "common tendency toward unconscious defense of ideas which are of fundamental significance and which are assumed to be necessary to the mind's habitual state of comfortable equilibrium. As a result, there is instead a strong disposition to impose familiar ideas, even when there is evidence that they may be false. This, of course, creates the illusion that no fundamental change is required, when in fact the need for such a change may be crucial. If several people are involved, collusion will follow, as they mutually support one another in their false responses" (50) (emphasis in original).
When I think of this sort of collusion, everyone agreeing that "we're already doing X or Y," I think of almost every meeting I've ever attended that aimed to understand any problem of any complexity and importance. Hyperbole? Just barely. Loving this book so much I'm on my second lap.
I've been reading and studying David Bohm's work since a friend of mine introduced me to On Dialogue a few months ago. One idea that has particular resonance with me is Bohm's definition of necessity, in particular what he calls "the artist's necessity," which he describes like so:
"If an artist just puts on his paint in arbitrary places, you would say there wasn't anything to it; if he just follows someone else's order of necessity, he's mediocre. He's got to create his own order of necessity. Different parts of the form he is making must have an inner necessity or else the thing has not really much of a value. The artistic necessity is creative. The artists has his freedom in this creative act. Therefore, freedom makes possible a creative perception of new orders of necessity. If you can't do that, you're not really free."
A quick aside about the larger context of this remark: In On Dialogue, Bohm explains that all serious arguments are about different views of what is absolutely necessary--different "orders of necessity." Unless it takes that form (necessity), then you can always negotiate it, but as soon as something becomes necessary, it becomes a sort of non-negotiable in any sort of disagreement. Further, he claims that "doing what you like" is seldom freedom, because what you like is determined by what you think and that is often a pattern that is fixed by certain orders of necessity--unexamined orders of necessity.
This is important to Bohm's ideas about dialogue, because he considers dialogue between two people to be an essentially creative act--that the goal is not to convince or win or defend, but to create new meaning in the space between the perspectives represented by the dialogue participants. To accomplish this, you've got to get over the idea that a dialogue has a goal aside from creating understanding and meaning, which requires that we cultivate the ability to "suspend" some of our thoughts and recognize them as just that: thoughts, ideas about necessity that we haven't fully examined. We haven't really asked, "Is it really necessary?"
What I've found most rewarding about making these isn't only what I've learned about necessity but also what I've learned about Instagram. Part of the process of each experiment was cultivating an awareness of the particular order of necessity of each video as it emerged, if that makes sense. But secondarily, I've learned a little about Instagram video, and the particular "necessities" of that venue, by which I mean the expectations that the world has for Instagram video. It's a pretty open platform for video. There's not a lot going on that isn't Vine-y. And working short has a lot of benefits that working long don't really have--mainly the way to browse. A 15 second video on Vimeo or YouTube could get lost (and on YouTube, it could be shorter than the pre-roll ads).
Charlie Huette is a public school teacher who also keeps a notebook. He dreams about making school just a little less terrible. Many of the posts you find here are based on notebook entries. You can learn more about Charlie by visiting the about page.