The Nature of Order

A couple of days back I had a very enjoyable lunch with my friend Bob Horn at Greens, my first time back at this vegetarian Mecca in ten years. I asked Bob if he knew the menu; he replied, “This is my company canteen.” Absolutely wonderful food, attentive service, and a great view of the Golden Gate. Bob is a fascinating guy, the inventor of Information Mapping and author of Visual Language. Currently he’s helping governments and organizations solve “wicked problems” through visualization and argumentation mapping.

I’ve started reading Christopher Alexander’s four-book series, The Nature of Life, An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe. I wouldn’t be doing this, at least not now, were it not for a small reading group of very bright and interesting people who are going to dig through the books together.

The story so far: Everything in the universe is alive. Don’t get Cartesian about this; just accept it. Comfortable ordinariness and lack of “image” quality are the main things which produce life in our current situation. Our Western, reductionist thinking assumes the whole is the sum of the parts. This is dead wrong. The Whole is what lives; it creates its own parts. Just look at the world without your cognitive prejudice, and you’ll start to see it.

I’m only a quarter of the way into this volume because I only read it during lunch on my front deck. From where I sit at our redwood table, one other house is clearly visible.

When we moved into our place a dozen years ago, workmen were putting the finishing touches on this raw concrete number. Christopher Alexander built the place.

If you could see the first floor in my photo, you’d be looking right over the sink that appears on page 409 of this first volume. I’ll share a few stories from the neighbors when Alexandrian theory bumps up against Berkeley reality.