Prior Quotes of the Week
Third Quarter, 1999
(Titles that are linked may be ordered online.)
Quote of the Week #150 (1999.09.26)
The Sensitive Observer
. . . Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and
yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure
our sadness with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments
when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow
mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the
new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.
I believe that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find
paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living. Because
we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything
intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the
middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing. For this reason the
sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our
heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there any more,is
already in our blood. And we do not learn what it was. We could easily be made
to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes
into which a guest has entered. We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall
never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters into us this way
in order to transform itself in us long before it happens. And this is why it
is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently
uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer
to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time as which it happens
to us as if from the outside. The more still, more patient and more open we
are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does
the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more
will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it "happens"
(that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves
akin and near to it. . . .
Maria Rilke, Letters
to a Young Poet, pp. 64 - 65, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1934.
Translated by M.D. Herter Norton.
Quote of the Week #149 (1999.09.19)
The Patterns of Organization
Some critics argue that the growth in size and complexity of organization
has been accompanied by an increase in relationships of authority and subordination,
but anthropologists and historians would not support this view. The spirit of
hierarchy can flourish quite as fiercely in an organization consisting of one
man and his secretary as it can in General Motors. Small businesses do not necessarily
offer their employees a more equalitarian atomosphere than do large corporations.
Small nations with a pre-modern social structure have managed to be quite as
authoritarian as modern nations, generally more so. As a matter of fact, the
primitive tribe or preindustrial community has usually demanded far more profound
submission of the individual to the group than has any modern society.
In short, large-scale organization is not to be condemned out of hand. That
is what makes the problem difficultand interesting. Organization serves
man and rules him, increases his scope and hems him in. We must be exceedingly
discriminating in weighing its benefits against possible disadvantages. And
in doing so we shall discover that everything depends on the patterns of organization.
We cannot return to a simpler world. Much of the contemporary social criticism
is made irrelevant by its refusal to face that fact. It is true that the pressure
and tumult of our society compares unfavorably with, say, the tranquillity of
a village in Brittany. But the comparison does not deal with a choice that is
open to us. We must live in the modern world. We cannot stem the pressure for
more intricate organization of our economy, our production, our social, political
or cultural life. We must master new forms of organization or they will master
The most hopeful thing today is that on some fronts we seem to be achieving
patterns of organization that avoid the stultification, rigidity and threats
to freedom inherent in monolithic integrations. If this is true, it may be the
most important single fact about our future.
It is possible to continue achieving economies of scale and still give attention
to human needs. Too often in the past we have designed systems to meet all kinds
of requirements except the requirement that they contribute to the fulfillment
and growth of the participants. Organizations need not be designed in such a
way that they destroy human initiative. They are designed that way because we
have not been willing to be as inventive about organization matters as we have
been about hardware.
W. Gardner, Self-Renewal:
The Individual and the Innovative Society, pp. 77 - 79, Perennial
Quote of the Week #148 (1999.09.13)
Chaos, Community, and Self-organization
Wilfred Pelletier, a Native American from an Ojibway community north of Lake
Huron, says his people aren't into organization; there's no need for it "because
that community is organic." Pelletier gives an illustration of how his
unorganized people nevertheless get things done.
"Let's say the council hall in an Indian community needs a new roof. .
. . It's been leaking here and there for quite a while and it's getting worse.
And people have been talking about it. Nobody organizes a committee or appoints
a project leader." Nothing happens, in fact, until "one morning here's
a guy up on the roof, tearing off the old shingles, and down oon the ground
there's several bundles of new, hand-split shakesprobably not enough to
do the whole job, but enough to make a good start. Then, after a while, another
guy comes along and sees the first guy on the roof. So he comes over and he
doesn't say, 'What are you doing up there?' because that's obvious, but he may
say, 'How's she look? Pretty rotten, I guess.' Something like that. Then he
takes off, and pretty soon he's back with a hammer or a shingle hatchet and
maybe some shingle nails or a couple rolls of tarpaper. By afternoon, there's
a whole crew working on that roof, a pile of materials building up down there
on the ground, kids taking the old shingles awaytaking them home for kindlingdogs
barking, women bringing cold lemonade and sandwiches. The whole community is
involved and there's a lot of fun and laughter. Maybe the next day another guy
arrives with more bundles of shakes. In two or three days that whole job is
finished, and they all end up having a big party in the 'new' council hall."
Who was responsible for deciding to put a new roof on the hall? Was it that
first guy on the roof, a single isolated individual or was it the whole community?
. . .
Chaos theory would answer that the "organization" in Pelletier's
roofing project was self-organization. It began with choasall that disorganized
talk beforehand about the leak. The first guy on the roof was a bifurcation
point that became amplified. The feedback between the first fellow and the next
one who came along started a cascade that coupled the community together around
the project, and then the system got the job done.
Briggs and F. David Peat, Seven
Life Lessons of Chaos: Timeless Wisdom from the Science of Change,
pp. 53 - 54. HarperCollins, 1999.
Quote of the Week #147 (1999.09.05)
The Window Always Open
When did opportunities begin to feel so limited? How did we come to believe
in "windows of opportunity," rare openings that suddenly snap shut?
When did we become so unforgiving and so punishing of one another's explorations?
Experimentation doesn't use up possibilities; it creates more. More information,
more experiences, more insights. We have limited the world, but it remains wid
open to us.
Many of us have created lives and organizations that give us very little support
for experimentation. We believe the answers already exist out ther, independent
of us. We don't need to experiment to find what works; we just need to find
the answer. So we look to other organizations, or to experts, or to reports.
We are dedicated detectives, tracking down solutions, attempting to pin them
on ourselves and our organizations.
Could we stop these searches? What if we gave up so much striving to discover
what others are doing? What if we invested more time and attention in our own
experimentation? We could focus our efforts on discovering solutions that worked
uniquely for us. We could realize that solutions that are not perfect - only
pretty good - can work for us. We could focus on what's viable, rather than
Observing others' successes can show us new possibilities, expand our thinking,
trigger our creativity. But their experience can never provide models that will
work the same for us. It is good to be inquisitive; it is hopeless to believe
that they have discovered our answers.
J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers,
a simpler way, pp. 20 - 21. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1996.
Quote of the Week #146 (1999.08.29)
The Patterns of a Living Language
We know now that language has the power to bring things to life. The most
beautiful houses and villagesthe most touching paths and valleysthe
most awe inspiring mosques and churchesattained the life they have in
them because the languages their builders used were powerful and deep.
But, so far, we have not dealt at all with the conditions under which
a language is itself alive; or the conditions under which a language dies.
For all the ugliest and most deadening places in the world are made from
patterns as well.
. . . In one case, the pattern languages themselves are somehow alive and help
people give life to their surroundings. In the other case, the languages themselves
are dead: and with these languages it is only possible for people to make towns
and buildings which are dead.
In a town with a living language, the pattern language is so widely shared
that everyone can use it.
In agricultural societies everyone knows how to build; everyone builds for
himself, and helps his neighbor build. And in later traditional societies there
are bricklayers, carpenters, plumbersbut everyone still knows how to design.
When the language is shared, the individual patterns in the language are profound.
The patterns are always simple. Nothing which is not simple and direct can survive
the slow transmission from person to person. There is nothing in these languages
so complex that someone cannot understand it.
The language covers the whole of life.
Every facet of human experience is covered, in one way or another, by the patterns
in the language.
The seven ages of man are all covered, and the variety of all possible acts
is covered. The entire culture, and the environment which supports it, forms
a single unbroken fabric.
The connection between the users and the act of building is direct.
Either the people build for themselves, with their own hands, or else they
talk directly to the craftsmen who build for them, with almost the same degree
of control over the small details which are built.
The whole emerges by itself and is continually repaired. Each person in a town
knows that his own small acts help to create and to maintain the whole. Each
person feels tied into society, and proud because of it.
The adaptation between people and buildings is profound.
Each detail has meaning. Each detail is understood. Each detail is based on
some person's experience, and gets shaped right, because it is slowly thought
out, and deeply felt.
Because the adaptation is detailed and profound, each place takes on a unique
character. Slowly, the variety of places and buildings begins to reflect the
variety of human situations in the town. This is what makes the town alive.
The patterns stay alive, because the people who are using them are also testing
Alexander , The
Timeless Way of Building, pp. 228 - 231. Oxford University Press,
Quote of the Week #145 (1999.08.22)
The Paradox of Play
Though it flourishes there, playful work was not born in modern California.
It does not depend on electronics, or sunshine, or even prosperity. It is as
old as civilization. Five thousand years ago, unimaginably poor Stone Age women
living in Swiss swamps were weaving intricate, multicolored patterns into their
textiles and using fruit pits to create beaded cloth; archaeologists have found
remnants of this ingenious, impractical production preserved in the alkaline
mud. Even in the most difficult of subsistence economies, mere utilityin
this case, plain, undecorated clothdoes not satisfy human imaginations.
We need to learn, to challenge ourselves, to invent new patterns. The fun of
creating and using beautiful textiles goes back to some of humanity's oldes
(and most taken-for-granted) technologies: the needle, the spindle, and the
. . . The late metallurgist and historian of science Cyril Stanley Smith argued
historically the first discovery of useful materials, machines, or processes
has almost always been in the decorative arts, and was not done for a perceived
practical purpose. Necessity is not the mother of inventiononly of improvement.
A man desperately in search of a weapon or food is in no mood for discovery;
he can only exploit what is already known to exist. Discovery requires aesthetically-motivated
curiosity, not logic, for new things can aquire validity only by interaction
in an environment that has yet to be. Their origin is unpredictable.
By examining art objects, Smith found the origins of metallurgy: casting molds
to make statuettes, welding to join parts of sculptures, alloys to create interesting
color patterns. Play is the impractical drive from which such practical discoveries
are born. "Paradoxically man's capacity for aesthetic enjoyment may have
been his most practical characteristic," writes Smith, "for it is
at the root of his discovery of the world about him, and makes him want to live."
It is a delightful paradox: Play is what we do for its own sake, yet it is
a spur to our most creative, most significant work.
Postrel , The
Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise,
and Progress, pp. 182 - 183, The Free Press, 1998.
Quote of the Week #144 (1999.08.15)
From There to Here
Polo imagined answering (or Kublai Khan imagined his answer) that the more one
was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more one understood the
other cities he had crossed to arrive there; and he retraced the stages of his
journeys, and he came to know the port from which he had set sail, and the familiar
places of his youth, and the surroundings of home, and a little square of Venice
where he gamboled as a child.
At this point Kublia Kahn interrupted him
or imagined interrupting him, or Marco Polo imagined himself interrupted, with
a question such as: "You advance always with your head turned back?"
or "Is what you see always behind you?" or rather, "Does your
journey take place only in the past?"
All this so that Marco Polo could explain
or imagine explaining or be imagined explaining or succeed finally in explaining
to himself that what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if
it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced
on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he
has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by
adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveler
finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what
you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unposessed
Cities, pp. 28 - 29, A Harvest Book, 1972.
Quote of the Week #143 (1999.08.09)
The only valid test of an idea, concept, or theory
is what it enables you to do. -
MG Taylor Axiom
Boggs is a young artist with a certain flair, a certain panache, a certain je
ne payes pas. What he likes to do, for example, is to invite you out to
dinner at some fancy restaraunt, to run up a tab of, say, eighty-seven dollars,
and then, while sipping coffee after dinner, to reach into his sachel and pull
out a drawing he's already been working on for several hours before the meal.
The drawing, on a small sheet of high-quality paper, might consist, in this
instance, of a virtually perfect rendition of the face-side of a one-hundred-dollar
bill. He then pulls out a couple of precision pens from his sachel—one green
ink, the other black—and proceeds to apply the finishing touches of his drawing.
This activity invariably causes a stir. Guests at neighboring tables crane their
necks. Passing waiters stop to gawk., The maìtre d' eventually drifts
over, stares for a while, and then praises the man on the excellence of his
art. "That's good," says Boggs, "I'm glad you like this drawing,
because I intend to use it as payment for our meal."
Boggs has performed variations on this experiment
at restaurants, hotels, airline ticket counters, hot dog stands, hardware stores,
and countless other venues, in the United States, England, Germany, France,
Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy. . . . He has drawn larger and smaller
denominations in each of the local currencies, and he has drawn more and less
hostile reactions from each of the local citizenries. Often the maìtre
d's and the cabdrivers and the shopkeepers have rejected his offer out of hand.
But during the last two years, Boggs has managed to gain acceptance for his
proposal on almost seven hundred separate occassions, in transactions totaling
over $35,000 in value.
. . . Some of the results of this curious
inquiry were on view this summer at the Jeffrey Neale Gallery on Lafayette Street
in the Noho district of New York City. Viewers of this, the thrity-two-year-old
artist's first one-man show in New York, were quickly given to understand that
as far as Boggs is concerned, the actual drawings of his various bills should
merely be considered small parts—the catalysts, as it were—of his true art,
which actually consists of the series of transactions they provoke. Thus, in
each instance, the framed drawing of the money was surrounded by several other
framed objects, including a receipt, the change . . . and perhaps some other
residue of the transaction.
When he came up to talk to me, the first afternoon
at the gallery, I asked him about the presence of those intial drawings in this show.
"The thing is," he explained, "there are a lot of collectors, in Europe,
but also here, who want to buy my drawings of currency—but I refuse to sell them,
that's the first of my rules. I simply will not sell an unspent drawing depicting
an existing denomination in its exact size. Now, as you can see"—he gestured
about the room—"I've occassionally painted larger canvases of actual bills,
or else pastiches with aspects of several different bills all mixed together, and
those I'll sell outright. But as for exact-size, existing-denomination drawings,
I will only—and this is my rule number two—I will only spend them, that is,
go out and find someone who will accept them at face value in a transaction that
must include a receipt and change in real money. My third rule is that I will not
tell anyone where I've spend that drawing for the next twenty-four hours: I want
the person who got it to be able to have some time, unbothered, to think about what's
just transpired. After that, however—and this is my rule number four—if there is
a collector who I know has expressed interest in that sort of drawing, I will contact
him and offer to sell him the receipt and the change for a given price. It varies,
but for the change and receipt from a one-hundred-dollar dinner transaction, for
example, the collector may have to pay me about five hundred dollars. The receipt
should provide enough clues for the collector to track down the owner of that one
hundred dollar drawing, but if the collector desires further clues—the exact name
of the waiter, for example, or his telephone number—I'm always prepared to provide
those details as well at a further fee. After that, the collector is in a position
to contact the drawing's owner and try to negotiate some sort of deal on his own
so as to complete the work."
A Comedy of Values, pp. 3-4, 8-9, The University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Quote of the Week #142 (1999.08.02)
"Personal Gain and the Gift of Existence"
The poet Rilke asks, Why are we here? Why do
we have to be human? And he answers: ". . . because truly being here
is so much; because everything here apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which
in some strange way keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all." Everything
living gives and receives according to its nature and its possibilities. What specifically
is a human being designed to give—to others and to the earth itself? In a
culture dominated by money and by the principle of personal gain, could there arise
a wholly realistic way of giving and serving beyond the clichès of altruism
and hidden fears for our own safety or the opinions of others? What could Rilke mean
by speaking not just of our "being here," but of truly being here?
Is there a quality of awareness that is itself something we receive as a gift, and
is there a quality of awareness that we can give to our world without needing to
and the Meaning of Life, pp. xxi, A Currency Doubleday Book, 1991.
Quote of the Week
Vision, Imagination, and Free Will
The word "imagination" is also in my
title. I want you to think of the following words: visual, vision, and visionary;
and image, imagery, imagination. My reason for choosing these words is of course
that I want to come to the word "imagination." But I want you to see what
always strikes one with surprise in looking at this kind of word. Almost all the
words that we use about experiences of the kind that go into visions or images are
words connected with the eye and with the sense of sight. "Imagination"
is a word which derives from the making of images in the mind, from what Wordsworth
called "the inward eye." But the very fact that Wordsworth could use such
a phrase makes it very clear how much the intellectual activities of man are eye-conditioned....
The other thing I want to make clear is this.
It may seem very smart that the eye is ready-wired to see straight boundaries or
curved boundaries, contrasts of light, and so on. But you must also realize that
for every machine of this sort always pays a price for the things it can do very
cleverly—namely, by not being able to do other things. And one of the things that
the eye is not able to do is to look at nature with a fresh, open vision as if it
were not looking for straight edges and contrasts of color. Exactly because search
mechanisms for these things are built into the eye, we are constantly deceived about
the nature of the outside world because we interpret it in terms of the built-in
The abilities that we have in the way of memory
and imagination, of symbolism and emblem, are all conditioned by the sense of sight.
It is sight which dominates this kind of sequence, how we think of things that appear
in the mind. And I come back to saying "visual," "vision," and
"visionary; "image, "imagery," "imagination." Now imagination
is a much less mechanical gift than that of the eye as I have described it. But because
it is squarely rooted in that, it is an ability which human beings possess and which
no other animal shares with them. We cannot seperate the special importance of the
visual apparatus of man from his unique ability to imagine, to make plans, and to
do all the other things which are generally included in the catchall phrase "free
will." What we really mean by free will, of course, is the visualizing of alternatives
and making a choice between them. In my view, which not everyone shares, the central
problem of human consciousness depends upon this ability to imagine.
Jacob Bronowski, The
Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, pp. 10, 17 - 18, Yale University Press,
Quote of the Week #140 (1999.07.18)
Where Does Vision Come From?, pt. 2
very first thing I remember in my early childhood is a flame, a blue flame jumping
off a gas stove somebody lit. It might have been me playing around with the
stove. I don't remember who it was. Anyway, I remember being shocked by the
whoosh of the blue flame jumping off the burner, the suddenness of it. That's
as far back as I can remember; any further back than this is just fog, you know,
just mystery. But that stove flame is as clear as music in my mind. I was three
I saw that flame and felt the hotness of
it close to my face. I felt fear, real fear, for the first time in my life.
But I remember it also like some kind of adventure, some kind of weird joy,
too. I guess that experience took me someplace in my head I hadn't been before.
To some frontier, the edge, maybe, of everything possible. I don't know; I never
tried to analyze it before. The fear I had was almost like an invitation, a
challenge to go forward into something I knew nothing about. That's where I
think my personal philosophy of life and my commitment to everything I believe
in started, with that moment.
Davis, Miles: The Autobiography
Taken from Seeing
Jazz: Artists and Writers on Jazz, Elizabeth Goldson, editor, pp. 79,
Chronicle Books, 1997.
Where Does Vision Come From?, pt.
Quote of the Week #139 (1999.07.11)
Three-Catting: "A sustainable model for inconceivable
...the source of innovation and change does not
exist in the rules or principles, but rather in the models, which includes the theories,
formulations, and metaphors we create. Principles and rules are locked in place,
and no innovation can occur from interactions with them. The cycling that occurs
between rules and behaviors is simply repetitive. Behaviors can't change the rules,
and the rules can't change the behaviors. The only source of change is an expanded
formulation or theory or model or metaphor which then calls for different rules.
...That does not mean that people cannot change
their personal infrastructures, but it does take a willingness to break through those
frozen preconceptions. It also takes a powerful new model that can transcend the
cycling relationship of rules and behaviors. If that transcendence doesn't occur,
people become locked in, and coevolution–the interactive, developmental effects that
entities in relationship have to one another–cannot occur. This reinforces the idea
that the generative source of emergence is in the domain of model, theory, metaphor,
and formulation. Models are the source of the success or failure of every enterprise,
because models are ideas in action.
To get outside the repetetive cycling between
rules and behaviors, which resist change and hinder new possiblilities, we have to
reach an understanding generated by principles and formed within model and theory
that does not exist anywhere else. Our ability to model and model again, not simply
renewing the old model but creating something anew, is the point where emergence
and innovation happen.
...We may not be able to force innovation and
emergence, but we may as complex adaptive systems be able to prepare the environment
for their arrival. Then, when it does happen we are able to respond and integrate
the emergence into our systems so that we can either flourish because of it or adapt
to it in a way that doesn't destroy us.
Sherman & Ron Schultz, Open
Boundaries: Creating Business Innovation Through Complexity, pp. 54
- 55, Perseus Books, 1998.
The MG Taylor Modeling Language refers to this process as "three-catting,"
or, when it fails to break out of "the cycling relationship of rules and behaviors,"
as "two-catting." Each of these terms come from the Three
Cat Model™, which, in Sherman's and Shultz's terms, could be described as "a
sustainable model for inconceivable development."
of the Week #138 (1999.07.04)
All You Ever Need To Learn: The Law, Principle
and Measure of Froebel's Kindergarten
one universal law upon which Froebel based all of his educational principles
was unity or inner connection. The interconnectedness of all things
was the governing force in Froebel's philosophy and pedagogy and the broad foundation
for all of his developmental concepts. Perfecting a feeling between the child
and God (not the God of organized Christianity but the pantheistic font of life
and growth of Romantic philosophy) so that humanity might gain consciousness
of its own sublime power and fully realize its own spiritual potential was the
key goal of education. . . . more than any teacher before him, he recognized
the unity of an indivudual's physical, intellectual, and spiritual powers .
If unity was Froebel's fundamental law, self-activity,
the essential principle of Èmile, was his basic educational process.
Self-activity (or free activity, self-occupation, or self-employment), the spontaneous
impulse of the child to explore and act motivated simply by intellectual curiosity,
was actively discouraged in the early-nineteenth-century schoolroom. Where traditional
teaching demanded only response, Froebel sought individual action. Where tradition
erected a barrier between the teacher and the taught, self-activity made them
co-workers. In the kindergarten, the impulse to action, and therefore to learning,
originated with the child itself, and expression became self-expression instead
of recitation. The role of the teacher was thus transformed from lecturer to
guide, as she now directed the child's natural movement toward play with one
another and with the freely expansive, but carefully defined, gifts.
Play was fundamental to the success
of kindergarten. Froebel discerned that harnessing the natural activity of children,
often referred to in kindergarten as children's "work," was the key
to educating the young. . . . Froebel recognized the significance of play in
childhood years before his involvement with kindergarten, and he devoted one
of the introductory essays in The Education of Man to its importance:
"Play is the purest, the most spiritual, product of man at this stage,
and is at once the prefiguration and imitation of the total human life,—of the
inner, secret, natural life in man and in all things. It produces, therefore,
joy, freedom, satisfaction, repose within and without, peace with the world.
The springs of all good rest within it and go out from it."
All of the kindergarten activities, the singing,
dancing, gardening, storytelling, gifts, and occupations were play; it was the
engine that propelled the system. . . .
Norman Brosterman, Inventing
Kindergarten, pp. 32 - 33, Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1997.
Other Prior Quotes:
April 4, 1999 through June 27, 1999
January 3, 1999 through March 28, 1999
October 3, 1998 through December 27,
July 5, 1998 through September 27, 1998
April 5, 1998 through June 28, 1998
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