A Thousand Years of NonLinear History

A Thousand Years of NonLinear History is a must read for anyone remotely interested in cylical or systems thinking.  To approach the history of mankind with the same model as a scientists approaches a thermodynamics problem could be one of the most ingenious ideas I’ve read to date.  De Landa walks you (through myriads of systems storytelling) into the philosophical world of Lavas and Magmas, Flesh and Genes, and Memes and Norms on a quest, not for optimum efficiency or evolutionary fitness, but for a moment or two of balance between the phase shifts that are our historic eras.     In my opinion, every scientist, designer and thinker should read this book – if only for the priveledge of following the thoughts of such a well-learned man.

Check out some of my favorite quotes, ideas and the loads of references I’ll be reading up on:

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The Created Dichotomy between Urban and Rural

I’ve been spending a bit of time of late attempting to put into words my opinions and experiences on living within a city. I am happy learning design and architecture in a city like Raleigh that is reshaping its boundaries, its identity and consequently the lives of those of us that choose to live in and around it. The result is this essay that is published online in the NC State College of Design Student Publication.

Within my short lifetime I’ve had the privilege, as the daughter of an Air Force officer, to move, live and travel across the United States. I grew up a person without a place that defined home – I had many places, many identities from which to choose. We moved back and forth between military bases and suburbs in seven states. In between moves, we traveled to major cities as tourists and rural countrysides for family visits to my parents’ childhood homes. My father is the son of two Southern school teachers who are the product of dairy farm owners and mill workers. My mother was the first of her Appalachian family to go to college; her mother is a housekeeper and her father was a salesman and carpenter. These rural roots have built my intuition and guided me to a deep love and understanding of rural life. Clarity comes as I grow older; that, neither the rural world of my grandparents, nor the suburban world of my parents is mine. The shifts in perspective I had as a child, each time I moved, spotlight the positive and negative of living in the country and the suburbs; so as I embarked for adulthood, I chose to live in a growing city.

As a student of architecture, I am beginning for the first time to understand the making of place and the meaning of place to its inhabitants. This new understanding is providing me with a language to describe the links within my dichotomous life – spent half in the city and half in the country. Yet, it is also the idea of architecture, of man-made landscape in contrast to the natural landscape, which gives rise to the dichotomy between urban and rural spaces.

Thomas Cole, “Allegorical voyage: Youth”

The rural is a part of the American landscape much loved and much ignored. From the earliest days, America has been a land of wilderness and since the Transcendentalists, that wilderness has been a wonderful and idyllic place in sharp contrast to the dirty cramped city. However, in the last century, as the population of America switched from being primarily rural to primarily urban, this view has changed.

a futuristic view of Houston

Gone is the idea of the dirty industrial city, we now live in shining “new” cities planned and built by modern architects. Prevalent throughout the same culture and contrasted sharply to the college-educated city sophisticate is the idea of the backwards country bumpkin, living in a forgotten farmhouse and raising children with last century’s level of education. Every part of society stereotypically perpetuates the differences between the city and the country. Yet, one profession which is uniquely tied to spatial and cultural relationships almost completely ignores not just the divide, but rural areas altogether.Our world of design is dominated by theories of urbanism in all shades, but discussion of the rural fabric is a conversation from which architects have largely removed themselves. The massive cultural and landscape shifts that have taken place across rural areas over the past century have affected the relationship between urban and rural. As the city expands past its densest patterns, to invade rural areas with subdivisions and strip malls, the value of rural land has become quantified into business opportunities and annex proposals. The gap between urban and rural is expanding as quickly as the suburban sprawl that is separating the two. The gap is physical and social. The loss of value has been felt by both the city sophisticate and rural hick, yet each has responded by attempting to create value in vastly different ways.

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In the beginning…

This post has been several years in the making.  When I first thought of using the internet to help me remember what I am doing, blogs were popular.  Yes, sometimes I’m that far behind the times.  So, why now?

Everyday I find myself dueling balance in a million ways and by the end of most days, I am no closer to finding it.  Some would say that’s because I enjoy the perks that come with being an unbalanced person :-).  Today, the reason I start this blog today, is because I can’t get one question out of my head.  Does balance exist?

Balance, as defined by dictionary.com has 31 definitions ranging from “a stable emotional state” to “to reckon and adjust accounts.”  To me, balance has always been tied to the idea of equilibrium.  Give and take.  My parents taught me this at young age of 5 when I first got my allowance.  If I’d given my time to chores that week I was given some money, some of which I had to save, some of which I could take and spend on whatever I wanted.  I quickly learned that the more cheerful I was about my chores, or to be more honest, the less I complained about them, the more money I was given.  They taught me that being part of the family was rewarding to my desires as long as I also fulfilled their desires.  Looking back, this was a lot to grasp as a whiny 5 year old – but I’m glad my parents thought highly enough of me to teach me.

Balance must exist as the result of understanding the system.  It’s the peace that you get when you know that you have sacrificed something for something else.  However, I’m years removed from my allowance days and able to look back at them now and see them as rewarding.  I am beginning to challenge myself – what sacrifices do I complain about to today that are truly worth it?  where can balance be found and where should it be fought?