Books, Blogs and Strange Attractors


Strange attractors are the route from chaos to a degree of order. Impossible to identify or predict in advance, we spot them as elements begin to gather round them and form a pattern. We can begin to perceive a picture.

Centralised control continues to fall apart, whether in politics or business or acadaemia, we are looking for those patterns. for something to gather round. We have no shortage of places to look; every individual has a voice today.

Mass social media seems to me to remain a chaotic space. Huge numbers of voices, many of them robots, all seeking attention. Thoughtful and considerate posts quickly drowned out by a combination of hate, envy, misinformation and selfish agendas. They have an attention span of seconds. What could, should and yet maybe end up as a beneficial media for now is contaminated by advertisers and “celebrities” hunger for eyeballs and attention. It’s where the money is.

Blogs, written and video seem different. They require more effort, and I suspect the ratio of thoughtful contributors compared to noisy shouters is much higher. Blogs leave a trail, and have a longer half life. I’m still intrigued when something I write attracts attention sometimes months after I have written it. Whilst some bloggers make money, most don’t. The best blogs are an act of dedication and curiosity.

Books are yet another level up. Books are hard work, requiring effort in writing and publication. They expose more detailed levels of thinking, ideas and opinion. authors are the ones who really put themselves out there for judgement. They also require effort on the part of the reader. Books are a form of relationship between reader and authoer.

I have more than a weakness for books. I read at least two, or sometines three on a good week. Aside from enjoyment, my reading is my stock in trade. Fuel for conversations. Another voice in my head, sometimes challenging, sometimes supportive, always interesting. They open up new avenues for me to wander down. I make friends I’ll never meet.

In an age of mass media, books are the strange attractors. They are orbited by blogs that expand on them. Social media are the meteorite storms, causing damage and disruption, sometimes terminal, mostly to no real purpose. It’s just what they do.

The best books for me are defined by circumstance – a coincidental meeting of what’s on my mind and the author’s intent. One of my favourites in the last few months is “Sand Talk” by Tyson Yunkaporta. It’s an exploration of the nature of Aboriginal thinking, storytelling and recording. It combines thoroughness in detail with constructive anger. It tirggered so many links to other ideas it took me a week to read, and I’m going to have to read it again in a month or so. It’s as good a defintion of a book as strange attractor as I can think of.

It will be intertesting to see where it takes me. It sits at the intersection of science and mysticism, honouring and challenging both, and asks questions we can only answer for ourselves.

I wrote yesterday about text books and their limitations. Sand Talk is most definitely not a textbook, but has enough content to pull a great many text books into its orbit and redefine relationships between them.

I think it’s important, because given the times we are in, this is a skill we can all develop. To be a vehicle for helping others rethink the knowledge that has gone stale since they acquired it. To refresh it, reframe it and add their own small contribution, and in so doing bring something fresh and new to the equation.

To build, brick by brick, what is next.

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