online: 7 september 2006
modified: 7 september 2006

6 september 2006 in utopia

18:01 a wooded valley with thick grass, bright green... due, i imagine, to the shade of tall trees at some distance, occasional mowing of the grass, short widely-spaced trees in the valley itself, and the presence of a stream between fairly steep slopes... all these things, and perhaps others, an ensemble...?

...not only is the grass exceptionally green and lush but the valley is quiet, almost a secret place that has i think been landscaped by someone to be just that, a retreat from the city yet within tens of metres of back gardens on one side and of a busy public park on the other...

For me, a find!

7 september
...i happened to find that place through what i am now calling 'post-platonic' integration of thought and action...

...i was intending to walk right across the heath but when i saw an inviting pathway that i'd not previously noticed i decided to abandon my plan and to walk along it - and almost immediately i found myself in that hidden valley where i sat for some time and wrote the above note...

...this may seem quite trivial, but such spontaneous thought-events (or 'tropisms' as Nathalie Sarrault* called them) are i think the actual ingredients of conscious life, below the scale of the thoughts we normally admit into public speech or writing but a reality of existence... and to me they are a main ingredient of designing from the user's point of view... what i call 'existentia'...

...i was led to the term 'post-platonic' by the following words of Hannah Arendt:

The Platonic separation of knowing and doing has remained at the root of all theories of domination...** soon as i read that statement (and the pages that follow it) i understood why i've always doubted the writings of Plato... now i can see that separation of thought from action goes with separation of thinker (as social superior) from doer (as a slave, servant, or worker)...

...and designing, particularly of utopias (or of a whole way of life) is thus seen as a mistake, that of taking life to be an object, a made thing, constructed and imposed by doing violence to who and what exists...

...with this thought i am obliged to reconsider, and to realise, the utopia i'm attempting not as disconnected thought, or idea, but as political reality, in the present... hmmm... thinking should be part of action, and follow it, but not precede?... yes of course!

*Tropisms - a technical term used by Nathalie Sarrault and the title of one of her books Tropismes,1939 (there is an English translation by Maria Jolas).

**Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London 1958 and still in print, pages 225 to 230.

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