online: 12 december 2002

10 december 2002 between the old and the new

22:56 A day of rest and recovery from the exertions of travel and of taking part in a new kind of internet conference in Bremen... and now a pause before beginning an imaginary conference that I have been preparing all my life, perhaps.

But first to digitise and edit some fragmentary notes I wrote on the way to Bremen, at the conference, and on return to London.

5 december: on the way to Bremen
07:03 In train to London City airport. Dawn over the city - cold east wind, clear sky, still dark, street lights still on and some windows lit against the darkness of the buildings. I see into an office in which one or two people are already moving about. Hackney Wick.

A faint pink light on the eastern horizon. The clear sky above it is greeny blue. Silent men in the train, well wrapped up. Most of them get out at Stratford East.

[I have a premonition that these notes can be the 'prepared pages' for scene 3 of Symposium (the imaginary conference). Prepared pages are those on which there are existing texts between which I write a new text.]

People waiting for trains are like unspeaking ghosts on the concourse below a parabolic or hyperbolic roof. Everyone seems half asleep.

Between stations we pass another huge roof (of curved Warren girders) spanning the tracks of a train shed - is it for Eurostar? [the Channel Tunnel train]

Now that it's later and becoming light there are also a few women travelling to work.

I see Canary Wharf (an enormous commercial skyscraper) and its recent duplicates - monuments to Thatcherism. Yes she didmake a difference. Did that come of her single-minded dominance or was it from 'the culture'?... Is there anysense in which new things emerge from a collective process that is more than one person dominating others? She questioned the existence of society.

The 'inhumanity' of the neo-functionalism (or pseudo-functionalism) of e.g. the suspended roof of Custom House Station looks less false half-lit in the dawn against a clear sky. More cosmic than human! (Is this the abstract reality of Plato again?)

7 december: Bremen.

I made no notes of the post-industrial breakfast that I hosted at the conference. After a preliminary struggle to put people before computers, I enjoyed it.
Fatma Korkut, Rosan Chow, Keith Russel and Wolfgang Jonas were present at the breakfast table - Artemis Yagou, Ranulf Glanville and Ken Friedman took part by email.

15:42 Notes while listening to Keith Russell (he comes from Australia and describes himself as a design philosopher - I think he deserves the title!):

what place has death in your design theory, or world? if it has none you may not be in this world!

nothing structures the mind like language structures the mind

Sylvia Plath (in a poem describes someone) stepping after a bath onto broken glass (Keith says she never did so - it's an analogue of her fractured emotional state (I ask is this non-confessional poetry? He answers: yes!))

the body embodies knowledge

the poet doesn't have a personality (?)

the negativity side of subjectivity
'where have you been?' (if said to a lover who is late for an appointment it turns his or her arrival into the negation of the presence that the one waiting was wishing for)

an advisor opens doors for others - through which he does not go.

the industrial designer Sottsass: (describes) a ritual with some rice he'd grown - and a packet of rice with its meaningless package that he discards

characters in the sixteenth century Chinese novel Monkeyrepresent the emotions (so try in Symposiumto do likewise, or perhaps represent the rasas of traditional Indian theatre?)

Near midnight.
Fair-haired man driving taxi to the Congress Hall tells me that his family is from one of the Frisian Islands near to Denmark. 'I'm from the North' he says. The signal from an electronic gadget on his windscreen fails to open the security gate and so I have to walk in the icy wind. 'That's organisation' he says... The intelligent environment is not yet working perfectly? Early days.

They cheer when they see me return. The 24-hour online conference stopped early because of the hostile interjections of someone who hacked in. Modern life. So instead we talked with, and through the ideas of, Keith Russell - about William Blake and others.

8 december
13:40 Bremen Airport. A vast glass walled departure lounge full of dazzling light and almost empty of people. The taxi driver (the first person from Ethiopia I've met) told me he'd visited most ports in Britain as a seaman. He'd been rescued by helicopter from a Beaufort Scale 12 storm in the Bay of Biscay. Then he married someone from Bremen and they have two children, now almost grown-up. I think he is glad to be on land.

(Earlier) Visited the Steiner-like Christian Community Church in Bremen. Non-rectangular architecture and a bronze door of a modernist angel Michael killing a dragon with one hand and welcoming pilgrims to Calvary with the other - against a sea-like bronze landscape. Met the young pastor and his wife and baby - he told me that the Community Church was founded in Germany in the early 1920s with help from Rudolf Steiner. Looked for the house of Ivan Illich* but did not find it.

I'm feeling very well, and strengthened, by all this.

After the conference I decided to cease adapting to inappropriate contexts and to make my own - to which others can adapt if they wish... I realised that this is more respectful of others and less pandering to my social comfort.

9 december: on return
Wake at 04:12 with mind active. I feel that in clarifying what I mean by creative democracy I could be proposing a new paradigm - but am barely able to do so. If I do it I will have to cease adapting to, and giving time to, externals and to the perceptions of others (that presently occupy the centre)... to justify or explain at last my decades in the apparent wilderness (but not in terms of the status quo!).

people as people before people as objects

Neither the conservative sin (of subjecting the present to what's past and gone) nor the progressive sin (of subjecting it to imposed or unattainable futures). Difficult, but the only way. It's not a way - it's being alive to the present

The present is a lonely place.
(Edwin Schlossberg, in conversation)

*I've just heard that Ivan Illich has died... He questioned things I am questioning... I am sorry I didn't meet him.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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