A Smile to Hang a Face On.
I’m currently reading Far From Equilibrium: Essays on Technology and Design Culture by Sanford Kwinter. If there were pin-ups of academics instead of teen heart-throbs, Mr. Kwinter would be up inside my locker in an instant. Kwinter’s sometimes rant-y and always exuberant style of writing has me utterly enamored and engrossed. Brains? Yes, please!
Besides being a challenging and entertaining read, the book is graphically superb and a pleasure to hold. The cover has a soft foam-rubbery texture with low-relief circles scattered across like a spray of sea-foam or an effervescence of champagne bubbles. Yum, yum & yum. Touch it, read it, LOVE it!
In any case, here’s the point of today’s post. I want to share a quote from the book. I am a big fan of analogies and have a growing mental file for my favorites. This one, from Alfred North Whitehead and located in Kwinter’s essay The “Avant Garde” in America (or the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness) is about as precious as they come. I’ll let you unpack it (is that lazy of me, or what?). I’ve been turning it over in the old noggin for a while – so it’s your turn, now. It’s dense but there’s a reward at the end if you stick with it.
Whitehead argues against prevailing notions of space and time (as static and separate; items) in his 1925 work Science and the Modern World and illustrates what he believes to be the true nature of the world (dynamic and together; a process) saying:
The actual world is a manifold of prehensions; and a ‘prehension’ is a ‘prehensive occasion;’ and a prehensive occasion is the most concrete finite entity, conceived as what it is in itself and for itself, and not as from its aspect in the essence of another such occasion. Prehensive unification might be said to have simple location in its volume A. But this would be a mere tautology. For space and time are simply abstractions from the totality of prehensive unifications as mutually patterned in each other. Thus a prehension has simple location at the volume A in the same way as that in which a man’s face fits on to the smile which spreads over it.
Isn’t it interesting to think about and watch ourselves and fellow humans struggle to define what and where we are?
Here’s to hanging our faces!
SOURCE: Kwinter, Sanford, and Cynthia C. . Davidson. Far from equilibrium essays on technology and design culture. Barcelona: Actar-D, 2007.
ALSO CHECK OUT: George Eastman House’s photostream on Flickr, s’where I got that lady.