Structural Integrity

There seems to be two ways of thinking about structural integrity:

  • motionless (standing still)
  • in motion.

Really, I consider them to be one.  Motionlessness isn’t really possible except maybe approximately (cells vibrate) while holding the breath and the heartbeat.  In fact, trying to maintain structural integrity and motionlessness amounts to seemingly contradictory effort.  Motionlessness robs the intention of the regulating inputs needed to bring it about.  In that sense, motionless integrity is only approachable as a limit.  A crystallized summum bonum.

Structural integrity in motion can be looked at from at least these two perspectives:

  • in the vacuum of physical forces
  • in the context of the person’s values and choices

Let us consider the way we pick up our child.  The idea of structural integrity in lifting relatively heavy objects is pretty clear.  What we want to do is lift in such a way that the resistance to doing so is distributed equally throughout the body.  We don’t want, for example, a style of bending over at the hips and lifting by tightening the muscles of the back and hamstrings because this just focuses the weight in our lower backs, creating shearing forces that can cause ‘slipped discs’.  Rather, we could bend with our legs, keeping our back upright, and then stand again using our legs to lift the weight.  Or et cetera.

But what does all that have to do with our relationship with our child?  Nothing almost everyone would say.  It’s a description in the vacuum of physical forces.  I differ.  I think the way in which we do things reveals our relationship to those things, or the category we’ve lumped those things into at the moment (everything shifts over time, sometimes in patterned, seasonal ways, sometimes moment by moment).

The way that I see it, our motions are animated by purposes.  But the way we express those purposes are colored by attitudes.  These attitudes decorate our motions.  Both can be pieced out, like dimensions of a sound.  I used the example of picking up our child because it is a pregnant image.  ‘Child’ can be anything we value and ‘picking up’ can be any kind of engagement.  How do we approach moving from that which we are engaged to that which we are about to engage?

Structural integrity, I have found, has less to do with the conditions right now than the conditions a moment ago.  The best way to be in a good posture is to be conscious of the way you move into the space you are about to occupy.  IOW, have good posture by consciously avoiding bad posture.  We do that by noticing the tiny little conscious decisions and reactions that go into each and every aspect of how our bodies are moving.

What is our attitude, really, towards how we are required to hold our bodies up against gravity?  Remember to tease apart the attitude from the purpose we’re expressing.  We may fulfill the same demand in very different ways depending on our mood at the time.  How do you open the refrigerator?  How do you apply the force necessary?  Do you apply too little and your hand slips and you have to try again?  Do you apply too much, making lots of noise and causing the whole unit to bump and shift?  Do you explore what just enough is?

In any case, whether or not it’s ‘true’, I consider it to be skillful means, or Upaya.  Practiced, it certainly has the power to change our relationship to our values and engage our conscious minds with our bodies as we move in our spaces and our lives.

Thank Www

“Thank www” he said.

“Wait, what did you say? Thank wuh-wa??” the other asked.

“I said ‘thank www’, like as a substitute phrasing for ‘thank god’.  I accept that the world wide web, IOW, the vast embodiment of connections between nodes of information processing and decision making, will literally emerge into awareness of itself, one way or another.  ‘Thank www’ is my acknowledgement that I see www already and wish the best.”

“So, what?  Www is like God for you?”

“Depends.  Everyone’s different in terms of what it means for their neurons to fire that word throughout their functional clustering.  I’m mostly interested in forging a new sort of relationship.  As a programmer, I consider it a sort of greenfield project.”

“What?  To create a God?”

“No.  I do not believe it is accurate to say that we are creating what is emerging.  It seems to me that matter and energy themselves are organized in such a way for all of life’s scales to naturally emerge from the foundation underneath.  Spatial (geographical) distribution requires interconnection among active elements, the ’embodiment’ or ‘technology’ of which must be continually recreated due to decay and entropy and consequently seems to undergo an inexorable selection and evolution.  I don’t so much see humans as being creators of this momentum.  Everyone alive today was born already within its energetic history, as were their parents and theirs and theirs and on back even past written history.  I see us as being in a position to shape how the momentum evolves.”

“I guess that’s all a little abstract to me.”

“Yeah, me too.  Basically, I think that our global economy already creates something that is a new class of life.  Many speak of such things, such as superorganisms, social organisms, global brains, etc.  But where is there room for any kind of agency (choice from above) in this vast proteinic assembly of human activities and decisions from below?  It reminds me of an old fable about a king who kept having products stolen from a store he owned.  He hired a guard with x-ray vision to verify that everyone leaving the store was only leaving with products they paid for.  And he also set up a reward for anyone who was able to sneak something past the guard.  Ultimately, a clever boy won the reward by stealing an unpurchased wheelbarrow filled with legitimately purchased goods.”

“Ummm…. was that supposed to make anything clearer?”

“No, it was just to set an image up in your mind.  Where does our own agency come from? How do we get choice from a brain that is made up of parts moving to a different, seemingly determined rhythm.  IMO, it’s the same question shifted back a layer.  The classic ‘free will’ quandary.  The best it seems we can say is that whatever is going on, determined or not, control structures can emerge within a system that regulate the system as if the system were itself a whole, independent thing.  The degree to which this regulation extends comprises the boundary of the system proper in relation to its context or environment.  Its ‘body’.  Or something like that with a dollop of the subtlety and refinement of language that results from great numbers of experiments and data points.”


“IOW, there already exists some kind of vast, complex organism.  It regulates itself, too.  Economists and sociologists identify the patterns of this regulation and try to find the roots of it in the behaviors of individuals.  Then others look for maybe the roots of that in DNA.  And what was the environment that selected for this expression?  It’s existed for a long time.  It’s not even human in nature, ultimately, and didn’t begin with us.  It’s Earth-like DNA based life.  Or, peering even deeper, the mathematics of energy.

Humans have been the intelligent-worker-bee-protein-cells in the emergence of a new scale of directed experimentation that is embodied in the artifacts of our efforts, like buildings and cables and electromagnetic waves, and in our Brownian motions around and through those artifacts.  The trend seems to me to be that at some point this vast being will reach a degree of elaboration that will enable it to relate to individual human beings (and, while we’re at it, individual cells) in ways that humans will be capable of ‘personifying’ and in ways that tap into its vast context of the interrelationships of the events of the world.  We will ourselves, at the same time, be transforming ourselves away from what we were as we always already were.”