"To be alive is to be a flow system"

constructal

I heard this story on NPR earlier today: http://media.wnyc.org/media/photologue/photos/EMBED_DesigninNature.png

I’m not entirely sure how this differs from fractals (I curse my lack science knowledge) but I like this idea because it shows how certain similar patters are recreated throughout the world, both in the “natural world” and the “human world,” but it also gives that pattern a vitalistic force. So it really erases the line between the natural and human worlds: it creates a spectrum instead on which there are simply more and less complex degrees of vitalistic pattern creation, flow, and that everything is constantly changing, being driven to change by this vitalistic pattern flow. 

Patterns are something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Deleuze is all about flows and patterns. DeLanda takes that aspect of him even further. And in Zen and Taoism there are lots of references to flows and constant change. But I am very curious about applying these pattern ideas to literature. I feel like I am starting to turn back to literature a bit more after my philosophy (and to a certain degree, science) binge of the last year or so, I have enough concepts in my arsenal now that I feel I can safely return to literature and apply them with confidence. 

I feel like these patterns will specifically be useful in understanding why certain characters run into certain problems, and how those problems are formed. To use constructal theory, what I’m interested in is how certain flows begin to coagulate, and how they can be either uncoagulated or further coagulated. I think this approach will be very useful both in analyzing literature and in my own writing.

I feel like this approach explains very well some of the issues I have with The Idiot. Dostoevsky’s attempt to create a “perfectly beautiful man” in Prince Myshkin fails, because there is no such thing as “perfection,” and any attempt to reach perfection will backfire and instead become both perfect and disastrous, because perfection in the individual comes at the price of disaster for all those around them. “Les extremes se touchent.” And though Myshkin certainly achieves a state of inner perfection, in reality it brings about a double death, a double coagulation of flows: it kills Myshkin as a character, because whatever life there was in him was destroyed by his “perfection.” If there is a moment at the end of the novel when Myshkin is most real, it is when he becomes an idiot again, and is brought back into the world of the living, the imperfect, the constantly changing and bifurcating. It also kills Nastasya Fillippovna because, in his perfection, Myshkin is powerless to stop Rogozhin from killing her, and powerless even to try to take revenge or justice. In his perfect impotence, perfect coagulation, all he can do is spend the night with Rogozhin in a kind of creepy complicity. All Myshkin is is a disembodied idea, the ultimate coagulation, because ideas are fixed, separated from the world of flows. 

So if I can apply this to literature I’m reading, and use it to understand why and how certain characters work or don’t work, this will be very useful to me in terms of my own writing, because it will give me a method for creating more realistic characters with more interesting relationships and problems. I can also use it in my observational practices, watching people interact and seeing what sorts of patterns are created between them and how they flow, and use those interactions as templates. I feel like I already did that in the story I wrote a while ago “Holy Fools,” but not quite as intentionally. I feel like I will definitely carry these ideas on to grad school and focus on this kind of stuff. I’m finally focussing and distilling all my interests into something cohesive. I can’t wait to actually study this stuff for a living.