U(You) Turn. From Self-Destruction to Self-Organisation
by Lorenzo Romito
What is beyond the contemporary city in accordance with an I-Ching reading
Before attempting to envision what is beyond the contemporary city, we should attempt to understand what is behind it. The contemporary city is the house of our society. This house and what is inside it are declining.
The main actors in this declining contemporary city are the economy, politics and the media. They activate a vicious circle leading to an increasingly ‘passive’ society, where citizens become consumers of their speculative devices, users of controlled and secure spaces and acquiescent audiences for spectacles.
We consider this a crisis that, by necessity, will lead to a structural change of the system itself. We are not there to fight for this change or resist it, but to help let it happen in the most spontaneous and ecological way, avoiding useless conflictsor, even better, helping those conflicts to evolve into complex dynamics.
To understand and enable this transformation, to allow it to have a place – according to the Stalker Process of run-time profiling, state mapping and tracing – is not to oppose or plan the change; better to be aware of the danger of the crisis and discover the possible opportunities in it. The change is an immanent spontaneous process and cannot be driven by voluntary action. Instead, evolution could be better understood and promoted by engaging with experience, exploring the emerging signs of chance within reality, attempting to perceive the beginning of the spontaneous process of change, and catching the opportunity within it.
Since 1995, the Stalker Process has been crossing the territories of change: what we call ‘Actual Territories’. It has become aware of its emerging and spontaneous becomings, transformative processes, relationships, common experiences, knowledge memories and imaginaries. By providing the ‘reverse engineer’ with an intuitive visual interface to filter meaningful data, it helps make necessary changes happen by transforming the way we relate to others and the environment.
This experiential thinking, and the logic of immanence that is bound up in it, is where the Stalker practice resembles a certain Chinese way of thinking, expressed through Taoist philosophy and by the I-Ching, the Book of Changes. In “the I-Ching, the Classic of Change, there are only two signs, continuous and discontinuous lines. – – – , are the different combinations of these two lines that build the text and not the enouncement of a discourse or the formulation of a meaning. (…) It is just from the game of alternances of its figures, from the effects of juxtaposition and correlation, from their possibility of transforming, that sense emerges.” (F. Jullien, Figures of Immanence: a Philosophical Reading of the I-Ching, Bari, 2005).
I-Ching is a device composed of sixty-four hexagrams representing all the possible phases of change in the transformation of reality. Through this device, one can interpret and interrogate oneself starting from the experience of reality and the possible ‘becoming’ of it.
Trying to interpret the stage of change we are living today, I have chosen two figures from the I-Ching. The phase of change we are now living in is between them:
One is ‘Bo’ (n.23), the splitting apart, the crisis. The next is ‘Fu’ (n.24), the coming back or the turning point, the possibility of going beyond.
In the architecture of Bo, the splitting apart, a Yang Line sits on top of a pile of Yin lines. “The Yin is at the apex of its power and tends to expel the Yang (…) this figure is the most ‘ill-omened’. There is no profit in going beyond. This time of ‘deprivation’ corresponds to the ‘making through’ of all the foolish and consequently is unfavourable to the fair man. (…) Is exactly the roof that these are dismantling, because it was up to the Yang line to cover and protect them (…). In the times when the disorder reaches its top, when nothing could be undertaken in accordance with the world, the literate sits unswervingly at the margin. (…) If the wise cannot ‘re-establish order’ this allows at least that, thanks to him, the consciousness of ‘values’ doesn’t get abolished. This allows us to wait with TRUST the situation when, at the end of the ‘deprivation’, the Yang is conducted to come back.” (F. Jullien, 2005).
In the architecture of Fù the turning point, a yang line, appears at the bottom of a pile of yin lines.
“(…), this phase of emerging, meant as a return, is precisely the crucial moment in which the invisible connects to the visible (…) offering a transversal way to access the invisible: it opens a breach in the mystery of immanence. This phase of coming back makes us ‘perceive the heart of reality’, the oracle suggests to try to understand it, starting from our experience.” (F. Jullien, 2005).
From this perspective, only the experience of reality allows us to investigate the future by attempting to catch the possible ‘becoming’ of what is emerging today. This emergence offers us the possibility of looking beyond without abandoning reality.
For the Stalker Process, this experience of reality is driven by the practice of ‘crossing’ the edges of reality – territories, disciplines, social and cultural boundaries – and catching spontaneous signs of change.
Entering from the bottom, the Yang line is welcomed by the pile of Yin lines because its behaviour provokes the Yin Lines to become creative. The related comment in the I-Ching shows: “(…) on a moral and political level, the harmonious relationships that could be established in between any community, (represented by the Yin lines) and the capability of the initiation that could come from the outside (represented by the Yang line). The true initiative should not consist in submitting the other to its norm, imposing on them plans to change, but consists in allowing them to develop their virtuality through actual contact.” (F. Jullien, 2005).
Stalker has been trying to similarly incite processes of self-consciousness and self-organisation by building devices to promote dialogue and creative collaboration, share common experiences and visions, and establish processes of reciprocal learning.
One more cue, offered by the ‘coming back’ figure, is the possibility – in this phase of transformation – of the spontaneous emerging of a common consciousness in people’s behaviour.
This collective realisation could lead to a deep transformationin the process of self-organisation within our society.
It would also mean that a U-change will only take place if YOU change.
This evolutionary potential is, according to self-organisation studies:
“(…) the self-transcendency: the capability to go beyond the physical and mental borders in learning, developing and evolution.(…) When the system gets closer to the turning point, the system ‘decides’ which way to take, and this decision will determinate its evolution.” (F. Capra, The Turning Point, New York, 1982).
To entice people to share this co-evolutionary vision is the Stalker’s actual task: as is facing the immanent necessity of today’s turning point.