In the course of a general flattening and late modern cultural alienation – to quote Murakami’s concept of the “Superflat” – the once solidifying sociocultural ties were transformed into lightweight, ‘slippery-to-sew’ links, which now belong in the realm of totalitarian kitsch and banality – that is, to all the ‘fossil’ remains of a “fragmented social world” (Keupp). Humanity was then faced by an exceptionally intricate problem: namely, the formation of a new social identity that affirms both individual as well as collective interests and merges them into a single cluster, so to speak. The answer to this ‘self-imposed’ question – after all, we know that people nowadays don’t have any life-related problems other than questioning everything on a permanent basis, if possible – was found embedded in the extractive distillation or the pure self-cultivation of a so-called “patchwork identity” (Keupp): Cartoon characters, made of soft and deformable Play-Doh or sloppily glued together papier-mâché, which are bubble-bathed in a continued flow of self-narration and the foaming process of manufacturing identity. Here, all that is solid and firm is liquefied by a strong kinetic energy – the term “affluent society” (Galbraith), namely, a civilization in a superfluid phase, may be taken word for word, then. ‘Late’ modern identity was thus put into motion; an effect that ejects the particles of socio-cultural existence crudely patched together from a center of ‘sameness’ (Lat., identitas), and converts them into a swirling whirlpool around the “pole” (Heidegger).

But, and this is my second point, observing this fundamental shift/decentralization will visually pop out both the concept of identity and identity crisis into the foreground again – in the image of the so-called “clash of civilizations” (Huntington). Social conflicts and confrontations related to identity politics with topics and issues that should pose no problem in today’s society are now fought out in the global arena of cultural space (or, rather, in the animal cages of the urban jungle/zoo), including tirades of hysterical mania – and, of course, all discussions are held in strict compliance with the requirements of ‘politically correct’ talk. The demand for an unambiguous truth-value that categorizes ‘wrong’ or false knowledge, lies, and deception within a societal unit is not being replaced but rather revalued by a moralization of the latter. With that in mind, the term ‘political correctness’ is not used properly here, since it actually represents no longer a political but a completely moralized accuracy or correctness, which elevates its keeper (of the flame of wisdom, that is) on the level of a more ‘worthy’ human being – an ‘Übermensch’ (overman), so to speak. Therefore, it is clear that the so-called “clash [rather: crash] of civilizations” is, above all, a battle for the sovereign world-view, the predominant influence of opinion, but never for a central truth itself, as truth has neither to be obtained, nor be protected against. Contrary to Christoph Schwöbel’s approach of self-identity evolvement it only reinforces the self-preservation of ideology.

This ‘inner bewilderment of modern humanity’ that finds itself lost in an urban jungle labyrinth wherein a swarm of people, in the likeness of worker bees, live in jam-packed beehives (so-called ‘skyscrapers’), and where ‘truth’ hangs upon the same tree as the toxic fruits of porkies; where every day “a new sow is chased through the [global] village” (a literal translation of the German ‘much ado about nothing’) –this all illustrates how our society is incapable of making ultimate and mature decisions, my third point. The chased sow are we ourselves, by the way: the self-proclaimed pinnacle of all creation – the shining cherry on the richly decorated cake of our proud civilization has ‘evolved’ into big and dumb pigs whose refinement is comparable to the sound of morally correct grunting, and yes, those very elegant cocktail parties – or mudslingers, that is. And, especially those who are – with respect – also able to sh** in the own pigsty belong to the most refined sort of cherries! One need only remember these groundbreaking debates as to whether milk is an explicit symbol of “white supremacy,” after all; – or Pepsi’s ‘do-goody’ ad that tosses with this ‘tutti-frutti’ approach everything into the bag of Haribo sweets all at once what is considered ‘hot’ right now and has currently been put on sale in the candy shop. Including top model Kendall Jenner, a Good Samaritan, as we all know, ‘born in the U.S.A.,’ the homeland of the Good. And that, of course, we know. Yes, precisely there, where the rivers flow of said milk and Pepsi-honey…

One might as well, in this sense, use the terms ‘cultural narrative’ and/or ‘narrative technique’ (a mode perhaps rather than a genre per se), to relieve the message of its ‘sugar free,’ but artificially sweetened gum of identity politics that weaves throughout those clearly defined “cartoon characters” and cultural identity patterns of kitsch and cliché under the guise of self-invention. This marks the fourth aspect of the treatise. It might be the extreme overuse of ‘empty phrases’ or the feeling of being caught between satiation and distaste as to why we try – while awakening from this encircling magic spell – to (re)frame or re-imagine our once flowery, ‘ideal’ understanding of identity in the ‘real’ reality. Philosophical and cultural counter-movements start sprouting out of nowhere, while they get energized by life-renewing forces that liquefy the limited remaining embeddedness of our solid-state world of stone. And, indeed, future society will have to face the enigmatic alien labyrinth of a ‘frightfully’ rather than ‘fruitfully’ fluid identity. Our hedonistic, fast-paced “fun society” can only speed up even more until that one big ‘mass of people’ is swirled into this whirlpool’s transforming torrent; – changing from the solid to a liquefied state. Clearly, the two-phase flows of formalization and dematerialization illustrate a “spiral of violent, vigorous force” (Härle); symbolized through and represented by the current riots of the so-called ‘Black Bloc’ [or rather: ‘Black Sea’ – mind the wordplay] against the hooded police, dressed in black, as well.

All that’s left in the end is to fight against oneself: it simply lies in the nature of a progressive-regressive culture to nestle in the cradle of being and then swallow the ‘sleepy hollow’ bit by bit. At first painless, it eats away at the THING. But over time it eats away at you, the SELF. That it continues to progress in this manner – is perhaps the actual catastrophe. However, what ‘progressivistic evolution’ will the very concept of identity, which defines itself through a problematic double role of the egoist and the ‘socio-infantile’ minor/minion, undertake in the late modern ‘fluid phase’ of a ‘wishy-washy world.’ Well, one can say for sure that contemporary identity will cut its ‘space-bound’ connection to the so-called “core self” (Damasio) and, instead, replace it with an outwardly directed identification with the “empty seed-vessel (pericarp)” – the ritualized form. In other words: We appear to have regressed into childishness, into an ordinary bird of prey (not paradise), while this seriously endangered beast of “pseudo-identity” is the very prey (think of our copy/paste-culture). So, where do we go from here? After all, it can always only go on, anyway. As far as I’m concerned, the next generation will be solely preoccupied with ‘filling the gap’ (between core self and seed-vessel) they have been dealt by modernity. Regardless, it remains important to use an infill rich in sustenance, as a means of keeping body and soul together – that is, a highly concentrated (condensed, evaporated) skim milk. Nothing too watery. Certainly not Pepsi…


Q1: What can organizations do to get their proverbial share of the pie?

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch,” Carl Sagan famously notes, “you must first create the universe.” Finding answers to the above questions is an endeavor as difficult as this. How exactly is an “experience of economic barrenness” to be metaphorically related to the apple of Eden through which the paradisiacal fertility was lost? And with regard to today’s organizational inertia, what can act as a direct antidote to the bite of/from the Edenic apple for vivifying poisonous, toxic economic conditions. The apple that was “beautiful to behold and sweet to eat,” of course, didn’t present itself in the image of a deadly fruit at first glance, but rather as a “food of life” (‘cibus vitalis’). Similarly, the organizational environment (or context) is a vast ‘garden’ of strong, intelligible signals and distorted noise which both need to be questioned, explored, and scanned openly and systematically without failing to pick up the spark that is the idea and plant its seeds within the organizational “soil,” so that it results in continuous activity, change, and innovation. Hence, it ought to be obvious that every innovation starts with ideas. And, when observing new successful organizations (e.g., Silicon Valley’s Google, Apple, YouTube, etc.), these ideas have to be as disruptive as possible, shaking up the static equilibrium of structures, as well as initiating movement in the organization’s heart. The ‘seeds’ of innovation are best sown on the soil of the heart from which successful new products can then sprout like plants ensuring optimal growth.

Q2: How can myopic “couch-potato organizations” break their inertia?

Only very seldomly do organizations reach their full potential. Most companies, especially established ones such as physical retail chains and shopping malls, prefer to stick close to “old” basics, which made them successful in the past. They are not as agile and responsive as they used to be – if they ever were – and not as idea-oriented as they need to be. It would be surprising if they were looking for something paradigm shifting. Basic conceptual foundations are outdated, the execution often clumsy. ‘Discovery’ doesn’t happen anymore, and if ‘new’ ideas are ever found, they are most likely destined to end up in the trash can anyway. It should be clear now that a comfort zone (complacency) is always also a danger zone – simply because without risking anything at all, organizations risk fading away altogether. Rather than ranting on about how the ‘Internet’ – or the weather (retailers like this a lot) – is to blame, today’s organizations should always seek to go beyond tried and true methods for the sake of finding a balance between fear and the comfort of the mundane (a healthy “growth zone”). Engaging in ‘cockfights’ only drains organizational energy that could be used in building strategies to break away from the pack and become a swan instead. Typically, there is no safe course of action for this. Safety is an illusion anyway. Anything could happen. Anytime. Organizations are embedded in a more or less “unsafe” environment that also happens to be a relevant contextual universe, so one needs to be sensitive to all its subtleties.

Q3: What is the “secret sauce” for the successful future organization?

So what is the secret? Or, as they say: ‘what’s the secret sauce to become and remain a successful and creative organization?’ Of course, an ecology that advocates trust, openness, sharing, and a solid social capital (i.e., network structures) already partly makes for a perpetual innovation machine, but it is still not quite enough to keep it running like a well-oiled mechanism of economic growth and development through pioneering, differentiation and integration. A high degree of passion, energy and commitment for the company as much as its products, too, implies a ‘mission,’ a certain sense of direction, ingenuity and, above all else, focus. However, it is my conviction that a more concrete and technical ‘recipe’ can be identified: storytelling (and perhaps ‘world building’). So, while stories may not make up the tomato part of an “organizational ketchup,” it is also true that they add spice (and value) to a company’s brand name. And indeed, stories [I’m not talking about business storytelling or advertisements!] are not only more effective, but also allow for a very deep emotional connection between the organization and its customers, prompting them to buy a plethora of ‘embedded’ – for lack of a better word – items (within a frame story), rather than force-feeding a bland-tasting sauce of potentially boring products. Through storytelling, an organization’s portfolio becomes more specialized (and therefore less unmemorable), more intelligent, and better networked, co-operating with itself, with customers and the environment.

Q4: “To grow or not to grow?” — That is the fundamental question.

When talking about organizational growth, one can make out a clearly identifiable pattern of diverging motifs that involve barrenness and fertility. Economic growth, of course, is most often associated with a relatively concrete image such as an apple tree that is “laden with fruit, and always green” preferably bringing higher profits every year. To some contemporary critics like Frédéric Laloux, however, growth for the sake of growth, from a medical standpoint, corresponds to “the ideology of a cancer cell.” Since both of these opposing views are equally valid in their own right, it is reasonable to define “key success factors” that would enable organizations to have more positive (or less negative) outcomes (gains and progresses). In times of an ever increasing environmental consciousness, I would like to determine the new factor as organizational fertility rather than organizational growth. With metaphoric reference to ecological-economic models of long-term soil productivity (LTSP), I define organizational fertility (O.F.) as the status of the organization in relation to the amount as well as availability to output of structures and components necessary for production and growth. Organizations, therefore, are dynamic bodies; since organizational fertility is not a completely stable factor but changes with stage of succession and the organization’s profile development. Cultivating an organization’s “potential energy” allows smart, non-destructive values that don’t see this latter as a static inanimate object but an organism, instead.


Now let us a take a closer look at the code of a SYMCHA, which, by being perpetually ‘incomplete’ and partially unpainted, is precisely not a “ready-made” (Duchamp). Then, in part, the idea that it is neither fully actualized nor finally grasped always leaves the spectator with a sense of lack and this is not some sort of obstruction to abundance, but rather its precondition. The second approach is that a symbol is in the process of becoming, and so it is its primary objective to self-cultivate [‘shugyō,’ ascetic methods of self-cultivation] a rich character, which further gains tempo from a self-energizing engagement with this process; – and what is this symbol-characteristic art but an “Art of War” (Sun Tzŭ), a martial art in the true sense of the word. Symbol-characteristic art is an art about art that is self-conscious and self-reflexive, and even though it appears utterly photorealistic at first glance, it is, rather, an analytical or artistic attempt to destroy this illusion, simply to display itself as art, not life. Hence a symbol character is the ideal whose materialization is made possible by ideation, and, internally, by ‘pure’ (not technical) values in hard- and software. The SYMCHA’s core, which in reality is a black hole, is distinguished by a superabundance of raw crudity or cruelty (not ‘craft’), and a concentration against ‘primitiveness’; and it is this which constitutes its highly evolved system. In fact, self-control is its most perfect virtue, so it can ‘cosplay’ the role of elder statesman [genrō], as in earlier times it once played the role of warrior.

Symbol-characteristic ingredients, just like easy-to-build, semi-assembled Dada-Surrealist objects, are always intentionally left ‘uncooked’; slightly raw, one might say. At the simplest level, a SYMCHA’s raw format is primarily affected by analogue operations using such implements as knives, blenders, mixers, graters, whisks and spatulas. Likewise, its own end-result is a “sticky mass” (like honey, glue, etc.) that behaves in a linear viscoelastic manner; so its architecture might just as well resemble a beehive. Thus, to understand a joint/junction in the behavior of an ‘assembled’ object, requires a depth of knowledge that reaches beyond an oversimplified comprehension of the sequential layering of segments. Rather, the symbol character is the expressionless blend of intricately layered impressions within impressions, which implies the existence of something more than just sets (collections) of bland narrative elements. However, the ‘expressionless’ [more on that later] mode of SYMCHAs is not a hollow aesthetic shell – neither is it the fanciful conceit of an abstract theory, since from the very beginning it was born out of poverty of expression, that is to say, out of an inability to express precisely, not out of a “needlessness” to use it in any other way than a merely ‘decorative’ one, while debasing its essential enriching quality. So, because there’s no real wealth at the centre (black hole) of a symbol character, it does not actually, neither verbally nor visually, “symbolize” the realm of Ideals, or Ideal Forms; it’s not just their symbol.

As an expression of divine reality, the SYMCHA carries enough magical/theurgic potential to indirectly manifest from without the very immanence of Superiority, however, which further proliferates under its influence. And although realistic in its essence, it rouses in the spectator sensations of the fantastic, making him more sensitive in his capacity to experience awe. The spellbound person is instantly drawn to it: such is a SYMCHA’s position and gravity that, again like a black hole, it pulls everybody in its close proximity into its orbit. There is no hocus-pocus here, no abracadabra. But similar to the magician who conjures a rabbit out of his hat, it is capable of generating surreal doors to hidden “yet-undreamed-of realms” (Jaeger). There is no magic here. Nonetheless, the spectator as omniscient witness is magically transformed – or, at least, he feels that way. He sees the big picture and what he sees are visions of a divine world, visions of idealized creatures. Thus, symbol-characteristic art feeds the insatiable hunger for ‘enchantment’ – for the real presence of a divine “heavenly body” which is locally absent – wherein the duality of art and life is finally resolved in the medium of charm/character. It is that form of “being” (Dasein) witnessed in everyday life – only embroidered or, shall we say, intensified to the point of awe – which, for instance, operates on aura, while the symbol character acts as the artificial overlay (better even: “sieve”) that systematically trains the spectator to symbolically comprehend art as alive or living.

Within this context, art may, at first glance, appear purely decorative; and what higher purpose would it possibly serve, one might ask? Yet, this dilemma can easily be resolved by defining art as a substitute gratification, a satiation feeding, which assumes the existence of a vital (or life) force. If we decide that the fine, or ultimate purpose, of art is of secondary importance to life, we would then (wrongly) accuse it of being only the “ornament succeeding necessities; but all life moves upward to achieve ornament, for ornament is free and necessities are necessary” (Frye, 2013). But conversely, it is also true that our secular ethos would rather prefer decoration to necessity – finesse to justice (brutality) … or is it? And there is also this deeper battle wound: contemporary criticism, in a bulldozer-like manner, always tries to emphasize the history and philosophy of art, while crushing the beauty, pleasure, and ‘culturedness’ (kul’turnost’) on which it is grounded. So: the symbol character is supposed to be the incorporation of the greatest possible artistic energy bound – or embodied – in the most characteristic and subsymbolic form. Here, decoration and necessity could, therefore, be the same thing; only the latter is the product of integrated power. Indeed, the traditional term “needforce” perfectly describes my argument; while, on the other hand, we know that what has disappeared as a ‘need’ may have not disappeared entirely, but will come back again as ‘décor,’ that is, as figure and model, as a second presence in its absence.

Just so, the “symbol character” of a spellbinding charismatic myth is itself already a representative not heavenly body – which does not mean it is ‘unreal’ or ‘untrue’: It is a hyperreal holographic projection, not exactly an optical illusion – but difficult to distinguish from one; or, it might just as well be the only real presence. If it exists, it may in fact be a much more powerful ‘moving existence,’ precisely because of its intrinsic multiplicity, which allows the SYMCHA to be many things at once: a psychological effect, a psychoanalytic symptom, an aesthetic category of the sublime, the tragic, the comic, and so forth; a verbal chimera, or a visual chameleon. Therefore, it is more or less blurred, and the most fundamental of ‘arts’ as it witnesses itself to be (already) the ‘work of art itself.’ In this force field (Kraftfeld) we can observe its near-magical transformation into heightened life where it starts to ‘breathe,’ only because it has an impulse towards and is directed by irrational judgment, which overrides the rule that illusions can never come alive. Of course, it does not include any new force, or any solid spiritual truth; it simply ‘suspends’ judgment on truth and regards all dogmatic systems as bigoted injustice. This doesn’t make it ‘superior.’ It, too, will break, disintegrate, or perish one day. This is something that we all can observe in any art form, no matter how heightened it is, still yet, it is erroneous and exhaustible – alive but not immortal. And mortal as it is, it has no right to step into the magic circle where the wizard works…


But, let’s not be too dramatic, shall we? When I was still a happy student of design, there came a point in time when I began to doubt the very concept of the design practice, which propels designers to give an account of designing and the designed object. Because now that I am a grown-up in a world without reason, all reasonable things are put behind me. After all, following in the sandy footsteps of Hawking, there should be no reason why there has to be a reason for things. And although it is true that I’m not particularly against this somewhat nihilistic approach to design with its ‘scientific’ disregard for all that cannot be proved, at the very same time, I was horrified by the absolute absence of inner purpose and essence generated through reason-based designing. This in itself presents us with a paradox, since for the most part, function (i.e., a coherent rationale, which consists of some constructive purpose) today dictates form. Why then is our comprehension of basic form concepts so absurd as to ridicule the idea of function? I soon realized that form did not, on its own, follow function – I must, however, agree and add that, sometimes, form led to function. The latter was ardently embraced by those who had already lost their souls, so sometimes the actual functionality was, indeed, secondary. To me, function (as well as reason) is no thing. At the end of the day, form is all that is; though, no doubt, when the world ends, not even form will prevail. Form might be just appearance, but function isn’t the source of everything.

And, let’s be honest: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible” (Wilde, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’). If I looked back, just far enough, to the genesis of the universe, would I then find a state of “absolute absence” – not unreason, but ‘the absence of reason’ – out of which the greatest, the Grand Design could be drawn; a numinous presence, simultaneously frightful and stirring. It must have been an equally awful strife when, several millennia later during the Age of Enlightenment, soul and form contended; back then, like now, victory remained with form, the presence of soul came to an end; an empty form alone remains, the soul was lost forever! As you can see, I’m just as little enthusiastic about form as I am about function – there is no mystery to either one of them, Wilde forgive. Modern design’s disguise obviously obscures nothing of interest whatsoever, while also displaying itself as if almost anything might be deciphered, revealed. And no, dear readers, this is not an art by itself, this is mere deception and artifice. Twisted into strange shapes and contorted forms of ‘extreme orthodoxy’ that further beget standstill and corroded solidity. It will not rid itself of all the mold which it accumulates, simply because it can’t; – this ‘radical moisture’ (humidum radicale) is like the lamp oil which has already been imbibed into the wick[-ed]. So, I do not believe in formalities, I do not recommend formalities, because formalities (or forms) have no life…

This artifice is as glaring as it is gross. It is like the difference between seeing Vincent van Gogh’s pretty ‘still-lifes’ of sunflowers and seeing late-summer sunflowers in real life, or between his famous “Starry Night” – praised for its “elegant simplicity” (Artforum International, 1994) –, and a star-filled night sky, reflecting the grandeur of and magnificent hope for what might lie beyond. Although van Gogh agreed to a principle that “it is better to attack things with simplicity than to seek after abstractions,” he later, however, professed to having erred with paintings such as ‘Starry Night,’ all of which he thus described as “failures.” – “I allowed myself to be led astray into reaching for stars that are too big,” he wrote. In this regard, I couldn’t agree more: a superficial elegance that failed to hide her blandness, a superficial simplicity. The elegance is false, artificial. Simplicity does not exist, because at the very core there was no simplicity to begin with. Design – like van Gogh’s paintings – is primarily concerned with hierarchical structures, patterns of authority, rules, and social conventions, desperately trying to prove otherwise. Like a robotic toy with a wind-up mechanism, which does what it has to do according to the way it has been programmed. Will any art critic praise it as ‘vivid,’ just because it is able to move for brief periods of time. And it will simply continue to move for ever, perfectly uniform; except it is stopped externally. Until the old programme is erased, and exchanged for a new one, signifying a new day, a fresh hope.

A fresh hope for a tired world. For, as Kierkegaard has put it, “humanly speaking, death is the last thing of all, and, humanly speaking, there is hope only so long as there is life.” Or, only so long as a new soul can be breathed into it. The following lines of one highly elaborate Chinese “summoning song” appear in my mind: “O soul, come back! Why have you left your old abode and sped to the earth’s far corners, Deserting the place of your delight to meet all those things of evil omen? O soul, come back! […]” (The Summons of the Soul). But let’s go back to van Gogh once again, or, to be more specific, to his painting ‘The Yellow House,’ where we can observe a narcissistic-schizoid, and significantly ill, display of a mere husk ‘standing apart’ from the rest of the flock from which it has been estranged. This pale “residuum,” however, serves “as a tool for analysis of the human soul,” Bachelard writes. He then combines realism and the fantastic: “Not only our memories, but the things we have forgotten are ‘housed.’ Our soul is an abode. And by remembering ‘houses’ and ‘rooms,’ we learn to abide within ourselves.” Well, I think the “ghost” image of the haunted house – so sublimely shown in van Gogh’s work – is already the best metaphor in attempting to describe what has become, or rather, what has mostly remained of ‘design’ in the 21st century. – It once was. But now reason-based design is a mere echo of the meaninglessness of life. I soon realized, however, that this is not all there is to the story. There is yet another, deeper…

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Slogans like “L’EAU, C’EST LA VIE,” or “WATER IS LIFE,” have graced billboards and newspaper ads, ever since the U.N. launched the Decade of “Water for Life” (2005-2015); but water serves another purpose as well: it stores information on what happened before, what is happening now, and also how the past and present influence what is to come. Of course, such “crystal-gazing” into water is only probabilistic, since many unforeseen occurrences might happen, leaving a slight hint of randomness in the air. While “watching the river flow,” as Bob Dylan sang, one gains new ways of perceiving one’s surrounding ‘not-so-natural-anymore’ world, and this digital divide brought forth by the information age. But before we come to that, let’s first have a quick look at how streamflow, rainfall, air quality, and other data contain measurable information, and how the ‘transfer’ of the latter, of course, creates the essence of modern communication. Using water as communication channel – or bio-organic fiber optic cable – permits an interaction between, for example, clouds and fish. Water as superfluid medium continually reveals and opens, and being as it is, there is no limit in disclosing its movements and sounding its depths. Life, too, is a blend between forward and backward movement – so, instead of envisioning a floating future into the inky black vacuum of space compressed in a somewhat dubious crystal ball, we are probably better off when we are basing our research on the integrated crystalline construction of the watery circuit.

Digital design implies such a process of ‘crystal formation’ designating specific types of communication structures. Crystals are formed when water molecules condense into ordered patterns under far-from-equilibrium conditions. That is, for ordering to take place, molecules must move (i.e., possessing a high degree of mobility). Meanwhile, art and technology stand at a particular juncture in human experience: humanity frozen – that is, a mighty monolith poised for a moment in a trajectory, which seems difficult to change. Indeed, ‘permanent’ creative and/or scientific institutions, as they are known, get more and more an air of being static and set in stone for evermore; ‘movement,’ on the other hand, is less at the foreground, even though current socio-technological (infra-)structures are increasingly defined by fluid networks that operate via flows of data through a system. And the latter is not strictly formulated, but flexible and mobile, cyclically expanding and contracting – scattered around like detached pieces of ice occasionally floating in the river. To see this more vividly, consider a beam of white light that splits into a whole spectrum of its constituent colors (or frequencies) as it flows through a crystal prism. For digital design – visible and invisible, tangible and intangible – exceeding this span here and reaching a balance between dynamics and static equilibrium, between motion and stasis [being composed of binary digits (that is, an ordered pattern of zeroes and ones, nothing and something)], still remains the focal point.

Accordingly, but also in contrast to the physical being (the ‘real-world self’), a digital being (the ‘virtual-world self’) is a type of binary code representing an ordered and finite chain of two numbers. With the emergence and mutual integration of the Internet, the mind has been ‘lifted’ from its material habitat, and gently guided towards a new haven free to project its desires onto, which all run in parallel – never coinciding, divisible and split. Like a dissociative process: “And once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people” (Carroll). ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ also, is due to a fall into unconsciousness – into a psycho-magical world, where time and space become fluid and distorted. In accordance with the main character, we have no difficulty being two of ourselves, as there are few if any adhesive anchors to call us back to reality, on the one hand, and an almost absolute lack of stability, which would provide the necessary mechanism of coping with life after trauma, on the other. Interestingly enough, the term “cybernetics,” which was used prior to words such as cyberspace, technocrats, etc., derives from the Greek KUBERNĒTĒS, literally “steersman,” understanding the latter primarily as a human control mechanism capable of steering society headlong into a large iceberg that, being a symbol of natural and even metaphysical indifference to human acts, will likely suffer no harm.

Indeed, we can observe a somewhat disturbing presence of division, “doubling” or “duplicity” (Derrida) at the core of our being, which manifest themselves through a splitting into the physical and the digital, while only the second-mentioned is enabled to move randomly and without restraint in these placeless spaces of the Internet’s wonderland. Such a loss of position epitomizes today’s “Human 2.0,” for whom external fixation is rather more unnecessary than impossible. In this respect and in respect of the other characteristics, current arts & sciences infrastructure – “artience” as coined by Reilly (2006) –, too, has two remarkable properties: 1. It is a file that has been fragmented and split into multiple parts with all loss of order (the one mentioned in §2), both within and without, as a consequence of it. 2. It is a waste pile; it is a machinic assemblage of excessive fracture, collapse and deformity, the last being always an indication of movement, of course. Now, finally, the artist became the Crown seated on the mountain-top throne, yet it’s all just garbage and trash! Within this pile one can distinguish the same floating ice chunks capable of coexisting with no connection other than to proliferate, split, and continue. But it is not so plainly said that there is no beauty in it; as a matter of fact, all these are means to achieve optical opulence put in order under the composite principle of fragmentary particles (clasts) for flexible whole, akin to the fractal structure seen in the nautilus shell or the Mandelbrot set called “broken symmetry.”

Here, I can only draw attention to the kinetics of fractal structures (such as ice crystals and snowflakes), and their disjunctive, atomizing principle for a technotopian construction of the fragment. Hence, even though the logarithmic spiral construction of a nautilus shell retains its even appearance from the outer side, all the fractal’s innate irregularities and complexities still remain. So, the Weierstrass-Mandelbrot function WM(t) manifests itself in the process of becoming, beginning in the intangible and completing its manifestation in the tangible – such as any conceivable aspect of the wave-like flow between virtual and real world. CAD content in digital design operates as the “glue” that ties together both the ‘breath’ (the animate) with the ‘breeze’ (the inanimate) – a process often referred to as ‘generative design.’ In this respect, primary (generative) shaping procedures represent technologies wherein the component parts are generated from ‘formless matter,’ [e.g., fragments]. Transferred to the creative environment, technically significant, large constructs are made from or consist of smaller particles, [e.g., 3D printing]. A similar approach is taken with the creation and further trade of immaterial CAD products, where the latter are employed as new status symbols (see: gaming cultures and gameplay), thus ousting material design objects, so that, nowadays, virtually all luxurious desires can be satisfied via the digital medium. A future where humans sink themselves down into the depths of a CG world is certainly not so far off.


In 1977, two space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, respectively, were launched on a mission to reach the outermost planets, including Neptune. Among the twenty-seven pieces of music on the spacecraft record, a short track of Azerbaijani mugham performed on two balabans (a reed pipe like the Caucasian duduk) was included. Despite its close linkage to the particular region along the western Caspian shore, one should not think of mugham as ‘purely geographic,’ but rather as symbolic of interstellar discovery – new universes in the vast cosmos, and the human imagination. And indeed, if one needs to point out something intrinsically vital in the peculiar genre of mugham, it should be the vivid sense of movement and flow (of water), the musical feeling associated with star-lit, wind-swept steppes – the ones you see occasionally in old science fiction movies – each depicting ghostly landscapes on distant planets. While the voice of mugham surely speaks with ethereal “otherworldly” clarity and eloquence, it also remains quite invisible to our sight. The music of Central Asia and Azerbaijan (as opposed to the “Western” idea of contemporary commercial music) has never relied upon the desiring gaze of its voyeur, even if it has always developed in close bonds with the visual arts. The trick had always been not so much to see, as to hear the voice, faint and silvery, that comes ‘out of nowhere,’ and then try to locate its source inside the conduit. They sing to get their ‘blue’ fire out of them, spreading it around to a symphonic surround.

The oriental lavishness and ornamentation of mugham’s melodic structures are, not seldom, compared to the enchantingly diversified landscape of Azerbaijan with its dry steppes, mountainous areas, fertile oases, coastal winds, and sea breezes, as well as the geometric and abstract patterns on its carpets. In form, mugham is essentially avant-garde. The discontinuous, erratic, arrhythmic layers (or “structures” as they are referred to) of mugham are placed in service of mystifying the façades of its invisible city – its “acoustic space” (McLuhan). It has ambiguity, while its soundscape is full of mysteries; rhythmic and melodic patterns are further complicated by the extreme lack of order in this city, which enhances the presence of arrhythmia, intrinsic to the steppe ecology, correlating mugham to Faig Ahmed’s distorted, deconstructed carpets, such as “Synthetic Enlightenment” (Flood Series, 2016) or “Speech of the Birds” (Equation Series, 2016). The argument that landscape and climate determine the spirit [Geist] of music can be well supported by quoting Nabokov’s ‘The Gift.’ “[I]n the desert,” he there says, “I also saw and heard the same as Marco Polo: ‘the whisper of spirits calling you aside’ and the queer flicker of the air, an endless progression of whirlwinds, caravans and armies of phantoms coming to meet you.” Airiness and fluidity stand in stark contrast to irregular wall-like structures, which provides both the enticement and keeps listeners at a cool distance, precisely because mugham doesn’t allow for its demystification.

In Italo Calvino’s fantastic tales, the great Kublai Khan, Emperor of China, is resolute to hear (about) all those ‘invisible cities’ he has conquered, as if their living existence could only be proved by sounds, not visions. Being invisible, however, does not simply damn them to the realm of nowhere, since truth can be ‘heard’ invisible, and that which is true creates the visible things (e.g., signs). Mugham, then, is built on acoustic ‘invisible’ symbols rather than on visual (or visible) signs; the latter being more common in contemporary Western conceptions of music – in which music just depends on this “modern tendency to picture or visualize [its] existence” (Mirzoeff), e.g., via expensive music videos, extravagant staging, etc. So while modern music of the West generally announces, Central Asian music – being symbolic as it is – discovers and re-connects: “The sign indicates, the symbol represents; the sign transmits directly, the symbol indirectly or obliquely; the sign announces, the symbol reminds or refers; the sign operates in the immediate context of space and time; the symbol extends the frame of reference indefinitely [– i.e., infinitely]” (Dillistone). The former visualizes a spectacular ‘sound landscape’ with separate centers and rather ‘fixed’ boundaries – the latter has centers nowhere and expanding boundaries everywhere. Listened to in an internalized way, mugham becomes a form of meditation, and can be said to prefigure the advent of our increasingly intangible world, which is now shaped by ethereal streams of symbols.

Vagif Mustafa-Zadeh, an immensely talented pianist and keyboard artist from Baku, has revolutionized symphonic mugham by being the first to combine it with the Western jazz tradition. Starr described it as “a provocative crossbreed of the music of ‘Scheherazade’ and that of Minton’s Playhouse.” This is a fair appraisal (taken and transcribed from Bob Rusch’s Cadence #12). With the exception that Mustafa-Zadeh’s counter-rhythmic jazz compositions are much more akin to the natural voice of the nightingale in the Emperor’s garden, which extended so far, that no one knew the end of it, than the fictive Arabian Nights’ entertainment. Mugham composition has a complex cyclic structure, in which improvised parts (shoba) correspond to fixed, composed interludes that are either song-like (tasnif) or dance-like (rang). In shoba, virtuoso singers such as the Azerbaijani vocalist Alim Qasimov demonstrate their improvised, spontaneous vocal style, which is high in meditative if hypnotizing capacity; the set pieces provide both the artist and the audience with the opportunity to ease up and use the downtime to ready oneself for the next stage or level of improvisation. Mugham exists in vocal, instrumental, and mixed styles/types. — Well, since this is the first part of a long series about music in Central Asia in general – and Azerbaijan in particular – I will content myself with focusing on specific elements of mugham while flying over the rest in a sort of pictorial vision, a bird’s eye view. The next part shall certainly ‘call up’ a new visuality.

To be continued…


Life in Space and the Architecture of the Dead

“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds,” Joseph Conrad phrases, “and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky – seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” (1902). This “heart of darness,” of course, also provides a perfectly fitting metaphor for the core of our Milky Way that softly rests beneath many layers of dusty blankets. At the same time, the dark heart (black hole) transforms our once inanimate home galaxy into a living, pulsating, self-generating “organism.” Fascinated by all these galactic theatrics, it is a natural endeavor of mine to make that very first connection (hook up) between them and ourselves – or other life forms around us. “Life.” How do we define it? How do we recognize it? How do we integrate it into all aspects of contemporary architecture, which appears as a confusing chaos of “dead matter” and/or “sterilized nothingness?” Life, I assume, can only exist in an ordered state. Essentially, the same basic rule applies to architecture as well, for it, too, is always perceived as part of an ordered whole (i.e., the world). But where in space – outer or not – can life be found? Cold void and a few atoms make up the vast majority of our cosmic habitat. It is quite certain, however, that life (as far as we can know) does not exist there. Obviously, life is in need of a cozier, more secluded spot with just a little more “furniture” inside. Thus, life itself is almost akin to a more complex skyscraper made up of individual modular building blocks.

Building Fantasy Islands and Imaginary Worlds

The concept of modularity, in its many guises, appears to be true at all levels: a set of replaceable parts can be assembled in infinite ways allowing them to form larger units, which is already well-observable in “fractals.” So, what are its tiniest building blocks? At present, the smallest yet known form of matter is composed of elementary ‘indivisible packets’ [in other words, they are quantized], which can behave like either waves or particles. Architecture, too, is easily divisible by two, resulting in construction (also described as “anabolism”) and destruction (or “catabolism”), putting a building together and taking it apart. Although “its nature [i.e., architecture’s] is to be not a part, nor yet a copy, of the real world […] but to be a world by itself, independent, complete, autonomous” (Bradley), which basically means the whole of architectural production is always greater than the sum of its parts. The key to understanding architectural “worldness” and its “world-building” components is just exactly this idea of an organized set (sum) of scattered parts, as found in all flexible and infinitely variable environments (s.a., Souriau’s “diēgēsis”). These ever-expanding architectural “worlds” are themselves forms of life, as well as a glue that ‘binds’ communities. It is here that things become especially interesting. By ceaselessly expanding the boundaries of an overarching narrative that surrounds one’s novel, comic, movie, game, TV series, or building, we also begin “furnishing” (Eco) its environment, so that “familiarization” can take place.

The same thing happens while reading a novel or watching a movie, wherein the gradual unfolding of scenic space in the fictional world becomes supercharged with a compelling experience of immersion, and semi-detachment. Responding to the imaginary realities of ‘literary and artistic works’ (s.a., “VVA” – Verbal-Visual Arts), the spatial components of fantastic “universes” are, in fact, able to include, much to the viewer’s delight, as many details as possible – and more, what is also emblematic of the method of “layering worlds” (s.a., “SYMCHA”; Symchą). Artworks, (optical) animations and aesthetic enclosure help transform previously familiar environments – as if before one’s eyes. Here, of course, we need to differentiate between a fully standardized process of architectural production (or world-building) that is designed for mass consumption and delivered as a pre-packaged, pre-assembled “ready-made,” and one based on artistic merit, which is quite a rarity in these post-modern times, even amongst the more well-known names of architects. Ever-evolving and moving imaginary worlds (here termed Káķūroom) are symbolic of the abstract character inherent in fantastic extrasensory world-building, regardless of how comparatively scarce some of it might still be in the total architectural landscape, past or present; this raises the question of what the primary (raw) construction material of architectural world-building is – in analogy to the basic materials of art (words for a poet/colors for a painter/stone for a sculptor).

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For modern ‘globetrotters,’ the traditional physical retail store embodies nothing but the dead (or let’s say dying) remnant of our old, yet enduring past – withering away like a cut-off branch, since more and more people are likely to choose online rather than traditional ways of shopping nowadays. And should they be doubted? While fashion has ‘souled out’ (mind the wordplay) to an economic beast altogether, defaulting retailers and department stores likewise have put their entire, and quite often last trust into the hands of efficiency-based consulting firms – the modern-day Frankensteinian ‘doctors’ with a cure, or a magical panacea for all corporate ills (let’s be honest – more often than not it turns out to be some “one-size-fits-all” strategy that proved successful in the past). A ‘wise’ decision! After all, those have a world-renowned penchant for grasping the hard facts and figures, the “bottom-line” (which is not quite the original talent, but a talent nonetheless, since today’s fashion industry resembles a bottomless pit), and the real “meat” of an underlying issue. Therefore, their magical “silver bullet” strikes twice-as-fast, right into the heart of the beast. Needless to say, the one-size-fits-all approach widely used throughout the seriously injured fashion industry proves in fact to be more harmful than beneficial, if the operation was not done properly. It’s as if any Emergency Medical Technician would deliberately choose to place an already used ‘dirty’ Band-Aid on this deep, gaping bullet wound in severe need of stitches.

Unfortunately, it is not actually going to help on a long-term basis, the unclean Band-Aid can cause the most severe infections, and the gun-shot wound will most likely get worse sometime after, irrespective the stealthy bandage-changing and nursing care. And here lies the problem: many of the major ‘health’ issues facing today’s department stores are systemic, and as such, they require systemic solutions; that is to say, the persistent “thorn in the industry’s flesh” is not just being stuck in the visible corpus/corpse [physical element], the very heart is sick [spiritual element]. Following the Hygeian (Greek Goddess of health, cleanliness and sanitation; daughter of Asclepius, God of Medicine) holistic principles of health and disease, a single part will never be cured in itself and for itself, if the whole is put out of sight. Thus, one will not be able to properly diagnose and treat an underlying illness by only tending to a breach of visible or superficial scratches – their cosmetic make-up. The body’s inner core also has to be regarded as key to this. It’s sad to say that, however astonishing a placebo response to untailored, one-size-fits-all models of development might appear at first glance, simplistic strategies always carry a high risk of unintended negative side-effects, effectively causing them to ‘backfire’ in the not-so-bright future. The ‘silver bullet’ – an adage for the magic cure – is not just a killer, it’s a “painkiller.” However, even though retailers may as well proceed in that manner, it is a rather bad habit to channel in this fashion.

Now, here comes a second problem: solutions which may well have shown to be valuable and effective in organization A cannot be simply taken and transfused/transplanted into organization B due to them having different environmental self-definitions. It is like a donor-specific blood transfusion or any other heart transplant, for instance. Performing these medical tasks strictly requires in-depth certainty about the compatibility of the donor’s blood with that of the patient; otherwise severest consequences might follow, since using the wrong type of blood can be fatal and, therefore, is most difficult to ‘cure’ – quite similar to a heart or other solid-organ transplant, where there is always the chance that the body could reject the new organ as a foreign body (a virus from outer space), even though anti-rejection drugs are used. And despite the accurate administration of powerful immunosuppressants to ‘lull’ the recipient’s immune system, the human body may still immediately reject new organs. While organs are (relatively) abundant in their natural environments, the human or – in our case – the corporate body, they become a rather scarce resource for implantation into another organism; and this is so because the living tissue is suited peculiarly to the ‘site’ in which it originated. The immune system will almost always reject the introduction of any foreign tissue for the [sole] reason that it has discriminating solid “self”-markers – and, as a consequence, donor organs or different systems/strategies are recognized as “non-self.”

Not surprisingly, any such all-out assault on the natural corporate identity with ‘outsider systems’ (e.g., ‘cut-and-paste’ or ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategies) leaves a deep and fundamental ideological rift between the “natural” (old) and the “artificial” (new) companies’ approach to various styles of execution. All big fashion houses and large commercial enterprises changing their creative director to be the “new heart” of the company on an almost monthly basis exemplifies what the “rage” in modern textile and clothing industries can do to destroy what used to be a beautiful whole; now, however, it is a zombified creature torn to pieces and mutilated by these aggressive wolves lurking out there. Nevertheless, ‘refashioning’ their way of conducting business will ultimately be a necessity in the close future. Here the removal of dead tissue is central in surgical wound treatment. The nurse is responsible for monitoring the patient, ensuring the regular flow of blood throughout the body. It can be too fast, too slow. Drop by drop, she has to watch the transfusion of the precious liquid – the right kind of blood, since the wrong one is also a true poison to one’s system. And poison only begets poison. Poisoning the already toxic environment gets all more poison. Poison is no silver bullet to fix the sick system, and therefore by no possibility can poison cure poison. Poison has but one single significance: it’s an agent of either death or disease. And those who swallow the poison and still recover, do so despite both the drugs and the deadly disease.

Maybe Marx was right in his reiteration of the famous opium-metaphor, where he compared the drug’s analgesic efficacy to a pain-killing medication, which, however, does not cure any organic disease; that is, it does not relieve the whole system (organism and environment) of its intrinsic toxicity. And in fact, opium does not cure anything at all, it merely masks alarming symptoms and allows a system to go on functioning for yet another day. But Mother Nature, in her ‘gracious’ bounty, has scattered everywhere a direct antidote for any poison; likewise, a beautiful, healthy, and pleasant state can only be recovered by nature, in accordance with the old Latin dictum: “The doctor treats, but nature heals” (Lat., ‘medicus curat, natura sanat’). In this regard, sociomedicine should serve as handmaiden to nature – the ‘doctor’ and active agent in the restoration [re-(cover)-y] of health; sociomedical support can, therefore, do no more than ‘clean’ and remove surface dirt and blood seeping from the wound, reinforce or strengthen the power of nature when faint, moderate her when vicious and violent, and conduct her when she is inclined to rampant lawlessness. In fact, practically all vital functions of a (social) system have an innate tendency to return to their ‘normal’ condition, when left to themselves, and the integral organism and environment, when wholly balanced, keep everything in harmony. The so-called “silver bullet” solution takes no part in the recovery. No advancement can be made on the ‘sick industry’ in this respect.


A Philosophy of tic-tac®-Dragées

Contemporary developments in society that operate across a range of historic-cultural ‘layers’ usually form a tangled or rhizome-like network whose degree increases constantly with the number of nodes, which makes it difficult to establish a singular origin. And, the more randomly generated nodes (points in space) and links (line segments connecting nodes) are displayed, the sharper, and, paradoxical as it sounds, the more blurry the image appears; until it becomes impossible to transfigure the fragmented jigsaw pieces into a clearer picture. Yet, it is a high degree of precision and clarity which is much sought after in philosophical writing as elsewhere. Sorting through this overwhelming quantity of information is like assembling a thousand-piece puzzle from a billion possible pieces; to be able to do so, one needs to master the subtle art of reductionism – and is there anything briefer and more brutal than a ‘point’? Making a powerful point is the matter of drawing a line (infinite sequence of points) through the liquid layers (strata) of history. Here, the (philosophical) writer acts as “silent” compiler selecting, arranging, juxtaposing and reformulating “material,” in order to make coherent palettes and schemes. At its most basic level, the “voiceless” model of contemporary and pointillistic writing is akin to the blank page – or the all-white canvas –, first thoughts, fresh, pure and undefiled by use, leaving no gap/critical space between himself and the source of information, while functioning as primer for further creative work.

However mundane it may sound, pointillistic philosophy certainly can be compared to the small plastic box of “tic-tac® fresh orange” dragées that we see so often on our supermarket shelves. In this regard, pointillism’s variable is a kind of tic-tac® box; its plot [sujet] is the label, or flavor, written on the flexible lid. Opening the box with a single click – achieved by the ‘magical act’ of reciting its underlying “symbol character” as some sort of ‘keyword’ – grants access to the many dragées that had been placed ‘inside’ it: here, the pointillistic value of the variable consists of but one dot/point, however. The unique aspect of this philosophy’s variable (symbol character, SYMCHA) is a transparent, strongly tinted box stripped of top, bottom, and sides, abstracted away from any particular “art” of optics and geometric “science,” of no specific size or form, nor situated in time or place. So, while the box’s hue might gradually change from one color to another according to the flavor characteristics of the content, the actual tic-tacs are, or at least were, always ‘spotlessly’ white, like a laboratory – and therein lies the key to pointillism: at the core of it, each dragée (dot/point) is engineered to the point of sterility. A small, simple (or neutral) particle/molecule that catches our eye, either because of its ‘hypervisibility’ (displaying itself where it is not expected to be) or its obvious absence (disappearing where one may have expected it) – moving randomly along various zig-zag paths within the transparent box in an entirely unpredictable manner.

Dotting Down the Blind Spot

When viewing the Hermann grid, one can ‘see’ an optical illusion of dark spots at each intersection of the grid, except for the one directly looked at. In a similar vein, pointillism makes the case that absolute philosophical certainty (accessed through scientific objects, tools, methods, and activities) is as illusory as the non-existent “dots” of the grid, and that our need to ‘connect’ these, therefore, does not bring forth a state of auspiciousness. The absence of vision – a “blind spot” –, on the other hand, may reflect a state wherein certain aspects, though real, cannot be captured by simply “putting them into words,” because there is this “sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection,” as Einstein once said. In putting the pieces together, the same pointillism-like approach can, however, indicate the areas which contain breakdown spots and complex singularities at their centers; the ‘balls’ pointillistic philosophy ‘foolishly’ tries to juggle with are akin to black holes or dark matter and, indeed, appear rather mysterious to many. The “black hole” is described as a “region of space-time from which nothing, not even light, can escape. A typical black hole is the result of the gravitational force becoming so strong that one would have to travel faster than light to escape its pull” (Byers) – and if we think of it as a point in time, it is a good way to think about the concept/practice of pointillism in ‘new’ writing.

While the ‘systematic’ mind is loth to accept this ‘blind spot’ for a piece of reality, at the same time, it seems rather bizarre that our visual perception is deficient, fragmentary, and even lacking entirely like this: It goes against our better judgement that an overall perception of an object (rationally processing on one consistent whole rather than the parts/dots) may be incoherent and nebulous, thus leaving its readers confused about the actual meaning. Yet again, as far as pointillistic philosophy (mosaic writing) is concerned, there is an awareness that uncertainty and unknowns are the price one pays for creative expression – in fact, any type of imprecision can be viewed as a source for new artistic impressions. In this regard, absolute certainty, if it exists at all, always leaves a ‘bitter aftertaste’ of scientific generality and rigor on the tongue, as it represents a disfigurement of ‘pure’ philosophical writing. So rather than creating synthetic islands and “floating piers” (Christo), that is, models of reality (which is so typical of art and science), pointillism is constantly searching for a technique to dissolve the rigidity of a state of ideal, or complete, coherence into partial equilibrium, or non-coherence. Here, pointillistic philosophy adopts a more open and flexible approach to art and science, which makes formal and, finally, physical space for the indescribable, swift, brief, punctual moments of senseless in-seeing. Pointillism is literally and figuratively pointless – a pointlessness that allows for a dynamic world of open-ended possibilities.

Scattered Across the Chessboard

Continuity and coherence, as mentioned above, are well-known proponents of law and order (or other related variables such as clarity, reason, logic, ‘making sense,’ and even power) which denote aesthetic qualities that identify the text pieces as a contribution to a larger whole where everything fits together to form a solid room (with no empty space inside) of limited dimensions. Because the room is so small, our general expectations for narrative unity and meaning – which involve a seemingly endless amount of lexical-semantic repetitions and recurrent multi-word clusterings – make it quite stuffy inside. Here, a unified spatial whole with its own density-connected cohesion may exist; however, order should not illude us into thinking that this ‘trash-filled’ apartment with its damaged walls and broken windows is, in truth, a sight to behold. … Let’s be honest – it is not. Now, it is perfectly true that pointillistic ‘mosaic philosophy,’ as presented on Mavorswenera®, defies ‘normal’ principles of writing, intention, goal, or closure, therefore lacking common law or ‘common sense.’ Also, it may fail to elicit a response and be judged sketchy and disjointed by readers and, if so, I plead guilty; but such methods or deviations from the norm, singly or jointly, do not intend to create incoherence, at least not on the conscious level. In making use of ‘arrhythmic narration,’ the quietly heartbreaking chronicle, one might cause processing difficulty in reading, which however, even when extreme, does not correspond with reduced cohesion.

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LOVE — an Etymological and Mythological Approach

For several years now, but especially since the 1990s, the ‘love for love’ – both the reality of it and the idea(l) of it, has steadily been gaining momentum among all strata of society. In this section, therefore, let us explore the origin and meaning of the word ‘love,’ and do so in an unconventional manner. First, interchanging its third letter V with W (as is often done; witness ‘vin’ and ‘wine’) proposes a notion of similarity between ‘to love’ and ‘to lowe’ – the latter being an alternative Scottish expression for flame or ‘to flame/fire’ (OED, Johnson), respectively. If so, then ‘being in love’ would literally mean ‘being in flames,’ or ‘being a [new] flame’ in someone’s life. Likewise, the similar formal properties of ‘love,’ or, the Old English ‘luf,’ and ‘life’ as well as the concepts they express (i.e., heat/health and existence) can each be traced back to the same primal source point (or ‘seed point’). In the same vein, we may include other terms such as the Latin ‘œstas’ (summer) or ‘œstus’ (heat) in the same linear formula (definition) – while, simultaneously, their root ‘œs’ is also equal to the Hebrew ‘ēsh,’ or alternatively ‘as,’ meaning fire. For example, the country’s name “AZərbaycan” – Persian for ‘protector of fire’ – could just as well have been translated into ‘protector of love,’ figuratively and literally; in fact, Persian poets (nearly all of them mystics, unlike their ‘purist’ Arab counterparts) were certainly not unaware of this connection when they compared that which cannot be compared (apples and oranges, as we say). Yet they did…

Upon closer examination, it becomes clear that love as well as the etymological source point – and all its possible semantic constructions operating along encoded trajectories (I call them ‘trajectory seeds,’ but more of this later) – occupied a core area in the poetico-religious modes of thought of Azerbaijani-Iranian (Persian) literary worlds, symbolized, inter alia, by Zarathustra’s fire or the ‘eternal flames’ that were venerated, not only among the Zoroastrians, near Bakı (Baku). Indeed, ‘culinary’ metaphors were often used, so there was very seldom any Persian (or Arabic, or Ottoman) poem that did not transform the heart into ‘kabāb’ (fire-roasted meat), or the love-poisoned blood into ‘lāl-sharāb’ (red wine). It is not by accident, then, that the Persian mythical bird Sīmurġ (Phoenix) with its “brilliant” blue, red, and green feathers, consuming itself in fire, before rising from the ‘ashes’ [see also: Roman ‘ash’ or Hebrew ‘ēsh,’ which equals love; – thus, the Firebird dies and rises in love] again, is so prevalent in the Caucasus and Central Asia, if not all. And what is Phoenix (or ‘Phenix’) but another name for Venus [as Φ is equal to F, V, or PH], the goddess of love, who, too, ‘rises’ up from the sea, from foam; while it seems worthy of note that the foam Venus had risen from is just an alternative term for ‘froth,’ which cannot possibly differ from ‘broth’ (from B and F interchanging; witness English ‘brother’ and Latin ‘frāter’) – the flame-broiled stock of a ‘soup,’ the latter being a linguistic and conceptual metaphor for the ‘soul’ (or Sole).

In order to prove that the above derivation is logically sound, one simply needs to translate the English ‘soul’ into French, where it means ‘âme’ – the root part of ‘amour’ (love) or the Latin ‘amór’ (otherwise known as Cupído), the god of love. Therefore, it becomes obvious that ‘apples and oranges’ can indeed be compared: in fact, they share many properties, anyway. – So does love, as it is able to synergistically combine linguistic and conceptual structures, which are ultimately not as far apart as they might seem at first glance. In medieval French, for instance, the Latin ‘amór’ once signified both ‘amour’ (love) and ‘amitié’ (friendship), or ‘ami[e]’ (friend), but while the former idea was called after the ‘soul,’ the latter draws a specific connection to forms [from Latin ‘forma’ (beauty), as well as ‘formus’ (warm); for warm blood produces beauty] and formal features, such as the face. However, there is a difference between the concept of the soul/love and an Aristotelian friendship-love (agapé), as much as there is a linguistic difference between ‘to love’ and ‘to like,’ since the second was called after the ‘image’ [see also: Latin ‘imago’ (imitation [of love]) and German ‘mögen’ (to like)], and ‘look-likeness,’ so to say. In some ways, the conceptual framework of Aristotle’s theory of friendship could have only been developed because of love’s inherent “trajectory seeds.” – The radical part of friend, ‘fri,’ which is also the root of “FRIday” – or ‘to fry’ – leads to the derivation of the name Frøjya (Northern Venus), the fiery goddess of love.

LOVE — “Laylī and Majnūn” Meets “Romeo and Juliet”

Some of these “seeds” still live on in Islamic mysticism, where the ‘scarlet light’ [see also: Persian ‘azər’ (brilliant red, flame-colored veil/flammeum)], for instance, plays a more important part in establishing a thematic metaphor (majāz) of the ‘acute yearning and burning desire’ to unite with the reality of the Divine, the reality (ḥaqīqa) of LOVE [here: Soul, devoid of any romantic aspect; hence in capital letters] – the so-called “Ḥaqīqa,” point of origin and final goal –, which can be well observed in Niẓāmī’s famous work “Laylī and Majnūn,” a precursor to the Western “Romeo and Juliet.” Though conveyed in a rather veiled manner where pre-eternal (qadīm) beauty in created forms is purposefully concealed [see also: ‘iltibās,’ meaning “becoming clothed”], Azəri poetry (e.g., Nasīmī) which grew out of the “seeds” of its previous line of Persian poets, such as Niẓāmī (1141-1209), located the ultimate source of compassion and mercy [raḥma; witness the homophony with ‘raḥim’ (womb)] in the Unity of the Solitaire (tauḥīd): “Everything is the beloved, and the lover a veil; living is the beloved, and the lover is dead” (Schimmel). Following Rūzbihān’s mystical flights, that is, meditations on the inner fire (Tibetan: gtummo; Sanskrit: caṇḍālī), the lover Laylī – a lady with night-dark hair, Snow White’s prototype, and a representation of “Maryah” (the Lord) – draws an ever-widening circle of her love, encompassing even the farthest shore of her Divine Beloved (“Alaha” or God), Majnūn, who is akin to certain Ṣūfīs assuming ‘mad’ behaviors.

Of course, Majnūn/Qays, the son of a wealthy Arab family, becomes a ‘roaming’ mendicant acting like a madman or MAJNŪN, after he had been denied permission to marry his lady-love Laylī (who is forced into a marriage with the rich merchant ‘Ward,’ instead); – owning his ‘name’ to the Zoroastrians (called MĀJŪS). It seems quite obvious to me, however, that Qays-Majnūn’s love-rival ‘Ward’ – which is Arabic for “rose” – is but a Jungian type of fragment, typical for “symbol characters,” of his own. After all, the Red Rose is venerated as the materialization of God’s glory in Islamic mysticism (Muḥammad); it is the ornate vision of “clouds of roses” – an analogy of the Divine Presence – as described by Rūzbihān Baqlī, which is a revelation of beauty or the vision of love [here: form, appearing purposefully romantic; thus in lowercase letters]. Even today, it is common to give red roses on Valentine’s Day. While, at the same time, Qays-Majnūn – the other side of the same coin – could just as well be portrayed as a ‘nightingale,’ ‘singing’ his poems in praise of ‘divine LOVE’ (‘ishq-e haqīqī), which is the soul. Qays’ poetry, therefore, becomes the prime example of a prototype Azəri “muğam,” a trance-like meditative musical style. The countless roses and nightingales in Persian miniature art, almost always shown together, are a ghostly remnant of this mystical connection between form-rose and soul-bird, and it is the former ‘metaphoric love’ (‘ishq-e majāzī) which foretells a forceless force that “moves the sun and the other stars” (Dante).

Which leads us to the next pair of ‘star-crossed’ lovers: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. – Or are they? Shakespeare, very probably a Rosicrucian himself, re-introduces the mystical rose imagery in the form of Rosaline (‘fair rose’) – interestingly enough, an invisible, mute character – into his medieval play. In contrast to conventional interpretations, it is she, and not Juliet (the Damsel/“Talitha”), who takes the central position, creating intercrossing concentric circles that radiate from the original hard core, until she is uprooted (from the middle point – Romeo’s heart) and forcefully exiled to faraway shores, while Romeo, who is either a Romantic, a Roman citizen (or the empire itself), or a Roamer, that is, a ‘pilgrim’ (which is also the meaning of his name; thus, making him a linguistic doppelgänger and ghostly double of the beggar-mendicant Majnūn), quickly forgets his First Love, thereby ending his madly melancholic pilgrimage upon arrival at the masked ball. Throughout the whole play, Shakespeare deliberately takes up a mocking attitude towards the medieval concept of courtly love by making a farce out of this affair between a Neoplatonic Eros and an ever-annoying damsel in distress, mantra-like reciting her endless, meaningless torrent of words of love (whatever these terms may be). – So is that what has become of us because of this love; or what has become of LOVE itself: a bland ‘Renaissance’ ornament as well as a decadent product of erotic symbolism – an empty container, an empty shell made of pure nothing?

LOVE — Isolation/Insulation and Solitary Confinement

Indeed, it has. Blissfully unaware of the looming doom, we continue down this primrose path, just like Romeo before us. – But let’s not go that way, and instead take a look at today’s design, art, and fashion markets, which may seem like a big leap at first glance, yet they also bear direct reference to the ‘form’ love has taken in our times – most prominently expressed by the now-iconic heart shape, and how the latter came to inhabit the space the “soul” left out? There are two things to know about contemporary fashion (or art): first, it is ugly; and second, it has nothing important to say whatsoever. Yet, somehow, these two ‘qualities’ have been elevated to the highest pinnacle of beauty and wisdom in our collective understanding. Viktor&Rolf’s spring 2019 haute couture collection, titled ‘Fashion Statements,’ serves as a perfect example of how shallow, and totally uncreative, slogans crudely plastered over the already hideous ‘dresses’ (among them a “GET MEAN” within a frilly heart, and a “GO F*CK YOURSELF” spread over three clipart-like hearts, because why not?) are celebrated as great intellectual expressions; while the audience is taking photos like there’s no tomorrow. Prada’s eccentric fall 2019 men’s collection is in no way inferior to them; an array of (unlovely) hearts, roses, and fluffy bits of ‘fur’ in various shades, which seems to be a favorite with them, as well as some other quite outlandish ‘fashion’ items for the inhabitants of – I don’t know – Mars, give us a glimpse of hell. But fashion is not the only voice of…

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