thoughts on a retreat

In March I participated in a retreat that is somewhat hard for me to describe. It’s hard because I fear being judged. So, to my more materialist friends I want to describe it as an experiment in developing the practices of collective intelligence and collective wisdom and stick to the intellectual content. To my more spiritually oriented friends I want to describe it as a re-inventing of the practices of Quaker corporate worship in the context of the post-post-modern, quantum/relativist, networked, Wilberized, self-conscious and what-else-have-you, world.
But this splitting into the mental and the spritual to appease my imagined world view of this or that friend, is a mistake. A huge mistake. So now I declare: go ahead and judge me!
Here’s a better description: I participated in a retreat where a small group of people together worked on integrating all levels of their awareness: physical, emotional, mental, and “soul,” into a single group awareness. I put soul in quotes because there is common agreement that parts of our conciousness are separately devoted to physical, emotional, mental awareness, and we have decent language to talk about those three types of perception, but we don’t have good language or terms to talk about “soul” perception, or even agreement that such a form of perception is even “real” (what ever that means!) and has a similar status as the other three. [And now I’m noticing that that last sentence is yet another caveat to try and prevent judgement.]
For those of you with a scientific/materialist bent I recommend reading Jean-François Noubel’s paper on collective intelligence. This paper mentions only in passing at the very end the need for personal transformation. But it was that part that is what the retreat was all about. The practicing of that transformation to begin to make possible the potential for real collective intelligence.
If you aren’t turned off by spiritual language, try the sacred circle web site.
Some things I learned: I am generally very unaware of my body, and what it has to offer me. If I change the way I sit, I change the way I perceive. I can tell when people are speaking from a place of fear. If I take my glasses off, I can’t see detial, but detail is not all there is to see. The things that I am naturally good at, that come easily to me, are my gifts to the world. If I toss them out as if they don’t matter, I disempower myself and those gifts at the same time. One of the key structural benefits of the open source world is that it requires the formation of human relationships. Because it’s free, i.e. the value it generates has not been monitized, you can’t rely on money to get you what you want, instead you have to either rely on yourself, or, prefereably, rely on relationships with others. I am afraid of esoteric, new-agey, airy-fairy, “stuff” and I have a hard time just being with it when it shows up. Taking on and accepting as true things that people say is very different from being with them and actually listening to what they have to say. There are many levels of listening, at least four of which are: from the past (where we try and understand what we hear based on what we already know); with an open mind (where we try and learn new things that we don’t know); with an open heart (where we try and put ourselves empathically in the position of the speaker and really listen to where they are coming from); and with an open will (which is harder to describe, but it is deeper than the other three, and is similar to the experience of listening for the sense-of-the-meeting when clerking a Quaker meeting for worship with a concern for business, where not only are you listening from all the three other levels, but you’re basic will, i.e. your desires, are left open and subject to modification). Quakers already know a ton about collective intelligence and the practial stuff about what is needed to move foward in this realm, but they suck at integrating body and emotion into mental and “soul” practice. If you get into this work, it will have ramifications on your “personal” relationships.
[tags]quakerism,collective intelligence,open source,FLOSS,Ken Wilber[/tags]

blogging and tech support

I’ve found that numerous times when I type into google a technical question, be it an error message that I’m seeing when installing some software package or some feature about a programming language, that where I often end up is in some person’s blog where they describe how they coped with exactly the same problem. This phenomenon seems to me a generalized solution to tech support, and also a wonderfully comunal and gift economy approach to problem solving. So I’ve decided to play the game too by creating a category for this blog called solutions, and, as often as I can, post my minor little breakthroughs in hopes that they will be helpful to someone else. And here’s my first:

I’ve been learning Smalltalk using squeak and I assumed that, like other object-oriented languages, there would be a constructor method that could take many parameters which would be used by the constructor to load up the values of instance variables. For example in perl a simplified constructure would look like:

sub new {
my $class = shift;
my $self = {};
bless $self, $class;
$self->{'FOO'} = shift; # save the constructor parameters into our data structure
$self->{'BAR'} = shift;
return $self;
}

which would be instantiated like this:
theObjectClassName->new('fish','dog');

In Smalltalk, it appears, you don’t do that. Instead you just create settors for your parameters and chain them to the new call. So you would have two methods:

setFoo: fooVal
foo := fooVal
setBar: barVal
bar := barVal

and your call to instantiate an object is then just:
theObjectClassName new setFoo:'fish' setBar:'dog'

because the first two words create the object and the the second two are just messages that get to the object after it is created, one at a time.

I love the beautiful parsimony of notions in Smalltalk.