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The Omega Seed

On this journey through history, the journey contemporary man Seeks to re-experience in his pilgrimages, man manipulates the physical world and produces all sorts of wares, small and large, private and public, lasting and ephemeral, humble and flamboyant, functional and symbolic. Those physical things make up the nest where hls children learn what is normal or not, what peer-grooming or not, what is customary or not, what is useful or not, What is respectable or not. The adult or the child-adult molds himself by molding the physical environment, and his matrix closely fits the physical matrix he inherited and the one he himself is altering by his being and doing.

(excerpts from: Architecture as Information)The Omega Seed: An Eschatological Hypothesis, Paolo Soleri 1981
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MAN AND HIS ANCESTRY

Contemporary man technologizes himself to death and then rushes to those sacred places and spaces where he can remotey observe a  different man through some of the physical things he has left behind (or ahead). The different man, his ancestor, is the man of toil, slavery, heroism, idolatry, and faith. For each contemporary wanderer going into the wilderness, there are a thousand pilgrims going to the places of man. Even at this young evolutionary stage of the human species, the return to man is stronger than the return to nature. Already at this very early age of civilization there is, between man and pristine nature, the man of history whose call is at times nothing more than the crumbling stones and miserable shards of some historic and prehistoric garbage heaps. (One can say that, in most instances, cities would grow vertically above successive layers of litter and waste, the by-products of civilized man.) Beyond the ruins of his continuing hubris, documented in the remains of his cities, man has been reaching for surman in an effort to hold at bay and tame the fury of the nonliving universe. He must remind himself that since life is the exception to the rule, the rule being nonlife in the physical universe, he is perched precariously on a tenuous limb surrounded by nothingness. His gods care, or so he thinks, for his tottering through the construction of the history of his being. Contemporary man avidly seeks the remaining documents which will communicate to him information on such construction. On this journey through history, the journey contemporary man Seeks to re-experience in his pilgrimages, man manipulates the physical world and produces all sorts of wares, small and large, private and public, lasting and ephemeral, humble and flamboyant, functional and symbolic. Those physical things make up the nest where hls children learn what is normal or not, what peer-grooming or not, what is customary or not, what is useful or not, What is respectable or not. The adult or the child-adult molds himself by molding the physical environment, and his matrix closely fits the physical matrix he inherited and the one he himself is altering by his being and doing.

SENSUAL MAN

One might want to reinforce this observation by adding that the most valid recollections of past information do not come via conceptualizations but via odors, taste, sounds, light, settings . . . Most of us have felt the poignant quasi-reincarnation of a past moment, triggered by a familiar (and perhaps not too pleasant) smell. An olfactory datum triggers an avalanche of information, well forgotten but neatly stored away in the helix of memory. In fact, what comes upon us is not objective information but the subjective emotion which shrouded a past event.

The physical milieu, then, is a formidable teacher, a significant molder of ourselves, the sensuous receivers-intensifiers-transformers- transmitters. It does not simply inform us, it reaffirms our identity by the coordination and mediation of our being with our becoming. Therefore, the state of being, solicited by the information load of the physical milieu, is constantly stressed in the dynamics of becoming.

That, by the way, is why we all agree on the evil nature of the squalid environment where the cruelty of man is made forceful by the brutality of bricks and wood, stone and asphalt, litter and bareness, all organized to make bleak spaces anticipatory of bleak lives.

There are two ways in which we transform nature, producing a totally man-ordered environment and, therefore, causing ourselves to be globally informed in specifically environmental ways that are not customarily called natural.

THE CITY BUILDER

A similar discourse could be conducted on the second way by which man transforms nature, the construction of his habitat and the places that contain and shelter the institutions of life, work, exchange, socialization, culture, worship, etc. It could be a similar discourse, if it were not for the fact that there is in this second way a special kind of intensity and the definite appearance of the manmade, the nonorganic reordering of mass-energy. In a true sense, in this second way it is as if each stone and brick, chunk of mortar, splinter of wood, iron, or bronze were imbued with the light and heat of the struggle man puts up in the face of nature stubbornly welded to her own entropic ways. Man, ever so determined to break the entropic locks, is willing to exude sweat and blood to force upon them the miracle of a metamorphosis. In historic terms, this metamorphosis is supported and documented by the successive waves of civilizations at whose hubs are the tribal enclaves, the villages, the towns, the cities, and the metropolises.

INSTANT SOCIETIES AND DURATIONAL SOCIETIES

At this point, it is necessary to understand that interiorization is a duration process, which is why there is an intrinsic fault in the concept of instant societies made up of instant things to use instantly and throw away. Consumerism is possibly not the best characterization of an ethos that is really more sympathetic toward throwaway than consumption. Consumption characterizes a process of wearing to the bone, or the last thread, a specific thing, tool, or garment, container or content. Kleenex, the instant handkerchief, stands as a simple but clear symbol of the throwaway society. Kleenex, stored in the box,can find its way to the garbage heap by the instant intermediary of a nose blow. But interiorization is a process which cannot occur in short flashes surrounded by the blackness and bleakness of naught. Therefore, when the assimilative, transformative process dwindles into a game of warehousing raw data in the brain, real growth becomes impossible. As it takes a certain amount of biological time to transform bread into flesh, so it takes a definite psychosomatic time to perceive, digest, and make knowledge out of environmental input. The instant thing, whatever it is, is below the threshold of interiorization. It simply bounces against and away from the sphere of the self which under such bombardment will slowly wither into the stone of ego.

It is indeed one of the potential assets of an informative environment, this offering to the self of more and better elements for self transcendence. It is in the environment that the self finds pleasure and the enticement to reach further and further, to appropriate, acknowledge, and finally interiorize ever larger spheres of reality. By this process, the territory of the self can extend to the border of the man-made environment, the city for instance, but (and here a whole new connection between matter and spirit enters into play) since it is a territory of knowledge, it sees as unnecessary, indeed burdensome, physically holding or owning that which is in fact his/hers, inasmuch as it has been perceived, grasped, understood, and made into knowledge. At such point, when ownership becomes aburden, the authority of knowledge, which should be the only legitimate authority, can have an edge upon power, which most of the time is, covertly or not, the naked force made available to the most aggressive, cunning, and greedy, the possessive.

KNOWLEDGE AND OWNERSHIP

This is the reason why the real power of information-knowledge in the long run will give the lie to most of the notions relating to the territorial imperative and its appendix, the view that ownership is sanctioned by God and therefore is to be held as a sacred right of man. It would appear that on this score man has stepped backward below the animal level. On the animal level hoarding is seldom practiced and territoriality is more imagined by the scientist than enforced by the animal since his territory is a field open for all sorts of activities by other competitive species, vegetal and animal.

It is a rush judgment since it does not take into account that man, as the maker par excellence, has introduced into the world a whole new reality that can be divided into two parts.

First: that part of the man-made which is so directly involved in the life and routine of the person as to be identified with it. It would be futile, for instance, if not stupid, to say that my shoes or my glasses do not belong to me.

Second: the institutionalized life of those things which foster the development of homo sapiens. The institutionalized life is anchored to and sheltered by the hardware it needs in order to perform, the largest and most comprehensive item being nothing else but the city itself, including its specific character as this or that industrial center, vacation center, etc.

The question then arises: Who and what is responsible for making and running this second part, who will coordinate the institutions, the marketplace, the industrial plant, the library, the restaurant, the bank, the church, the school, and all the other complex machines for creation? One answer, not necessarily the best, is the person or group having a specific holding and hoarding of power. Private property might well belong in a series of intermediate steps between a world where the responsibility for the necessary institutions of society is consigned to the father-king and a world where such responsibility becomes a more intrinsic part of a theoecological process, whose guiding track is purely and simply, but sublimely, difficult, the revelence for life. A totally reverential humankind would find it difficult to grasp the meaning of ownership, since there would be no meaning one could attach to it any longer other than a reminiscence binding needs, anxieties, fear, and insecurity to greed and intolerance. If this appears as a politicization of the question, it might be wise to remember that the polis is the place where the instrument of politics takes root and that, for this reason, the policies that make for the running of the polis and the nation are idle whenever the three dimensional, physical, gravity-loaded, and durational real polis, the environmental buffer society from the aggression of climate, weather, functional breakdown, foreigners, enemies, and bureaucrats.

(excerpts from: Architecture as Information)The Omega Seed: An Eschatological Hypothesis, Paolo Soleri 1981
Added to Library