(in the metaphysics of Leibniz) an unextended, indivisible, and indestructible entity that is the basic or ultimate constituent of the universe and a microcosm of it.
‘Natural forces – wild energies – often have the capacity to frustrate representation. Our most precise descriptive language, mathematics, cannot fully account for or predict the flow of water down a stream, or the movements of a glacier or the turbulent rush of wind across uplands. Such actions behave in ways that are chaotic: they operate according to feedback systems of unresolvable delicacy and intricacy.
But nature also specialises in order and repetition. The fractal habits of certain landscapes, their tendencies to replicate their own forms at different scales and in different contexts: these can lead to a near-mystical sense of organistation to a place, as though it has been built out of a single repeating unit.’ (MacFarlane, 2007, p246)
This study of a certain form being the structural base for all nature is called monadism. For some Native American tribes, this form was the circle, seen in birds’ nests or the course of the stars. For others it was the rhomboid and parallelogram, and some the lozenge. Mathematician and biologist D’Arcy Wentworth proposed it was the spiral that was most ubiquitious throughout nature: in spiderwebs, seashells, the turns of a narwhal’s horn, the pine-cone’s configuration of scales, and in the breaking sea wave. Vaughan Cornish was convinced it was the wave, and spent his life pursueing earthquakes, gales, whirlpools, sandstorms and snowdrifts. Ralph Bagnold spent decades studying sand dunes, and concluded: ”Instead of finding chaos and disorder. . .the observer never fails to be amazed at the simplicity of form, an exactitude of repetition and geometric order.” ( Bagnold, as cited in MacFarlane, 2007, p260)
Reading about this reminded me of our session back in the Autumn with Ruth Little where she, too, was teaching us about archetypal forms and patterns that exist in the universe, and how they occur in every scale. It is useful for me to remember that when creating, I can zoom in or pan out onto anything and this scrutiny/bigger picture can help me see something new.
She also talked about the chaos vs repetition that I mentioned in my first paragraph, but called it Rule 2 – ‘All Living systems move constantly between order and disorder’ and Rule 4 – ‘Nature repeats itself in its core forms.’ It was really inspiring that her philosphy to work was so inspired by ecology and the basic physics of the universe- very refreshing actually, to be reminded amongst all the techniques and theories and clutter that I’m learning in my training, that fundementally, everything is always in motion. The universe, full of energy, is constantly moving, the earth is moving, I am moving, the very matter is moving. I, and the work that spills out of me, will never stay the same. We are constantly moving forward. Thank God!
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