Life Arts

Straight is Top Down

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Long & Winding Road
(image by Steve Snodgrass)
  DMCA Long & Winding Road" alt="From Long & Winding Road" width="300">

I'm on a tiny backwater island ... The roads are crazy. They go up and down big hills, with wild twists and turns. Driving three miles takes 15-25 minutes. I tell the cab driver how scary these roads are. He replies, "We think that your giant expressways are scary."

And a realization slaps me in the face. Curving, winding, up and down roads are bottom up. Straight roads are top-down. The insight expands. Straight is top down. Rounded, curves and fractals are bottom-up. Winding roads respect nature and flow with it. Straight highways demolish nature and communities.

My friend Dustin points out that straight roads take top-down central planning and they make for faster, more efficient travel. He's right.

But they also encourage centralization as opposed to decentralized, local living and doing business. Straight roads are factors that erode localization.

Straight is rare in nature, particularly living nature. Even a horizon is really an arc of a giant curve. And the needles of sea urchins, shafts of feathers and quills of porcupines, echidnas and hedgehogs are dead keratin, not living flesh, but even these are arcs. Life is curved.

When we create THINGS with straight lines and sharp angles we are imposing top-down structures.

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Back in the sixties and seventies, there were hippies and straights. Straights went with the system, followed all the rules and lived top-down lives of normality -- in the materialist, social milieu. Hippies challenged rules and questioned authority.

In today's world it is often easier to embrace straight lines. Top-down, centralized mass production makes straight things because they are cheaper and easier. Those straight parts lead to straight products, straight architecture.

Researchers have found that a preference for curves is wired into the brain. Straight lines actually increase the activation of the amygdala -- the part of the brain that signals fear or threat.

Benoit Mandelbrot used mathematics to explain the fractal geometry of nature. Fractal patterns re-iterate at multiple levels of viewing. Now that's bottom up.

How do you apply this idea? Straight lines signify a conflict with nature. They may suggest some authoritarian decision to disrupt the natural order, to chop up or demolish existing local communities and neighborhoods. When you see straight lines, beware. Thinnk about the systems they've interfered with. Think about the top-down powers who have decided that they were worth subjecting a previously curved and probably fractal locality or thing to.

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It may seem to cost more to create with curves and fractal characteristics. But most top-down, technological, modern construction and manufacturing practices ignore the costs that affect people and communities. Add them into the mix and those "savings" may quickly disappear.

I'm writing a book about Bottom-up. This will be a chapter in it. I'd love your thoughts, arguments, suggestions and insights on this.

I'm adding some notes from a TED talk:

Daniele Quercia, in a TED talk titled Happy Maps, shares how he discovered, after a month driving the shortest route that his GPS mapped for him, he took an alternate route that was much prettier, quieter and more pleasant. That set him on a tech path which led him to develop a new approach. He did a bottom-up crowd sourcing platform-- a web game-- a mapping project, asking many people which of two pictures looked more relaxing, more beautiful, which made them more happy. Using the data from this he worked with colleagues putting together maps -- "a cartography weighted for human emotions"-- that were a bit longer, but more beautiful, more quiet or which made them more happy.
Quercia observes that the shortest path can "rob people of fully experiencing the city in which they live." He wraps up saying, "If you think danger is dangerous, try routine. It's deadly."


Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also (more...)

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What's even more curvy than backroads are bike lan... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 9:15:28 AM
Love this insight, Rob! "Straight", and square/rec... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 9:59:16 AM
1) I am reminded of the 19th C Russian mathematici... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 11:12:47 AM
Sir, What if the "top" acts on behalf of the "bott... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 12:00:31 PM
What if you just go away and stop cluttering up th... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 1:02:49 PM
 Dr. Becker, The more you talk, the more you ... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 7:36:31 PM
Your assumption, like your judgment, would be whol... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 8:18:03 PM
Cool stuff Robert, thanks, I especially liked bein... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 12:13:37 PM
The monolithic design looks affordable and impervi... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 1:45:00 PM
I remember hearing about a doctor and his wife who... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 9:06:32 PM
Temple Grandin, an autistic woman whose life and w... by June Genis on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 11:28:24 AM
 Mr. Kall,  I could only hope you'd have... by Ad Du on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 11:55:52 AM
Maybe you'd do better to write an article on issue... by Charles Roll on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 7:39:42 PM
An 1870s Canadian rebellion was fomented partly be... by Derryl Hermanutz on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 1:56:01 PM
People take the longest possible paths, digress t... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 2:33:05 PM
"But most top-down, technological, modern ... by Kevin Tully on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 2:44:26 PM
From the hierarchical/left brain/masculine point o... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Dec 28, 2013 at 9:18:01 PM
Just curious Meryl Ann".this is something I recent... by Burl Hall on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 5:56:40 AM
Not if you take what is an obvious power metaphor ... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 1:09:42 PM
In a nutshell, Burl I think that the "bottom-up" m... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 3:16:58 PM
Very nicely put.  What a fine, insightful, su... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 1:15:11 PM
Thanks, Robert!And I wouldn't recommend a labyrint... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 3:25:32 PM
How interesting, though none in my rural, coastal ... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 4:34:09 PM
I think surgery in a labyrinth is a fabulous idea!... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 7:50:56 PM
As a landscape designer I've been asked to create ... by Kevin Tully on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 5:52:28 PM
Yes Kevin!First, check out my articles here on OEN... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 7:00:28 PM
Thanks Meryl... by Kevin Tully on Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 at 7:46:14 PM

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