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Patterns of Thought

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I'm attempting in this opening set of SEEING THINGS WHOLE postings to lay out --through illustration-- a number of the many DIMENSIONS OF INTERCONNECTION. In the previous posting --Connection Through Time-- we looked at how, in human cultural systems, there are patterns that endure or recur over time, and that serve thereby to perpetuate aspects of the culture. In that way, the dark spirit brought into our times by Karl Rove can be see as a conjuring up of an old pattern that, as I wrote in "The Concept of Evil," can lie dormant, hardly detectible, in the system, waiting for an opportunity to spread into the cultural system and shape it according to its own spirit. (Not all interconnectedness, it should be noted, is benign.)

Here's another kind of pattern. At least I think it's a different dimension of how patterns work in our world.


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This is a pattern that I perceived on one particular afternoon in Virginia, while I was making bread. The essay that I wrote the next day has appeared here on NSB with the title "The Mind of the Breadbaker." (See click here The essay frames the core pattern-perception with a beginning and an end, but it was the perception of the pattern --a most exciting experience for me-- that formed the core around which the essay was built.

Here's how I describe that pattern:

The minds of those who conceived this process of turning grain into bread had themselves been cultivated by generations of experience turning earth into crops of food to eat. What I saw was this: the baker of bread is farming, and what he is growing is yeast.


Think of it. The farmer tills his –or her– soil; the baker grinds the wheat into flour, preparing a special kind of earth for a particular kind of crop. The farmer sows seed into his prepared soil; the baker adds yeast into the dough. Like the step from the primitive society’s gathering of seeds for eating into agricultural society’s growing of crops, the step into the baking of leavened bread also required people to grab hold of the forces of growth and reproduction: the seed that used to just fall onto the ground is now planted; the fungus that used to biodegrade the grain seed in the earth is now brought to the feast of the seed ground up for the dough. Like the irrigator of crops, the grower of yeast must make sure that there is enough moisture in the soil that’s been prepared. It’s not just coincidence that leavened bread was invented about 5,000 years ago by farming people living by the Nile River, a desert area where irrigation and the control of water were vital to survival. The farmer needs warmth and sunlight for his crops to thrive; the baker puts his –or her– leavened dough in the warm sunlight, or by the warm stones of an oven, to rise. The farmer must be patient with the organic process of growth, waiting for the crops to mature before attempting to harvest. The baker must also bide his time, waiting at each stage for the dough to rise.


It is that first line that point the way toward the larger pattern in human reality which the bread-in-the-pattern-of-farming exemplifies: "The minds of those who conceived this process of turning grain into bread had themselves been cultivated by generations of experience turning earth into crops of food to eat."

In other words, our minds get shaped by some of the dominant patterns of how we live and how we think. And then we recapitulate these patterns in other domains of our activity and our thought.

This brings to mind the often-noted connection between the rise of the clock in early modern European culture, and the intellectual breakthrough into Newton's "clockwork universe."

And then, with the further spread of machines and mechanistic thinking, the human body gets to be imagined and understood as an ultra-complex "machine."

And nowadays, in the age of the computer, scientific thought conceptualizes the human brain as an ultra-complex computer.

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If you know people for whom this discussion of SEEING THINGS WHOLE would be interesting, please alert them to its happening here on NSB. There are many people who would have shied away from the kind of painful discussion of the dark and dangerous times in Bushite America who would welcome this discussion of wholeness and interconnection. I'd appreciate your help in bringing them in.

 

Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes: The (more...)
 

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