======================================================================== Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) -- Volume 3 Number 11, Dec. 2004 Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:abs@well.com ========================================================================

Bateson and Me

(Part Two of Three)

(If you haven't read part one, see the archives, listed below.) "I have to thank first the fellowship of the University of California at Santa Cruz and especially my friends in Kresge College: Mary Diaz, Robert Edgar, Carter Wilson, Carol Proudfoot, and the secretariat." -- acknowledgments page of "Mind and Nature -- A Necessary Unity" (1979) by Gregory Bateson ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1572734345/hip-20 ) ( www.oikos.org/mind&nature.htm ) In reviewing what I already wrote, giving background on Gregory Bateson and me before I became his student, I realized that there is a third "character" in this drama I need to fill you in on: Kresge College itself. The University of California is in some ways modeled after Oxford University in England, with its residential colleges. This is why the head of each campus is called the "chancellor" instead of "dean" and the head of each college is the "provost." When the UC regents decided to develop a new campus on the Santa Cruz land formerly used by Henry Cowell for ranching and a lime kiln operation, and later donated to the UC system by the Cowell Foundation, they selected UCLA political scientist Dean McHenry to found the new campus. (This lead to some confusion, which I exploited in 1973 when editor of the Kresge newsletter; after he announced his retirement as chancellor, I called McHenry's office to confirm that he wasn't changing his name, and printed the headline "MCHENRY STILL DEAN.") McHenry wanted to strengthen the analogy to Oxford by creating an academically rich "living-learning environment," which he sometimes called an "Oxford on the Pacific." ( www.ucsc.edu/oncampus/currents/97-98/04-20/mchenry.htm ) UCSC's first college was named for Henry Cowell, followed by Crown College (endowed by paper company Crown-Zellerbach), Merrill College (endowed by brokerage Merrill-Lynch), Stevenson (endowed by the Adlai Stevenson Foundation) and College Five (endowed by Frank Sinatra -- the regents were holding out for a million, but Old Blue Eyers only gave half that, and so they wouldn't put his name on it; later it was named Porter College after an endowment of the family of pioneer Benjamin F. Porter, founding director of County Bank of Santa Cruz). I remember that some of the more sophomoric UCSC students noted that only Cowell students lacked an obvious reason for teasing, though Crown bore the brunt of it with the obvious toilet paper jokes. When the Kresge Foundation, funded by the family that made a fortune from K-Mart stores (imagine the teasing over that) endowed the sixth college, McHenry tapped Cal-Tech biologist Robert Edgar to be founding provost. The college began as a course at Cowell, "Creating Kresge College" in 1970. Bob Edgar recruited psychologist Michael Kahn, physicist Matthew Sands and biologist Henry Hilgard as founding faculty members who participated in this class. Because the original focus of the college was "Man and His Environment" they also had an ecologist, whose name I have been unable to remember or find on the web. Some very interesting things must have happened in this course, though it has been hard to find information about it. I suspect there was some kind of trauma which left the participants not wanting to talk about it. What I do know is that Kahn and Sands, and possibly Hilgard, brought in the methodology of "T-Groups" (short for "Training Groups") which was a technique for encouraging people to openly discuss their emotions, towards the goal of improved group dynamics. (These were precursors of the more famous "encounter groups.") For more detail see the on-line essay "A Social History of the T-Group" (1993) by Steve Potter. ( www.psicopolis.com/Kurt/tgroupstory.htm ) I also know that the ecologist was uncomfortable with this methodology and ended up leaving Kresge College before the start of its first official school year, 1971-1972. This explains the bewilderment of students who arrived at Kresge in the coming years expecting an ecological curriculum and not finding one. * * * * * * * * "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." -- Henry Kissinger I arrived at Kresge in the fall of 1971, one of those bewildered students looking for the ecological curriculum. There was a lot of talk of a "living-learning community." The three-day Kresge orientation taught us T-Group techniques, trust exercises, and other humanistic psychology techniques for getting in touch with our inner selves. There was also a college "core course" (mandatory but unenforced, if I recall correctly) that broke us into "kin groups," taught us more T-grouping and hum. psych. stuff, and presented an academic program that attempted to integrate all knowledge in a rather unsatisfactory way. The first class session (held in the College V dining hall because Kresge wasn't built yet) began with a remarkable film with the ungainly title "A Rough Sketch for a Proposed Film Dealing with the Powers of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe" (1968) by Charles and Ray Eames, which later evolved into the famous "Powers of Ten" (1977). Both films are now on DVD. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6305943877/hip-20 ) Immediately following was a skit starring two knowledge-hungry students in lab coats with the biggest graduated cylinder I'd ever seen, who entertained a series of Kresge faculty. ( core.ecu.edu/chem/chemlab/equipment/images/gcylinder.jpg ) Each faculty member in turn poured a measure of differently-colored liquid into the cylinder as they explained their area of specialty. The liquids remained separated (obviously being added in order of decreasing density) forming marked colored bands. At the end of this process the students attempted to achieve an integration of the specialties by taking a large paddle and stirring the cylinder, which resulted in a muddy brown goo. Something was said about how hard it is to integrate knowledge. Over the next ten weeks each faculty member in turn presented on their own area of specialty. Integration was left as an exercise for the student. I didn't know it at the time but a lot was going on at Kresge beyond my gaze. Several new faculty members, including John Grinder and Claudia Carr, locked horns early on with Kahn & company over the issue of whether to work on inner or outer revolution. It's the old controversy well-described by Lennon & McCartney in the song "Revolution" from the 1968 album "The Beatles," ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002UAX/hip-20 ) better known as "The White Album." They sang: You say you'll change the constitution Well you know We all want to change your head You tell me it's the institution Well you know You better free your mind instead The Grinder gang were mostly students of the "Gestalt Therapy" of Fritz Perls, documented in "Gestalt Therapy Verbatim" (1968). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0939266164/hip-20 ) They saw the T-groupers as stodgy and obsolete, and too reluctant to engage in political action. (Remember, this was at the height of the Viet Nam War in the third year of the Nixon administration.) Something happened -- or maybe a series of things -- which resulted in some long-standing animosities. All I knew at the time was that every time the word "community" appeared in the college newsletter (edited by a feisty woman named Leslie O'Bergin) it was overstriked with slash marks. (This was easy to do with IBM Selectric typewriters we used at the time. Now, with computers, it's nearly impossible. Shades of Rathergate.) I don't know whether Leslie was privy to what was going on, or just had good instincts. Gosh knows I'm still not privy to what was going on, but I did note in researching this article that Michael Kahn retired as an emeritus from Stevenson College, and Bob Edgar from Crown. Carr is at UC Berkeley. Grinder isn't in the university system anymore. Sands and Hilgard did each manage to retire as emeritus from Kresge. * * * * * * * * "Oh, there they go Romeo-ing and Juliette-ing again." -- Gregory Bateson looking out his Kresge College office window at students flirting between balconies Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Kresge College was its architecture. ( www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/moorekresge/kresge.html ) As I mentioned, when I arrived in 1971 the college wasn't built yet. We met an architect named Bill Turnbull who wanted to confer with students on the design. Most of us were living in married students apartments at the time (in the late '60s and early '70s married students turned out to be rather rare); these apartments had kitchens, and we had no dining hall, so we learned to cook for ourselves. From my roommates I learned about natural foods, granola, yogurt, brown rice, whole wheat, vegan cooking, etc. We even formed a college food co-op, to buy our granola and brown rice cheaply in bulk. Our feedback led Turnbull to design the permanent residential buildings of the college (our "dorms") with kitchens and no dining hall. I remember attending the dedication of the buildings in late spring of 1973, at which Turnbull explained that he'd designed the college with several key ideas in mind: 1) The basic shape was a meandering street, like a hillside Mediterranean village, in which residences were on upper floors over shops on the ground floor. Since classrooms, offices and dorms were all built with different funding, he couldn't do this literally, but he was striving for a similar feel. He also provided some residences with front stoops reminiscent of brownstone buildings. ( www.GreatBuildings.com/cgi-bin/gbi.cgi/Kresge_College.html/cid_2518268.gbi ) 2) From his own college dorm experiences he remembered that everyone seemed to congregate in the bathrooms, so he made some of the residences have large, central bathrooms, with dual-headed showers (a feature some found scandalous). 3) There was a triple-context color scheme, designed to accommodate the setting in a redwood forest with an often overcast climate. On the outside the college was painted the color of redwood bark, to blend in with the trees. On the inside the buildings were white, to stand out in stark contrast to the forest. And to avoid making a whiteout environment on cloudy days, arcade and balcony surfaces visibly mostly from the insides of the residences were painted bright reds, oranges, yellows, greens and blues to brighten up the gloom. ( www.aiacc.org/images/2003Awards/Kresge4.JPG ) ( www.archinform.net/medien/00003174.htm?ID=YqXUbashtxhhRujb ) I was one of the very first inhabitants of this college, in the summer of 1973. One of my roommates was a high school buddy of mine who was never actually a student at UCSC, who now goes by the name Thaddeus Spae. ( tspae.com ) Upon being exposed to the college's architecture he gave it the nickname "Clown Town," from a short story by Australian science fiction author Cordwainer Smith set 14,000 years in the future, "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" (1964). It appears in "The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith." ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0915368560/hip-20 ) Some unknown person inscribed this nickname in a slab of fresh cement a short while later -- just a few steps from the apartment where Bateson lived from fall of 1973 to spring of 1974 -- and I discovered while researching this issue that the sobriquet has achieved the relative immortality of being published in a book, "The Language of Post-Modern Architecture" (1988) by Charles Jencks, ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0847802884/hip-20 ) (which I actually own!) and subsequently being quoted on the web. ( www.brynmawr.edu/Acads/Cities/city377/pap/papew.html ) This same web site explains: Working with William Turnbull, Moore applied the concept of an ambulatory architecture to the layout of Kresge College... Like Moore's one-family houses, this place proclaims its identity through motifs associated with security. In this case the motifs are the village, the square and the winding path -- motifs with which people associate with idea of a social group small enough to be comprehensible. Some Kresge alumni have reported that they had many "acid trips" in among these clownish buildings, and visiting the campus can bring on "flashback" experiences. (Today Kresge offers its residential students "Substance Free" apartments as an ALTERNATIVE, which implies that campus drug use is still mainstream!) ( kresge.ucsc.edu/reslife/apartments.shtml ) What I didn't know then and didn't figure out for decades was that Turnbull had been the junior architect on the project, along with titan Charles Moore, who set about making Kresge a manifesto for post-modernism. I didn't learn about post-modern architecture until the early 1980s, when I read "From Bauhaus to Our House" (1981) by Tom Wolfe. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/055338063X/hip-20 ) It turns out that eight pages are devoted to Kresge College -- the most for any project -- in the encyclopedic tome "The History of Postmodern Architecture" (1988) by Heinrich Klotz, translated by Radka Donnell. ( mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?sid=A9983C5F-F47C-4C1A-803F-3697DEE64BE0&ttype=2&tid=6080 ) Little did we know. * * * * * * * * I was 21 years when I wrote this song. I'm 22 now but I won't be for long. Time hurries on, And the leaves that are green turn to brown. -- Paul Simon, 1966 "Leaves That Are Green" on the album "Sounds of Silence" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005NKKV/hip-20 ) The big auditorium at Kresge was originally called the Town Hall, and that was what was painted on the door. By order of the Community Affairs Committee (CAC), run by a self-selected consensus of faculty, staff and students, it was renamed the Robert Edgar Town Hall in honor of our founding provost, and the new name was painted on the door by the college maintenance man. Later the university administration got wind of this and informed us that we lacked the authority to name a building -- policy was that it took an endowment of some serious bucks to do this. (Remember Frank Sinatra.) So the college maintenance man painted it back to "Town Hall." But everyone I knew called it the "Clown Hall." The first class I took from Bateson, Kresge 152A, "Ecology of Mind" was held in the Clown Hall. About 150 students were in attendance. I had just turned 21 years old, and it was my senior year at Kresge. One of the first things Bateson liked to do when he taught a class was to explain something he'd discovered about the difference between the English and Americans. In England, exhibition is a dominance trait. The queen shows her dominance by putting on a show, and the commoners show their submission by watching. This is the land of Charles and Di's "storybook" wedding, and the saying "Children should be seen and not heard." In America, exhibition is a submission trait. Our government spies on us. (Think of J. Edgar Hoover, and the Information Awareness Office.) Children scream "watch me, Daddy!" as they jump off the couch. When an American teacher goes to England, he or she will say, "Let's dispense with formalities," and have everyone sit in a circle. "So, what have you learned at Cambridge?" the teacher may ask, and asserts dominance by listening. The students assert submission by sitting quietly (and confusedly, in this case). Silence. Cue the crickets. When an English teacher comes to America, such as Bateson coming to Kresge, he asserts dominance by standing up in the Clown Hall in front of 150 students and giving a lecture. The students assert submission by constantly interrupting to provide feedback, to show they are paying attention like good students and can recite on command. Cacophony ensues. Nobody will shut up. The funny thing is that even after Bateson describes this dynamic it still persists. The students can't stop asserting submission by piping up. I couldn't, that's for sure. It was embarrassing. (I was later to learn that interactions with Bateson were often embarrassing, because he brought communications about relationships, of which we are normally unaware, into consciousness.) The first written assignment for the class was to "define a clock." Boy, was that challenging. A clock is something that measures time. What's time? The thing a clock measures. (It wasn't until many years later that I thought about what it must have been like for him to sit down and READ all the nonsense that resulted from this assignment.) This assignment was followed by "Draw a diagram of the American class system," and then "Why does a mirror reflect left and right but not up and down?" I should note that Bateson never "corrected" or graded these assignments. (Of course, we were on a "pass/no record" system. As far as I know, everyone who did all the assignments passed. Attendance at lectures was not taken.) We did discuss each assignment in class afterwards, which lead to some frightful tangles. If you're interested in "answers" to these questions, here you go: The Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, Boulder, Colorado, ( glossary.its.bldrdoc.gov/fs-1037/dir-007/_1004.htm ) provides this definition of a clock: clock: 1. A reference source of timing information. 2. A device providing signals used in a transmission system to control the timing of certain functions such as the duration of signal elements or the sampling rate. 3. A device that generates periodic, accurately spaced signals used for such purposes as timing, regulation of the operations of a processor, or generation of interrupts. The best analysis I have found of the American class system is in the book "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System" (1983) by Paul Fussell. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671792253/hip-20 ) In a nutshell, he provides this set of layers: 1. Top out-of-sight 2. Upper 3. Upper middle ________________ 4. Middle 5. High proletariat 6. Mid-proletariat 7. Low proletariat ________________ 8. Destitute 9. Bottom out-of-sight The Physics Archive at Argonne National Laboratory ( www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/phy99/phy99x56.htm ) provides this answer to the mirror question: If you didn't have feet you wouldn't be asking this question. The mirror doesn't reflect your image right to left. Whatever is actually on your left still appears to be on your left when you look in the mirror. The right-to-left business is all from the viewpoint of some other person looking at you, and that person sees your left as their right. Why is this? To put yourself in the position of someone looking at you from behind the mirror, you could imagine a copy of yourself walking through the mirror to the other side. To see you, your copy would then have to turn around, and this presents several options: people with feet tend to rotate about the vertical, so that their feet remain on the ground (and then they forget that a rotation has even taken place, because it's such a common motion). This rotation swaps right and left. If you were a fish, you might equally well decide to rotate about a horizontal line (i.e., do a half somersault), and this would swap top and bottom. I would add that a thoughtful analysis of this question leads to the conclusion that "left and right" are different TYPES of directions than "up and down" -- one set applies to your body, the other to the earth. But of course the point of these exercises was not to come up with the "right answer," but to probe and hopefully improve our thinking processes. A cursory reading of these assignments makes it seem like Bateson was "all over the map," with a course "about nothing," sort of like the TV show "Seinfeld" was "about nothing." (Cosmo the Fairy Godparent on Nickelodeon asked, "If it's about nothing, how do you tell when it's over?") A better "feel" for what the course was "about" can be gotten from a passage from the introduction to "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" (1972), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0226039056/hip-20 ) in which he says: I have often been impatient with colleagues who seemed unable to discern the difference between the trivial and the profound. But when students have asked me to define that difference, I have been struck dumb. I have said vaguely that any study which throws light upon the nature of "order" or "pattern" in the universe is surely nontrivial. But this answer only begs the question. I used to teach an informal course for psychiatric residents in the Veterans Administration Hospital at Palo Alto, trying to get them to think some of the thoughts that are in these essays. They would attend dutifully and even with intense interest to what I was saying, but every year the question would arise after three or four sessions of the class: "What is this course all about?" I tried various answers to this question. Once I drew up a sort of catechism and offered it to the class as a sampling of the questions which I hoped they would be able to discuss after completing the course. The questions ranged from "What is a SACRAMENT?" to "What is ENTROPY?" and "What is PLAY?" As a didactic maneuver, my catechism was a failure: it silenced the class. But one question in it was useful: A certain mother habitually rewards her small son with ice cream after he eats his spinach. What additional information would you need to be able to predict whether the child will: a. Come to love or hate spinach; b. Love or hate ice cream, or c. Love or hate Mother? We devoted one or two sessions of the class to exploring the many ramifications of this question, and it became clear to me that all the needed additional information concerned the context of the mother's and son's behavior. In fact, the phenomenon of CONTEXT and the closely related phenomenon of "MEANING" defined a division between the "hard" sciences and the sort of science which I was trying to build. Gradually I discovered that what made it difficult to tell the class what the course was about was the fact that my way of thinking was different from theirs. A clue to this difference came from one of the students. It was the first session of the class and I had talked about the cultural differences between England and America---a matter which should always be touched on when an Englishman must teach Americans about cultural anthropology. At the end of the session, one resident came up. He glanced over his shoulder to be sure that the others were all leaving, and then said rather hesitantly, "I want to ask you a question." "Yes." "It's---do you want us to LEARN what you are telling us?" I hesitated a moment, but he rushed on with, "Or is it all a sort of example, an illustration of something else?" "Yes, indeed!" But an example of what? And then there was, almost every year, a vague complaint which usually came to me as a rumor. It was alleged that "Bateson knows something which he does not tell you," or "There's something behind what Bateson says, but he never says what it is." Evidently I was not answering the question, "An example of what?" This intriguing yet maddening description is a pretty good account of what his class at Kresge was like. But he wasn't trying to be obscure; he was telling us as plainly as he knew how what he had to say. He just wasn't very good (yet) at saying it, and we weren't very good at all at hearing it. The final project for "Ecology of Mind" was to take an artifact that was created by or once part of a living thing (a seashell, say, or a work of art) and offer evidence of our sense that it WAS created by or once part of a living thing. A good understanding of the assignment and its ramifications can be gotten from this passage from the introduction to "Mind and Nature" (1979): In the 1950s ... I was teaching ... young beatniks in the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. ... It was a small group of about ten to fifteen students, and I knew that I would be walking into an atmosphere of skepticism bordering on hostility. When I entered it was clear that I was expected to be an incarnation of the devil, who would argue for the common sense of atomic warfare and pesticides. In those days (and even today?), science was believed to be "value-free" and not guided by "emotions." I was prepared for that. I had two paper bags, and the first of these I opened, producing a freshly cooked crab, which I placed on the table. I then challenged the class somewhat as follows: "I want you to produce arguments which will convince me that this objects is the remains of a living thing. You may imagine, if you will, that your are Martians and that on Mars you are familiar with living things, being indeed yourselves alive. But, of course, you have never seen crabs or lobsters. A number of objects like this, many of them fragmentary, have arrived, perhaps by meteor. You are to inspect them and arrive at the conclusion that they are the remains of living things. How would you arrive at that conclusion?" ... I was griping recently about the shortcomings of occidental education. ... the following phrase crept into my letter: "Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality." I offer you the phrase THE PATTERN WHICH CONNECTS as a synonym, another possible title for this book. ... Let me go back to my crab and my class of beatniks. I was very lucky to be teaching people who were not scientists and the bias of whose minds was even antiscientific. All untrained as they were, their bias was aesthetic. I would define that word, for the moment, by saying that they were NOT like Peter Bly, the character of whom Wordsworth sang A primrose by the river's brim A yellow primrose was to him; And It was nothing more. Rather, they would meet the primrose with RECOGNITION and EMPATHY. By AESTHETIC, I mean responsive to THE PATTERN WHICH CONNECTS. So you see, I was lucky. Perhaps by coincidence, I faced them with what was (though I knew it not) an aesthetic question: HOW ARE YOU RELATED TO THIS CREATURE? WHAT PATTERN CONNECTS YOU TO IT? By putting them on an imaginary planet, "Mars," I stripped them of all thought of lobsters, amoebas, cabbages, and so on and forced the diagnosis of life back into identification with living self: "YOU carry the bench marks, the criteria, with which you could look at the crab to find that it, too, carries the same marks." My question was much more sophisticated than I knew. So they looked at the crab. And first of all, they came up with the observation that it is SYMMETRICAL; that is, the right side resembles the left. "Very good. You mean it's COMPOSED, like a painting?" (No response.) Then they observed that one claw was bigger than the other. So it was NOT symmetrical. I suggested that if a number of these objects had come by meteor, they would find that in almost all specimens it was the same side (right or left) that carried the bigger claw. (No response "What's Bateson getting at?") Going back to symmetry somebody said that "YES, ONE CLAW IS BIGGER THAN THE OTHER, BUT BOTH CLAWS ARE MADE OF THE SAME PARTS." Ah! What a beautiful and noble statement that is, how the speaker politely flung into the trash can the idea that SIZE could be of primary or profound importance and went after THE PATTERN WHICH CONNECTS. He discarded an asymmetry in size in favor of a deeper symmetry in formal relations. Yes, indeed, the two claws are characterized (ugly word) by embodying SIMILAR RELATIONS BETWEEN PARTS. Never quantities, always shapes, forms, and relations. This was, indeed, something that characterized the crab as a ... living thing. Later, it appeared that not only are the two claws built on the same "ground plan," (i.e., upon corresponding sets of relations between corresponding parts) but that these relations between corresponding parts extend down the series of the walking legs. We could recognize in every leg pieces that corresponded to the pieces in the claw. And in your own body, of course, the same sort of thing is true. Humerus in the upper arm correspond to femur in the thigh, and radius-ulna corresponds to tibia-fibula; the carpals in the wrist correspond to tarsals in the foot; fingers correspond to toes. The anatomy of the crab is repetitive and rhythmical. It is, like music, repetitive with modulation. Indeed, the direction from head toward tail corresponds to a sequence in time: In embryology, the head is older than the tail. A flow of information is possible, from front to rear. Professional biologists talk about phylogenetic HOMOLOGY for that CLASS of facts of which one example is the formal resemblance between my limb bones and those of a horse. Another example is the formal resemblance between the appendages of a crab and those of a lobster. That is one class of facts. Another (somehow similar?) class of facts is what they call SERIAL HOMOLOGY. One example is the rhythmic repetition with change from appendage to appendage down the length of the breast (crab or man); another (perhaps not quite comparable because of the difference in relation to time) would be the bilateral symmetry of the man or crab. This narrative describes his work with "beatniks" in the 1950s, but his work with "hippies" in the 1970s was similar. The assignment was for us written, not oral, but we discussed it at length in the lecture. For my final project I chose a phonograph record, "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers!" (1970) by the Firesign Theatre. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005T7IS/hip-20 ) I submitted my analysis not on paper but on a reel-to-reel tape. At first he refused to accept it in this form, but then I showed up in his office with the tape and a deck and played it for him on the spot. He accepted it, probably because I had done some good scholarship. I found a paper that listed a number of types of errors in the speech of schizophrenics (or those suffering from "Dementia Praecox" to use an archaic term) and found examples of each type in the humor of the Firesigns. Most of these "errors" involved jumbling logical levels, sort of like "eating a menu." The gist of my argument was you had to be alive to be intelligent enough to mimic insanity for comedic effect -- no "artificial intelligence" could do it. (I find amusing today to reflect that the Firesign Theatre and similar level-jumbling humor can still be heard on the radio show of so-called Dr. Demento, whose slogan is "Stay demented!") * * * * * * * * In American education [Mark] Hopkins, [Williams College professor and later president of the College 1836 - 1872], ...pioneered in making the student the center of the educational experience, and he did it so well that one of his former students, U.S. President James A. Garfield, immortalized his achievement in an aphorism which has passed into the lore of American education: 'The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.' -- About Williams -- The History of the College ( www.williams.edu/home/about/history.html ) In addition to the lectures and assignments for Bateson's "Ecology of Mind" class, I was also learning from him by reading his book. As I mentioned last month, in early fall of 1974 I opened Stewart Brand's sequel to the "Last Whole Earth Catalog," which he called the "Whole Earth Epilog," to find Bateson on the first page of the "Understanding Whole Systems" section. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140039503/hip-20 ) His advice for reading "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" was: In recommending this book, I've learned to suggest that it be read backwards. Read the recent broad analyses of mind and ecology at the end of the book and then work back to see where the premises come from. This served me well. I had already skipped ahead over the summer at the urging of Bateson's secretary Judith Van Slooten, when I bogged down in the early anthropology papers, but now I was tearing through the sections on "Epistemology and Ecology" and "Crisis in the Ecology of Mind" and loving it. In Bateson I had finally found a thinker whose ideas made as much sense -- or more -- as my own, after struggling most of my life with what Bateson politely calls "nonsense" (as in: "They say that power corrupts; but this, I suspect, is nonsense. What is true is that the IDEA of power corrupts," to use of one of Brand's favorite quotes from "Steps..."). But of course I could have read his book anywhere. The greatest benefit I got from studying under Bateson was the on-on-one interactions I had with him, or to be more precise, with him and Judith. Whenever he was in his office she was too. (Once I caught him alone, sitting at her desk typing on her IBM Selectric. He looked at me in a panic. "Don't tell Judith I can type!" he pleaded.) As I mentioned last month, my student apartment looked right into his office window, and I could see if he was in. If he was, I frequently would go over and hang out. If I didn't interfere (much) he would often let me sit "like a fly on the wall" in the guest chair while they conducted business. Mostly this was him reading correspondence and then dictating replies to her, which she typed on the spot. People sent him preprints of scientific papers in vast quantities. He didn't have time to read most of them, so Judith stacked them outside his office. I read a few; my favorite was by Anatol Holt. (I wish I still had it.) One of the things I learned about from this experience was Bateson's ongoing difficulties with his publisher. When "Steps..." came out in hardback in 1972, the dust jacket had a painting by William Blake called "The Vision of the Last Judgment" (1808). ( www.apocalyptic-theories.com/gallery/lastjudge/blakejudge.html ) I'm not sure, but I think I recall that the text of one of the essays refers to the cover painting. Facing the title page was another artwork, a 1937 Balinese painting by Ida Bagus Djati Sura analyzed by Bateson in the essay "Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art" (1967). The essay is really incomplete without the painting to refer to. The paperback edition, which came out the same year, had a number of changes. The cover art was now a painting by Raymond Rivera, so the reference to Blake (if it's really there) was incorrect. It was a nice painting, of a mountain that also looked like and old man's face, and slightly resembled Bateson. I was reminded of the passage in James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" (1939) in which the geography of Dublin was described as a giant man. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0141181265/hip-20 ) But was certainly not Blake. The Balinese painting was simply removed, making the analysis in "Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art" much harder to understand. I remember some students -- including me -- being confused and thinking the Raymond Rivera cover painting was the one being analyzed, which made no sense. I was fortunate in that Bateson GAVE me a copy of "Steps..." in hard cover, and autographed it. (I wonder what it would be worth on eBay today, though I would never part with it.) But what of the lone student who bought the book somewhere far away? One short essay, "On Emptyheadedness Among Biologists and State Boards of Education" (1970) was also removed. It was one of my favorites, not only for its in-your-face title, but because it took on the dogma of evolutions in their opposition to creationist dogma. I contained this wise passage: Evolution has long been badly taught. In particular, students -- and even professional biologists -- acquire theories of evolution without any deep understanding of what problem these theories attempt to solve. They learn but little of the evolution of evolutionary theory. And while I'm complaining, the paperback edition folds the commentaries on parts IV and V into the ends of essays in each section, and removes them from the table of contents. Cheesy. For inexplicable reasons, the publisher issued a new paperback edition (in 1974?) with a cover drawing of a series of humanoids, reminiscent of the well-known "ape evolving into man" picture, only each was in a fetal position, forming os series of series of growing spheres, perhaps inspired by Blake's earths rolling in circles of space Bateson responded, so I'm told, with a telegram to the publisher: "AUTO-FELLATIO APE MUST GO!" I was actually there when the publisher's next effort arrived in a larger cardboard carton. Judith opened it, and pulled out one of dozens of paperbacks, holding it like a dead rat, by one corner. All cover art had been dispensed with, and the title was in big stylistic letters in red on a yellow background. Judith called it "ketchup and mustard" colored. This was perhaps the most "educational" sequence of experiences of my life. I had finally found what I considered a wise man, and he let me soak up his mind like a sponge. I had found the sponsor for my "Whole Systems" major, and as a first step I convinced him to sponsor a student-directed seminar the following quarter called "Understanding Whole Systems." I needed to get his signature on a form to finalize the class arrangements, and he had already left for winter break. Judith told me he was giving an invited talk at the veteran's hospital in San Diego. Well, I was on my way there for winter break. With my friend Wayne in tow, I tacked him down where he was talking to a bunch of psychiatric students about schizophrenia. (Security is abysmal in hospitals.) They'd brought in a schizophrenic for him to "work" with. With the man standing there a doctor gave a brief case history, including the fact that, while in the hospital for psychiatric reasons, they found cancer in one of his testicles and removed it. I was horrified. To the crazy mind his mental illness and this partial castration by the doctors HAD to be linked. (Even if he wasn't crazy, there is a part of the mind which believes all metaphors.) Bateson asked the man a few cursory questions and sent him away. He then explained that this stunt of bringing in a patient for him to "work" with in front of an audience created a context where it was very difficult for him to be of any help. He told a story of a similar session he'd witnessed in which a doctor told a mental patient to "write your name" on a blackboard and the patient wrote "your name." After several similar level- confusions, the doctor finally gave up, and the patient wrote in giant letters, "VICTORY." I realized there was this whole world beyond Kresge that I didn't think about where Bateson participated in various groups. * * * * * * * * "Kresge was one of the first colleges at UCSC, and originally one of the most experimental. Distinguished founding faculty members included Gregory Bateson, former husband of Margaret Mead and author of The Ecology of Mind, John Grinder, founder of applied Neurolinguistics and co-author of The Structure of Magic, and William Everson, one of the Beat Poets." -- Kresge College entry in "The Free Dictionary" ( encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Kresge%20College ) (I am astonished at the number of errors in such a short paragraph. But I do find it remarkable; that of all the faculty at Kresge from 1970 until today, these three are mentioned in this entry, and I took classes from all three in the first half of 1975.) Winter quarter began in January of 1975, one of the happiest times in my life. I had a new girlfriend (to whom I have been happily married for for 27 years). Together we attended a "Black Comedy Film Festival" each Tuesday night which featured films like "Harold and Maude" (1971). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6305882592/hip-20 ) Every Tuesday and Thursday we took the class "Birth of a Poet" together from William Everson. ( www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/everson/exhibit.htm ) Everson was a former monk turned nature-inspired poet who looked like a mountain man, made his own books, wore a buck knife in a hand-tooled leather sheath, admired the nature-inspired poet Robinson Jeffers (who the Beach Boys quote on the out-of-print "Holland" album), and said his course wasn't about how to be a poet but how DECIDE IF you are a poet. His course was considered a "Mick" (Mickey Mouse class) because you get get 15 credits over 3 quarters, no attendance was required, and the only assigment was to keep a dream journal. (Many students tried to turn in poems, but he only accepted dream journals.) Here is one of his poems, "The Poet Is Dead" (memorial for Robinson Jeffers) written in 1962 about his mentor: The poet is dead. Nor will ever again hear the sea lions Grunt in the kelp at Point Lobos. Nor look to the south when the grunion Run the Pacific, and the plunging Shearwaters, insatiable, Stun themselves in the sea. ( www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/everson/online_poems.htm ) We went to all of his lectures in the Clown Hall, laid on the floor, and doodled with her colored felt pens. Also on Tuesdays and Thursdays I taught my student-directed seminar, Kresge 192P, "Understanding Whole Systems," and she was a student in that class. This amazing experience of attempting to teach what I knew about systems theory at the age of 21 must be the subject of a future e-Zine. On Thursday nights I drove us and some others up into the Santa Cruz mountains for Bateson's seminar course, Kresge 164A, "The Nature of Human Knowledge." Each year Bateson selected from the students who's attended "Ecology of Mind" a dozen or so who showed promise in class feedback and written assignments, and invited them to participate in his advanced class. We sat around his living room by the fireplace, warming by the fire, and his wife Lois served tea and cookies. The house was a rustic mountain home that had once housed Pacific High School, where the "Domebook" series had been produced. ( www.buckminster.info/Biblio/About-BkTOC-Domebook2.htm ) His teaching style in this seminar was a departure from his English "exhibition asserting dominance" mode in the large lecture. He had each student, alone or in pairs, present to the class. Mostly he listened quietly. Sometimes he even seemed to nod off. But if someone actually said something worthwhile (which apparently didn't happen very often) he would sit up and look enthralled. I can tell you that this was a powerful reinforcer, in the Skinerian sense. I can still remember what I said to get this reaction: 1) Newton didn't "discover gravity." Everyone already knew that apples fell, and invoked the word "gravity" to explain it. Newton's breakthrough was explaining that apples fell FOR THE SAME REASON that the moon DIDN'T fall. ("Yes, that's right!" he said, leaning forward excitedly. Boy was that great! I wanted more.) 2) The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is true -- we cannot measure the position and momentum of, say, an electron with arbitrary accuracy -- because the electron LACKS THE INFORMATION CAPACITY to store and reveal these measurements. ("You should publish that!" he urged me. I finally am.) 3) Godel's Theorem proves that any mathematical system sufficient to represent the integers must be either incomplete or inconsistent. Mathematicians choose incomplete, and live with statements with unresolvable truth values. In the logic of human emotions ("The heart has its reasons which the reason cannot understand," said Pascal) we often choose inconsistent, which means a proposition can be proved true or false DEPENDING ON THE PATHWAY USED TO DEDUCE ITS TRUTH VALUE. To avoid reaching certain undesirable conclusions we must mentally BLOCKADE CERTAIN PATHWAYS OF INQUIRY. (This he he also urged me to publish.) Near the end of the quarter a guy showed up at Kresge who'd transfered from some eastern college just to study with Bateson. I happened to bump into him by the big "inverted fountain" by the college office that we called the "Brain Drain" (after some clown stenciled the nickname all over it, and the college removed ALL BUT ONE). I explained to him that he would've had to come in the fall, take the lecture course, and then be selected by Bateson for the winter and spring seminars; he couldn't just show up and sign up. But I put in a good word for him with Bateson and managed to get him in. * * * * * * * * "One of the expectations which I personally carried at the time of discovery and development of NLP was that people interested in our work would cleanly make the distinction between NLP and applications of NLP. My hope at the time was that given this distinction, there would arise a group of committed men and women who would recognize the meta levels tools which we had either discovered (the Milton Model.....), or created (the verbal patterns of the Meta Model or Precision Model, Representational Systems....), and go out and identify and create new models of excellence to offer the world. This has not happened and is very disappointing to me. NLP is popularly represented and commonly practiced at least one logical level below what it was clearly understood to be at the time by Bandler and me." -- John Grinder, 1996 interview by Chris and Jules Collingwood ( www.inspiritive.com.au/grinterv.htm ) Spring quarter I continued taking Bateson's seminar, and also an independent study with him for the purpose of writing the first half of my senior thesis. I had convinced him to sponsor my individual major in "Whole Systems." I also continued taking "Birth of a Poet" (after all, it was a "Mick"), and signed up for Grinder and Bandler's class, Linguistics 188, "Pragmatics of Human Communication." (And I got Grinder to sponsor me in a student-directed seminar called "Interfacing Kresge With Its Tools and Toys," designed to get students to facilitate improved college use of its media equipment and other resources.) Early in the quarter I approached Michael Kahn and asked him to be on my faculty committee for my individual major. I needed three. "Who are the other two?" he asked. "Gregory Bateson and John Grinder." He told me "It would be impossible." (I didn't then know about the blow-ups of 1971.) Grinder and Bandler were generating quite a buzz. They had been studying the techniques of hypnotherapists Milton Erikson and Virginia Satir, in person and on audio tape and film, and also studying Bateson's works, and had made a breakthrough that came to be known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Here is how Guhen Kitaoka describes it after the fact in the "cyberbook" called "An Integral Epistemology for Enlightenment" (2000) ( www.creativity.co.uk/creativity/guhen ) in the "NLP Co-founders" section: NLP was started by John Grinder, a linguistic professor, and Richard Bandler, a mathematician, at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), around 1975. At the time, Grinder and Bandler were students of Gregory Bateson, a British born psychologist and anthropologist teaching at UCSC. Bateson and Milton H. Erickson, the most important hypnotherapist, are the two figures who gave the biggest influence to the birth of NLP. Bandler was then deeply involved in Gestalt Therapy, and modeled Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt. NLP was born when Grinder and Bandler published, in 1975, their first book entitled "The Structure of Magic, I", in which they presented a set of explicit tools, by means of which one can achieve the excellent performance level of such therapeutic wizards as Perls, as well as Erickson and Virginia Satir, an authority of family therapy. In their class G&B were handing out ditto sheets from their work in progress, which later that year came out in hardback. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0831400447/hip-20 ) The glowing introduction was by Bateson. He closed with: May it be heard! In their class, I had a hard time accepting their methods. After some struggle I came up with the analogy that when you learn a martial art, like judo, the master teaches you an ethical framework for using it, so you don't go around beating up old ladies for fun. It seemed to me that they were teaching people a sort of mental judo and then ENCOURAGING them to beat up old ladies. Bateson also had a falling out with G&B. He actually wrote them a letter rescinding his introduction and endorsement of their book, in which he called them pu rposive pu nks quoting from e. e. cummings in "ECONOMIC SECU" economic secu rity'' is a cu rious excu se (in use among pu rposive pu nks)for pu tting the arse before the torse ( www.siir.gen.tr/siir/edward_estlin_cummings/economic_secu.htm ) I wish I had a copy of that letter, which I only got a brief look at. * * * * * * * * The first, early period (anthropology) is characterized by "Social Structure of the Iatmul People of the Sepik River", 1932, and articles of similar vein. Bateson refers to his anthropological field work among the Baining as a failure because he felt he "didn't know what he was doing." ( www2.gwu.edu/~asc/biographies/Bateson/bio.html ) Well, I was back down to one faculty sponsor. But I had other problems. I had finished my senior year and used up my scholarship money and I didn't have the financial resources to continue. But I needed a break. I'd been going to school since I was 5 years old, following a plan my parents had made for me, and I wanted to get "off the map for a while." My idea was to bicycle across America, and then return to solve the problem of college money and faculty sponsors. Like Bateson in the early 1930s, I felt I didn't know what I was doing. I needed a reality check. My girlfriend decided to join me. We moved onto a cooperative dairy farm in Santa Cruz where we had some friends, worked all summer at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park, bought bicycles, and set off across the continent on October 1, 1975. TO BE CONTINUED... * * * * * * * * The organizers of "Bateson @ 100: Multiple Versions of the World: A conference celebrating Bateson's centennial and his continued influence" last November ( www.batesonconference.org ) have set up a bulletin board to continue the dialog on his work. You are invited to participate. ( urbanage.org/gb_bb/ )
P.S. to C3M Volume 3 Number 9, October 2004 "Ecological Crisis, World Models, and the Nature of Proof" -- I got an email from James Hood. ( mailto:nomic@bellsouth.net ) He challenged my assertion that "Today, starvation is all but eliminated on earth, except where political factors such as civil wars perpetuate it. Hunger due to actual food shortages is fading away. This is not to say no one is starving, or that we will never face the problem again, but go to google news... and search for famine." He responded: Whoa.....jeez, all I can say is try "starvation" and "hunger" ...."malnutrition"...??? Is this all a hoax? ( www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/005/y7352e/y7352e03.htm ) I stand corrected. There is still work to be done. ======================================================================== newsletter archives: www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047 ======================================================================== Privacy Promise: Your email address will never be sold or given to others. You will receive only the e-Zine C3M unless you opt-in to receive occasional commercial offers directly from me, Alan Scrivener, by sending email to abs@well.com with the subject line "opt in" -- you can always opt out again with the subject line "opt out" -- by default you are opted out. To cancel the e-Zine entirely send the subject line "unsubscribe" to me. I receive a commission on everything you purchase during your session with Amazon.com after following one of my links, which helps to support my research. ======================================================================== Copyright 2004 by Alan B. Scrivener