Introduction: Heath M Rezabek

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“Because all things are interconnected, you must know each one, and how each one affects and effects every other. Only then can you plan effectively.�

- From “Taking Whole,� in The Art of War: A New Translation, by The Denma Translation Group, 2001. (p66)

(Author’s Note: This is an introductory post, and so wanders a bit. Thanks to Jon Lebkowsky for welcoming me back to Austin, and to Worldchanging, which never began and will never end so long as there are worlds of the real that compel us to strive.)

I have Jorge Luis Borges to credit for my becoming a Librarian. Because he was immersed in reading and writing, and in helping others towards new ideas through his livelihood, he was freed to imagine any world or scenario. He was bookish in the extreme, but being outside of Academe, he could cite the nonexistent books of the mind in the same sentence as books close-to-forgotten by a world propelled towards distraction. In time, he knew, the real would achieve the same state as the imagined. In time, all works would sit upon the same shelf in the Library of Babel.

Borges may have introduced me to a place where everything is abstractly and infinitely connected, but it took working at a reference desk, helping children find their first dinosaur books, to understand that connecting with ideas alone is definitely not enough. Though not a parent myself, I feel lucky to share with those who are the realization that you haven’t fully lived until you’ve been hugged for introducing a young mind to a new universe of possibilities. The physicality of the book makes it possible to actually mark the beginnings of such quests.

A few books, in my life, have anchored these turning points for me; my own personal dinosaur books. The forms of the very best of books are keenly attuned to their contents, so that to heft the weight and feel the texture of the one is to intuit the other. My first copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in one red bound volume with gold and green tracings. Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language; its bible-thin paper, its covers floating somewhere in-between the soft and hardcover. Worldchanging, slipcased with radiant birdie. A few others.

A love of ideas is not the same as a love of the physical world which binds them. An idea has the power to seed reality with potential; eventually, though, we eat, and love, and shelter one-another from the storm. And though digital media has drawn our minds near, nearer than they have been in several generations, still many of us are very far. Far from work. Far from ritual. Far from the mountains, far from the sea. Far from one-another, far from the means whereby our material world is assembled around us, far from an understanding of how truly intertwined our causes and effects are.

Not all are far, physically. Some fraction of those who would wish to if given the choice, are affluent enough to live closely and compactly. A much greater number are too impoverished to live any other way. We know, we intuit by hefting the weight of it, that these two are somehow connected. We know that all connections are causal, though often not directly.

Global Climate Change / Crisis (GCC) is the first interlocked piece in a myriad puzzle to be drawn into stark public focus by synchronicity. Like a figure-ground reversal, Escher’s black birds become white fish and suddenly the skies are filled with flocking, the seas with schools. Everyone sees it; for a brief moment, something shifts. In this moment, it is crucial for us to understand the deep interlock at work, even if we disagree over its details. It is crucial for us to understand so that we can more effectively do our parts in communicating it while the chance to do so lasts.

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.� - George Orwell

Although I’m ready to take the plunge, ready to add my voice to the voices here (thanks for the nudge, Jon), I know that I am likely to annoy at times.

I’ll frame posts in relation to current events when I can, but if a thought occurs to me that could be useful, I’m more likely to share it here and ask for thoughts than to wait for a current event to lend it a context. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to deeply tracking the regional development of Austin. My main interests start with the individual home (and what makes it feel this way) and expand to encompass the regional city. Austin makes an interesting case-study, sitting at a unique juncture of worlds and ways.

I’m a Librarian, and while technology empowers me, I am also a voracious reader of books. I am more likely to cite them than to cite a web-bound resource which might evaporate. This is also why I’m likely to cite Wikipedia when a more dynamic (but stable) context is needed. Among the books I cite, I am likely to cover a broad range of publication dates; an underutilized idea which saw print before the advent of the Web may be lacking only in exposure.

The future demands the most alive of design solutions to allow life itself to continue. Remembering my love for the book whose form aids in an intuition of its contents, I’m unlikely to accept that styles can be abstracted from solutions or are beyond debate. A low-energy shelter which yet leaves its inhabitants isolated from physical community, or surrounded by materials that say nothing of life’s textured and transient beauty will simply fail us.

I’m unlikely to refer to sprawl or over-consumption or chronic civil wars as “challenges�, and far more likely to refer to them as problems. If it helps, think of chess: not as a game, but as an interlocked sequence of causes and effects, each decision drawing free will into its matrix, each move narrowing the number of remaining endgames.

Chess problems are referred to as problems because without a suitable solution one reaches checkmate. If even the slightest chance exists that we are rare in the universe, then we must proceed as though our fate matters, whether we are truly rare or not. At a certain point, objectivity becomes an excuse. If we cannot at last agree that we are all biased in favor of our continued survival as a species, then to say we face a challenge is understatement indeed.

Because of this, I am also likely to tag entries at the level of Planet > Imagining the Future with irritating frequency. It seems necessary as a tool for keeping the stakes in mind. But it is also a useful perspective from which to view the problems facing those within given regions, and cities, and neighborhoods, and homes. It may be that truly seeing it in our mind's eye is critical to reaching it.

Strangely enough, the first work I am interested in undertaking here is an experiment that merges two of my three pivotal books I mentioned above. Don’t worry: I don’t think that learning Elvish Quenya will help us out that much right now...

Next Time: Towards a Worldchanging Pattern Language

“People working towards solutions to global and local problems are in the habit of thinking of them as discrete issues. We need a way to communicate the relationships between problems and other problems, and the relationships between problems and their solutions...�


Note for future reference: My intent is to blog on sustainability and green design as a private citizen, rather than as a Librarian. My personal opinions will always be my own.

- Heath

Posted by: Heath M Rezabek on February 15, 2007 6:27 AM

Heath, I don't know how to email you, so I'll make this public. I worked with Chris Alexander for a short while in the 1980's, and I've thought a lot about this topic since then. I think it has even more potential than described in your fine post. I'd hate to bore anyone, but I've placed a PDF file on an FTP site. It's of a presentation I've given many times on Pattern Languages and Sustainability - this particular version is for an online course I teach for an architectural school in Boston. If anyone's interested, they can find it here:

It's in a folder called "pub" and the file is called "BACPatterns.pdf". It might be relevant to this topic.

I'm really interested in furthering the idea of a collaborative Pattern Language of sustainability.

Posted by: David Foley on February 19, 2007 4:27 PM