Bateson Reading Group - Video Dialogue - Week 5

(Mindful Ai) #1

Originally published at:


Date/Time: 7 Feb 2019 @ 10:30 am - 12:30 pm America/New_York

Video Conference Link:


Legend : GB=Gregory Bateson’s “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” ; NB=Nora Bateson’s “Small Arcs of Larger Circles”

Week 5

GB: Bali – The Value System of a Steady State
NB: Policy for Government in the Future
NB: Nourishment


(Douglas Duff) #2
A few notes

The thought to create this metalogue came to me after our call last week. This is a first attempt at a written conversation, so it is likely choppy. And, if it breaks the rules of the metalogue…then perfect! It fits the title.

The section on Bali is an attempt to reflect the Balinese cultural traits of anti-climatic efforts in child-rearing and storytelling…hence the pauses and yanking the chain; the later segments attempt to utilize the assigned readings from Nora Bateson “Policy for Governance in the Future” and “Nourishment” along with some quotes taken from her IBI website). It was fun to to do this! I post it now so any participants can follow along.

Why Do We Make Rules Only to Break Them?

A Metalogue a la Gregory Bateson

Son: (mouth full) - My moo me make woos ooh-me oo mrake em?
Mother: You know the rule…don’t speak with your mouth full
S: (clears throat) - why do we make rules, mommy, only to break them?
M: Well, good question. When I tell you to brush your teeth twice each day and take a bath each night, it is to keep you in good health. The rules are preventative care. When I tell you to go to bed before eight each night, this is to keep you within your natural rhythms, our natural rules, if you want to call it that. You will wake well rested and have a better day.
S: But we break the rules sometimes…
M: Yes…we do. Sometimes we stay up later on movie nights or evenings when we go to a party. These are chances to spend time together.
S: But we broke our rule of sleeping before eight. Won’t I wake up without enough rest? Wont I have a bad day?
M: No. Not necessarily. You may feel a bit tired, but your systems have a way of working around such issues. Or working with the troublesome effects we place upon our body.
S: So can I stay up late tonight?
M: No. It is a school night.

M: What sparked this question any how?
S: Well, we ate with our hands at the Filipino party yesterday with our friends. I thought it was fun!
M: Yes, I love that! The connection between the food and our bodies…oh, so liminal! Hands actually touching and sensing what is being placed into the mouth…
S: But why is it okay to use our hands there and not at our house? You see…again, we set our rules then just go and break them…
M: Yes, I see. We never really set the rule though…it just happens.
S: But you taught us to use a fork and spoon, why not teach us to use our hands, since you like it so much?
M: We are born into a set of rules…so we happen to use a utensil set instead of just our hands.
S: so why don’t we all just come up with one set of rules and stick with that…it seems like it would make things easier and more simple to manage, mommy.
M: I suppose we could just ask everyone to eat with their hands. Lets do it!! I’ll ask the President tomorrow to change the rules!!
S: Can you really do that? You do know alot of important people!!Thats sounds great!
…Wait a minute…you are just yanking my chain, aren’t you.
M: (ignores son)
S: C’mon mommy, talk to me…!!! Please!!! You’ve got me all worked up!!
M: (more silence)
S: Oh, I see…you want me to figure this out. I guess there are no universal rules, right? Coming up with a set of universal rules for something would surely stir up even more complexity?
M: Remember what Grandpappy Gregory rattled on about in those videos you watched of him?..his stories from Bali? How his general rules for understanding a given society did not apply to the Balinese? He didn’t really call it a rule. He used the term tool…which is essentially the same idea. He tried to apply the Iatmul “tool” of analysis of their culture onto any culture. It worked for some Western mappings of cultural schismogenesis and ethos, but he felt, at some inarticulate level that the tool was unsuitable for the Balinese. It was not a faulty rule/tool…just did not apply to the Balinese culture…so useless tools are just that…useless and thus, new tools and rules need to be made. The same can be said about Von Neumannian systems that assume finite solutions within an finite world. Once we check into the infinite world of individuals, societies, ideas…finite solutions are not final. It is very important to permit certain variables, rules or tools to alter, to fluctuate. So I say it is okay to break the rules.
S: okay that makes sense, I think. I don’t remember all of that…but I do remember that he liked the word schiz-o-phre-ne-sis.
M: No, schismogenesis, Grandpere Gregory said that the schismogenic sequences were just not found in Bali.
S: new words…new rules…I wish we could go back to when the world was steady.
M: Oh…speaking of new words…have I told you about Symmathesy?!

S: Why do we have a speeding limit that everyone breaks…even the ones that are to patrol the speed of vehicles?
M: Yes…it seems that laws are made to be broken.
S: but why would the rule makers break their own rules?
M: It takes a tacit knowledge…
S: What do you mean?
M: Its a certain code we adults understand. Ask me again when you learn to drive.

S: I learned about Rosa Parks in school last week…
M: Ahh, they finally taught you something…
S: Why did they make rules that segregated people of color?
M: Segregation is fragmentation in my mind…”the problems that are arising are the result(s) of the fragmented way that we assess the world. The subsequent actions and decisions we make are based on this limited view, and of course they lead to trouble in the not very long run.”
S: But that doesn’t explain why, mommy?
M: some rule makers are not only fragmented and limited, unable to approach our complex world in a sensitive manner, but they are self-seeking, exploitative and very harmful to others. Another definition of rule is dominance over or reign…like a king or queen.
S: So why do they get to make the rules?
M: Why do politicians…
… get to wave their arms all around, you mean?

S: what does that mean?!
M: Nevermind…let’s just say that it would be a blessing for our politicians and policy makers to take into account the immune systems of others. The rules of engagement need to expand the understanding within and between institutions so that they consider the larger ecologies that they exist within.
S: Okay, mommy…I think I understand. Is this why you are always talking with people and always flying away to other places?
M: yes…at the IBI I like to call it transcontenental “Transcontextual Research”. “I am interested in a kind of mutually alert care and attention to the wellbeing of all people and ecological systems. This kind of leadership cannot be found in individuals; rather, it is found between them. It cannot be found in organizations, nations, religions, or institutions; rather, it is found between them.”
S: is that what you call liminal leadership?
M: great! You remembered one of my words!

S: what is an ecology?
M: well look at your plate.
S: I see a plate and some vegetables and a sandwich.
M: I see an ecology…an ecology of food. “Food is: agriculture, economy, culture, and conversation, ancestral recipes, weavers of tables cloths, traditions of seasons, the perfect onion, a child’s berry stained chin… Food is poetry, medicine, friendship, time, poison, economy.”
S: I don’t understand. It looks like broccoli and carrots and an eggplant sandwich to me.
M: “food is about relationships. These relationships are formed between generations that plant together, between man and nature, between the family members who eat together, it is in the conversation, in the heritage of the basket weaver who makes the baskets that are used to take food to neighbouring villages for market. It is in the relationship between towns economically. Seeds used in ceremony, represent long-term linkages between people, nature, cycles, and attitudes toward the future.”
S: Okay, mommy. Can we have dessert now?

M: time for dessert! Frozen grapes!
S: Why can’t we have chocolate like everyone else?
M: Well, we couldn’t find any organic, free-trade chocolate, so we go without. …I sure would like a chocolate gelato from Rome right now…
S: Fine! Pass the grapes, mommy!
M: Say please.
S: Please pass the grapes, mommy dear.
M: thank you
S: when can I drink wine? They let kids drink wine in other countries? Can’t we break that rule?
M: Well, you know what I say about grapes…
S: but you also say we are wine…
M: (with mouth full of grapes) mood moint…
S: You know the rules, mommy…
M: Good point.

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(Geoffrey Edwards) #3

This is super, Doug! And I loved the reading online of it. I thought Lucy (@artex) did a wonderful job with her lines as well !


(Geoffrey Edwards) #4

I haven’t found the context in which Nora Bateson discusses sense-making as distinct from meaning-making, but I did come across these two extraordinary clips while hunting around.

First of all, her presentation of the idea of « warm data » as distinct from but complementary to « big data » :

And second, this wonderful discussion of intergenerational learning and its importance in the worldwide crisis we are collectively facing :

I recommend both as complementary to our ongoing reading.

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