VISTA Enterprise Network - Successful Implementation, World Class Support

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Does Fluxus Quo Do?

Perito Moreno Glacier Patagonia Argentina. Photo taken by Luca Galuzzi (

Dear Reader,

Fluxus quo acts upon our world through two kinds of dynamism: flow that results in motion, and flow that results in stillness.

First, everything is actually moving and changing even when it appears not to be. The appearance of the world is stability interrupted by intervals of change—punctuated equilibrium, as Steven Jay Gould called it—but the deeper truth of the world is flow. Look up from your computer screen and look about your room. Not a single thing you can lay your eyes upon is genuinely static. The glass is a liquid, ever so slowly oozing its way toward the bottom of the window, which is why old window panes are rippled. The paint, the wood, the fabric, all of these organic materials are slowly converting their volatile organic components via chemical reactions into gas, which is evaporating into the air, some of which you're inhaling. Every scrap of metal is like the glass, congealed into solid metal only because of how cold it is, but someday, sooner or later—a thousand years, a million, a billion—the metal will be hot again and will resume its liquid flow, and until then electrons readily flow within many metals creating electrical currents. Certainly all living things you can see are always engaged in both internal flow and many cyclic flows of interactions with the greater world around them. Seven years from now, some of their physical makeup will be the same—lead or mercury poisoning unfortunately—but most of their cells will have been replaced with new ones.

Stasis, things holding still or being what they are and only what they are, is partly an optical illusion, like a single frame of a motion picture, a moment caught in a strobe light. Seen for a brief enough instant of time, even a river appears to be a complex frozen ripple, in a photograph or the blink of an eye. Seen for a long enough period of time, the misunderstanding that a glacier is merely an enormous frozen river breaks down and the river of ice it truly is can be seen to flow, which it is always doing regardless of our limited perception of it. As Homer wrote, all human beings are ephemeroi, creatures of a season, like leaves on a tree. Our lifespans are far too short to see any but the fastest flows; the apparent stillness of so many things that our flashes of life illuminate are optical illusions, a trick of mortal perspective.

Heraclitus expressed this form of dynamism in several ways:

One can grasp no mortal substance in a stable condition.

It scatters and gathers, it forms and dissolves, approaches and departs.

Everything flows and nothing abides.

You cannot step twice in the same river.

Second, the pace of change does actually accelerate or slow in response to another layer of flow under the physical surfaces of the cosmos. Physical forces and organizational principles of the cosmos conflict with one another, subvert one another, tangle and release, and otherwise interact in complex, shifting ways so that the pace of change for any given thing is sometimes rapid, sometimes so slow as to create near stillness. When things are briefly still, it is because the forces within them are balanced enough to convert their dynamism into internal stresses instead of external motion.

Like a taut bowstring, these kinds of situations are pregnant with energies waiting to be unleashed. To a literal-minded person, a bow held undrawn and a bow held drawn are both just things, objects, static, but to one with eyes to see, the drawn bow is a wound-up explosion of change about to happen. Viewing the world in terms of the objects or things leaves you perpetually surprised by earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, terrorist attacks, and other kinds of sudden change, but truly it is during the apparent still periods preceding those disasters that the problems were created, that the invisible energies tangled up and pulled one another into tension. Part of the secret to the cosmos is that the visible things we cherish or fear are merely the side effects of the movements and conflicts of the deeper principles that underlie everything. That is, as important as it is to come to understand the flow of the things that make up the visible cosmos, it is the invisible flow of the principles and forces of the cosmos that actually produces everything we take for real.

Heraclitus wrote about this form of dynamism too, as an endless war that creates and sustains the harmony of the cosmos:

It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife.

Homer was wrong in saying, "Would that strife might perish from amongst gods and men." For if that were to occur, then all things would cease to exist.

It is in changing that things find repose.

Opposition brings concord. Out of opposition comes the fairest harmony.

People do not understand how that which is at variance with itself agrees with itself. There is a harmony in the bending back, as in the case of the bow and the lyre.

The hidden harmony is best.

Fluxus quo cannot be stopped to create stability, nor can it be ignored since it permeates and shapes all things, yet these are the two strategies most people try. Nevertheless, if we want to produce anything lasting in this world we cannot just go with the flow, or else the first form of dynamism created by fluxus quo will simply scatter our efforts in the river of time, but the second kind of dynamism it creates can and does paradoxically produce a dynamic kind of stability, what Heraclitus calls the harmony in the bending back.

This is the secret to harnessing fluxus quo, to achieving success with something as complex as VISTA. If we try to stabilize the things in the VISTA community that we want, our efforts will be swept away, but we can instead bend back the underlying forces that produce and organize those things so they conflict with each other to produce a harmony, a dynamic, self-reinforcing stability. In such a harmonic configuration, the flow of fluxus quo strengthens the stability instead of breaking it up.

A bow may be dynamically stabilized with two primary counter-reacting forces, from the wood and the string—with additional forces introduced when it is drawn, of course—but for something as complex as VISTA we need a more complex harmony between more forces. That would seem to reduce the odds we can keep them stabilized, but another field of study reveals that even complex harmonies can be achieved using a specialized method of bending back the forces upon one another.

The field is biology. The method is homeostasis.

Yours truly,


Rick Marshall said...

Except, of course, that glass is not a liquid. That's a myth (

Heating it does convert it into a liquid, in which state it flows, but as long as it remains below its melting point it is a solid, not a liquid.

Like many solids, though, it still flows, but in a nonliquid fashion. All solids flow as solids, given enough time, because if they avoid their melting point they will still sooner or later they break into pieces, either at the macro level into pieces or at the micro level by having parts ground or scraped off.

From mountains to boulders to pebbles to sand, sooner or later a single solid will break down into many smaller solids that flow over each other as grains of sand do. Their seeming permanence and solidity is merely an optical illusion caused by our extraordinarily short attention spans.

Postscript: We would all do well to spend more time reading refutations of common myths so we can clear the clutter out of our minds.

Postpostscript: I considered correcting the post, but it's better to leave the error and note it as yet another object lesson that we all make mistakes all the time, whether we recognize them or not. The human quest for the truth is inherently flawed, which we would do well to remember.

Rick Marshall said...

The comparison of metal to glass remains apt for some metals. The amorphous metals are specifically metals in a glassy (i.e., amorphous solid) state. Most metals, though, are solids rather than amorphous solids, though they flow the same way over sufficient time. Mercury, of course, flows as readily as any other liquid, but that wasn't my point in the original post.