Wu-wei and Extropy are the two most fundamental concepts I can personally identify. Both are given equal footing in what I post here on Thrivenotes as I try to define and refine them. In basic terms Wu-wei and Extropy are representations (respectively) of our need to both harmonize with and also build upon the universe — in my mind two sides of the same symbolic coin that I quite enjoy tossing around on a quiet Sunday morning... Now for more elaborate definitions:
WU-WEI is peace and contentment with the present moment and the movement of the universe, a sense of patience with the balancing out of forces in life. It signifies non-action, or action through non-action more precisely, and is an avenue for non-violent expression and the reduction of aggression and impulsiveness in our behavior. It is the willful abdication of the forcing of one’s will. This is the spiritual and meditative side of Thrivenotes, very Taoist, nature-loving, go-with-the-flow type stuff. I feel like this is needed in a world wacked-out on infotainment, various addictions, and manic quests for knowledge and power. Equilibrium is important.
EXTROPY is the amalgam of all human technologies, knowledge, and abilities. Extropy is a “counter to entropy”, so to speak, in that instead of things being pulled apart by time, things are woven together over time. The successive additions of knowledge and techniques compound the overall level of organization and innovation in the world — and in the cosmos as a whole, for that matter — quantifiable as a measure of (useful) information-per-unit-of-matter (or spacetime). Extropy is the continually accelerating and evolving product of human intelligence and ingenuity, which when viewed from the outside, seems to take on a life of it’s own and, as such, is an intriguing force which I seek to highlight on this blog. To watch Extropy is to be aware of many of the interactions between different areas of progress in the world today, so the focus here is on technology and scientific research, dipping sometimes into the cyborg/transhumanist arena.
POINTS OF CONTENTION are easy enough to point out: Wu-wei says why rush, why build so high so fast? Extropy says it will happen one way or another, whether you build it or she does. Wu-wei asks: For what all that knowledge? Extropy answers: Because we can. Wu-wei advises awareness of natural limits and cautions you on the risks of unsustainable growth. Extropy claims sustainability is possible in a world full of technology. Perhaps a threshold exists at which technology stops being destructive and starts allowing us to restore the biosphere to full capacity. Wu-wei says don’t be too sure about anything; there is a natural order to things.
POINTS OF INTERSECTION between Extropy and Wu-wei include an overarching meta-view of the cosmos and its fundamental laws. The difference is Extropy Theory includes growth, diversification of nature, and increasing complexity as insatiable trends. Wu-wei simply graphs distance from (and nearness to) The Way Things Are as measures of Harmony and Happiness. One could argue, ultimately, that both Extropy and Wu-wei are concerned with Human Happiness, just that Wu-wei’s Harmony is more akin in Extropy Theory to greater Fulfillment of Potential through growth and discovery of new and different knowledge and activities.
One Harmonistic Wu-wei Activity for me is Aikido. It has been around for a long time and integrates Taoist principles of non-resistance or non-rigidity into self-defense and personal discipline. One newer activity I enjoy is Slacklining, which I would place more in the Extropian New Horizons Activity Sphere. It involves stringing up a length of 2-inch-wide nylon webbing between two trees to use for balance and yoga/tai-chi-like movements. It requires reinforced loop-strings on the ends, and a ratcheting system of some sort to lock in the desired line tension or “slackness”.
Both Aikido & Slacklining necessitate harmonious approaches and balance in all senses of the word. And they both contribute to health and happiness. They differ in terms of their required materials, of course; Aikido practitioners need nothing but themselves. In the Extropian sense they both represent cultural developments or forms of human cultural evolution. In the Wu-wei sense, they can perhaps both be seen in the light of spontaneous natural emergence of activity and movement traditions — both are subject to change as well.
I am a teacher, a self-made linguist-of-sorts, and a traveler. I am also a blogger and a wanna-be programmer.
My name is Adam and I live in Washington State. I love the greenery and natural beauty of our area and — if you follow my blog closely — you might get the idea that I appreciate the generally-progressive nature of the politics here as well. (Surprise: I do!) While I grew up and went to school here, I have more-or-less lived as an expat for the last 4 years. I saw that opportunities for teachers were often more exciting abroad and, as a language-geek, sought out all the best international teaching jobs I could find.
Why you ask, do I now live in Washington then? Well, let me give you the short version, along with where I’ve been:
In Japan I did my student teaching (in Spanish), and in Turkey I taught ESL for three years before moving to Bahrain in the fall of 2012 to teach English and Drama. Before winter had even descended on my partner and I, we found that our previously stable and peaceful Bahraini neighborhood was being enmeshed in a largely-hidden civil war between the Shia Majority and the Sunni Royalty. In the span of 3 weeks in November, 8 pipe-bombs went off in our neighborhood. At least two individuals died – street cleaners, bless their souls – and possibly more that weren’t announced. Who planted those bombs there is a lingering, burning question for me and many in Bahrain, I suppose, but we decided it was time to come home.
While I am now (happily) working in Education in Washington, I recall with fondness and nostalgia my many great experiences living and working abroad. And now I would like to share a few of my most cherished lessons I learned with you.
3 Lessons Learned Abroad:
- Americans are generally much more well-received than you might expect. (People like Americans, but not necessarily our government.)
- Caveat: A humble, open-minded approach is essential.
- Extra Credit: Knowing the language is both fun and extremely advantageous, and it counts for more than just about anything else in terms of social karma.
As an anecdote for Lesson 3, I once had a man invite me (and all my friends) to have dinner at his house when I got lost driving around in South Eastern Turkey – just for greeting him in Turkish and asking for directions politely.
In 2009, in Damascus, I spoke with my Syrian Tour Guide and his friend about how much injustice had been perpetrated in Iraq by the US government (Syrians and Iraqi’s are like family, he told me). Not once in our broad discussion did he or his friend criticize or attack me personally. I felt welcome similarly in remote villages in Nicaragua, and in Bahrain, Romania, and even in a Buddhist Monastery in Japan. These experiences strongly support Lesson 1 (above).
Every once in a while I would have an unsavory interaction with an individual who was feeling bitter, perhaps, or frustrated at my limited language abilities. The key here is just not to take it personally, of course. I also had some people in Japan and in Turkey stare, which feels weird. Turks actually stare a lot, but it is normal when seeing a foreigner in places where one wouldn’t normally expect one (like on a dolmuş, i.e. mini-bus, in Adana, Turkey). I also had one Japanese boy stare at me for the duration of a 1.5 hour train ride outside of Tokyo – but he had probably just never seen a foreigner, especially a 6’2’’, blonde, blue-eyed American. Stunned, he was.
New Powers of Empathy (& Another Lesson):
Once at lunch in Adana, a friend of a friend told me that I needed to learn more Turkish when she saw that I was struggling to follow everything that was going on in the conversation. We were a group of 4 Turks, plus me. It wouldn’t have fazed me if I hadn’t been studying day-and-night for 5 months, quickly surpassing other expats who had been in Turkey for 2 years or more, but in this case, it really hurt to hear it. I find I am still bitter about it, because at that point Türkçe’yi hiç kimse benden daha çabuk öğrenmiyordu. (There wasn’t anyone learning Turkish faster than me.) … I can say that this experience certainly cemented in me a desire to be patient and understanding of the trials and tribulations of English-Language Learners in the United States after that. Besides the general difficulty of learning a language, there is situational difficulty too: Who you work with, how much free time you have, which neighborhood you live in — all these things can adversely or positively influence your progress in language learning and acquisition. I say acquisition finally because textbook learning doesn’t generally lead to fluency; acquisition is the process of forming subconscious understanding of a language, sound-meaning connections that don’t go away right after you take the vocabulary quiz, for instance.
In Bahrain I found I could hardly hear anyone speaking in Arabic. There it was very unrealistic to expect to be able to learn at anywhere near the pace I was learning in Southern Turkey; everyone speaks English to each other in Bahrain! Despite this, because of my love for languages, I was creating opportunities to interact in and listen to Arabic, say by sitting in the lunch room with some of the Arabic-speaking teachers. At the end of 3 months in Turkey I probably knew 20 times more, however, because I was fully immersed.
With that, my request to you: The next time you interact with someone who doesn’t speak English perfectly, try not to assume anything about how much effort they are making, or which words or expressions they are likely or unlikely to know. And also, if you can, let go of the notion that someone should understand everything from a given conversation. It’s not realistic (even in native-to-native conversations) and it’s not the point – literally, what is the main point? Shouldn’t that be all that matters in most cases?
With my reduced (language) learning load now (I still read some artículos en español) I have taken it upon myself to master computer programming next. I see many opportunities for educators that are also technically versed, in addition to many opportunities for those that are well-connected to a wide variety of people and are able to build and manage blogs, websites, and applications online.
While I first looked for the easiest language I could learn — Python, I determined — I later was swayed by the Perl philosophy: There Is More Than One Way To Do It, or TIMTOWTDO (say “Tim Toady”). The speech by Larry Wall, the creator of Perl, who was also a Linguist and was working at NASA when he built it, was instrumental in this process. His talk is here. I think everyone should read it, even if they have no interest in programming! Learn something about Postmodernism from Larry – or speech writing, for that matter!
What I am planning next is to study using Learning Perl, the book, ask questions using Stack Overflow, the programmer forum, and slowly learn enough to build a from-scratch website and blog at raincup.ch, my new domain name (nothing there yet!). Wish me luck and, if you wish, donate to my learning/blogging process and I’ll keep up the good work here on Thrivenotes, too, then!
If you have any questions or comments for me or suggestions for the blog please send me an email at 84adam at thrivenotes dot com. I always love to hear from my readers. Enjoy!