Resilience

equilibration

My first thought, as so often when Questions first appear, is that I have nothing much to say about that. And then the gods (or imps) intervene, often with an off-the-wall image with the barest gossamer thread of relevance, or sometimes a knotty phrase, and often in the hypnopompia of waking.

Yesterday the first image was of a decaying tennis ball, abandoned when even its Golden Retriever found it too soggy and disgusting to brig back for one more throw...

(just how resilient is that ball?
what has its lifetime been but
a gradual diminution of resilience?
And now entropy has
caught up
with it...

The next image, again gossamer in linkage and obvious significance, was of a shark swimming. Not necessary a fearsome shark, because the point of interest here is the factoid that sharks HAVE to keep moving [?maybe a myth?] <== tempting rabbit hole ...and so are perpetually resilient within their medium, always moving in time and space, and responding to what's encountered.

It took a while for the images to clear and the principles they embody to emerge and dry their wings, so I started the daily pleasure of looking at this and that and capturing bits in the yellow pad medium, and thence the Realization that one of MY resilience-promoting tools is WRITING.

And because it's Monday and the New Yorker electronic edition appears at 6 AM. I read pieces on Joyce Carol Oates and by Zadie Smith, finding that they could be understood as examples/evidence of writers' resilience. So I thought I'd try looking for expressions of 'resilience' in the day's reading and looking, to see where things crop up that fit somehow with such fragments as *the tennis ball and *the shark, to see if something can be constructed that somehow connects up the bits.

I look out the window to watch grey squirrels doing what they do in the Fall, dashing back and forth, sitting up on their haunches to look around, dashing off again seemingly at random, their fluffy tails sinusoidally following the trails of their arcing bodies ... The very essence of "squirrely" [Virginia dialect <== rabbit hole alert]. There's a rubber-band resilience in their to-and-fro... which seems to be all they do. Unseen are their nests, where they sleep curled up together. Their resilience lies in seasonally-varied routine, a good part of it aimed at preparations for Winter: a routine of harvesting and tucking away the vast wealth of walnuts produced by the trees (planted in the yard maybe 100 years ago, BIG trees now). And yesterday a red squirrel crossed my path, carrying an apple. Both types of squirrel include games of chase in their behavioral palette. For them, 'resilience' is in enacting the same routines over and over again, generation by generation, season by season. They're always there, in greater and lesser numbers, BECAUSE their inexhaustible food source is there. Resilience is in keeping on keeping on.

Perhaps the question of "taking refuge" (a Question from more than 3 years ago) is an important element in one's personal resilience toolkit: what is it that keeps one going, that serves as the equipoise to which one returns again and again?

For me, *reading and *writing are a substantial contributor to the personal /balance/ that seems to be my core of resilience.

So it seems that one might have a cybernetic sense that continuously reads the physical and psychic environment and makes minute adjustments to the trajectory <==and there's alway a trajectory, in space and time. Think of riding a bicycle. Remembering the LEARNING to ride, the minute adjustments one had to make to keep moving forward [...shark image recalled...]. I never had 'training wheels', so had to master vector management and the circular motion of pedaling to arrive at dynamic balance. I can remember the moment when it all came together, and I could ride around the block (on the sidewalk) [<== memory sinkhole, with rabbits].

It seems that some of resilience is IN the mind, or at least is deeply entangled with mental engagement, but a good bit is outside of/obscured by/background to consciousness: the body's autonomic systems handle the details, [<==rabbit hole: bicycle technology last half of the 19th century...]

Perhaps psychic resilience is a different order of problem than we find with the physics of resilience, a matter of the repertoire one develops to keep moving forward in non-material space and time. Maybe the skills developed (or not?) from childhood onward are analogous in some sense to learning to ride a bicycle.

My eye fell upon Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology acquired a couple of days ago at Barnswallow Books. I remember finding the book quite magical when I was 16 and starting to absorb Literature and develop a sense for Narrative. And so it is on reacquaintance. The setting is the cemetery overlooking the town of Spoon River, and each page has the brief self-spoken memoir (a summary comment on life and failings) of a different decedent. One of the first I read was

Louise Smith

Herbert broke our engagement of eight years
When Annabelle returned to the village
From the Seminary, ah me! It might have grown into a beautiful sorrow —
Who knows? — filling my life with healing fragrance.
But I tortured it, I poisoned it.
I blinded its eyes, and it became hatred —
Deadly ivy instead of clematis.
And my soul fell from its support,
Its tendrils tangled in decay.
Do not let the will play gardener to your soul
Unless you are sure
It is wiser than your soul's nature.

In fact Spoon River Anthology is a brilliant laboratory to examine resilience, because many statements detail the want of resilience, regretted or ruefully told. [<==rabbit hole: Edgar Lee Masters was the law partner of Clarence Darrow 1903-1911; and friend of Carl Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay...]

And then I thought to wonder if what Wende meant by resilience seemed to picture bouncing back from some difficulty, obstacle, thwartment, tragedy ... finding the necessary means to keep on despite. Some strength called up from within seems the essence, allowing the bearer to triumph over/transcend adversity.

And that sent me to Google, in search of various senses and contexts of 'resilience' in the overmind. Here are some of the results:

I then got into wondering about AI and resilience, in light of the last few days of OpenAI and Microsoft news, but this is perhaps not the place to try to work all that out, or to connect it up with such other hyperscale phenomena as the cosmos as seen via the Webb imaging platform, and the understanding that, e.g., climate is a hyperobject of global scale. Resilience fits in there somewhere.

Are the WE that is Humanity capable of adjusting ourselves to the realities (many of them of our own making) we are now seeing ourselves to be enmeshed within? Of altering our behaviors to rebalance and live within the systems we have built, without destroying ourselves? I'm not optimistic, not even hopeful. And that 'WE' scarcely includes the octogenarians, whose efficacy is reduced to observing and deploring, but not influencing the trajectories of the various SYSTEMS WE have built.

So there's personal and psychic resilience, the handling of adversities that we encounter as individual persons...

And there's social resilience, that has to deal with human systems, which embed cultural systems, ever prone to conflicts with neighbors...
And there's species resilience, which is best seen via ecology and trophic webs and flows of energy, ultimately solar, which human activities have unwittingly unbalanced...
And maybe hyperobject resilience: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere...
I see resilience as a system property, even as a parameter <==that can exhibit a range of values. Physically, resilience is the capability to recover after deformation, which can be seen as "stress" via the application of external forces. By extension to the psychic realm, the ability to "bounce back" from adversity; and in the socio-cultural realm, the capability of accomodation to forces of environmental change (broadly conceived) absorbing the energies of external forces and reequilibrating.

My recent reading of the epic of continental readjustment of First Nations through 500 (or 5000)) years has certainly broadened my notions of History, North American and otherwise: a long game of cultural bumper cars...

And so I return again to the central importance of Narrative, of piecing together the Stories that can make some sort of sense of all the data and information in which we swim — about the physical world, and about the worlds that transcend the simply physical: the worlds of the Mind, and of the Imagination (which is where my resilience resources are located).

Equilibrium (dynamic balance in Time) is another System property, seen in various levels of System .. and that puts me me back to thinking in terms of Systems again, the dynamical vs. the static Parsonian structuralist...

*****

I've been thinking about how the AI soap opera fits into resilience, and I think I've got it. OpenAI just went through a "resilience test", not so very different from the "stress test" mandated for banks, and the market-driven stress tests that businesses and industries experience in evolving economies. The outcome of the OpenAI stress test remains ... unknown. Except that we can expect enrichment of tech bros and their venture capital enablers, consequent on the development, promulgation, mass adoption, and monetization.

The OpenAI stress test really is a pretty big deal in re: the future, measured economically, psychically, socio-culturally, cybernetically ... who and what will have their resilience tested as more things are done by silicon-based life forms than we can imagine or predict.

Sure would like to hear James Gleick on AI and its evolution, as a continuation of his The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2011)...

And reflect that 'Artificial Intelligence' is not a felicitous name, but is now so conventional that it would be difficult to displace. The more apt name might be Augmented Intelligence, recognizing the carbon-silicon partnership, but the implementation NEEDS Wisdom in the wheelhouse. And where is Wisdom to be found? and how is it to be fostered? ...all of which harks back to Licklider and Engelbart, and to Ted Nelson and Tim Berners-Lee...

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via Bruce Sterling