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  • Tom

The Eddies and Whirlpools of Poetry

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

I've been reading Iain McGilchrist's book The Matter With Things and it has introduced me to the concept of Turbulent Flow and specifically something that the German Philosopher Joseph Schelling said... With an opening sentence like that I've set the expectations quite high... let see if I can deliver.

"Perhaps there is only one point of inhibition from which the whole of nature develops itself" says Schelling, and this has something to do with turbulence and flow. Check out this great video from Veritasium on Turbulent vs Laminar Flow

Consider the idea that your existence in time and space is like that of a whirlpool in the cosmos. (I don't ask for much...) You emerge, maintain stability, and then you reach a point of instability that merges you back into the great stream of all things. Birth, Life, and Death are all one fluid motion.

In the picture, you can see an image from above of a stream with an object that produces a resistance, or as Schelling calls it, a point of inhibition. It is this that disrupts the flow and forms the intractable patterns we call turbulence. Turbulence is actually something science is yet to be able to model due to its vast complexities. Schelling is suggesting that perhaps all of what we know and perceive, the universe, love, custard creams, music, laughter, Celine Dion, comes from one point of inhibition in the cosmic stream of things. An idea I love.

It's a delicate balance though because as Iain McGilchrist also points out, "friction...the very constraint on movement, is also what makes movement possible at all." When we move through space, we often float on in a laminar stream, but the real creativity comes from those moments of resistance where the laminar parts into a turbulent wake of beautiful weaving eddies and whirlpools. We have to be careful though because if we are too heavy handed we can dam up the stream.

Perhaps you can see where this is going... I feel this is exactly how we can relate to the poetry and audio pinned to location in the Overhear app. It is why we want to invite you to go and stand in a space, feel the stream of words wash over you, and notice what intractable creative thoughts and ideas generate. In this analogy you become the point of resistance from which other creative eddies and pools spring up, and, for a moment, stabilise into something profound and meaningful before it spill back out, integrating into the world.

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