Not everyone gets a classic liberal arts education, whatever that means today. I did, at Princeton University. However the Liberal Arts are less a body of static knowledge than a set of arts, as in crafts, one could say work-study habits, or self-disciplines.
What I learned in the liberal arts were some Arts of Memory, the so-called mnemonic arts. I didn’t just learn a few practices, such as effective note taking, but of the discipline itself, passed down through the Hermetic Tradition, I was to learn.
Rulers would go so far as to have mnemonic models built, like giant desks sometimes, full of cubbyholes, perhaps with astrological symbols. The goal was to keep one’s head together, as a presumably benign monarch who took his or her responsibilities somewhat seriously. A lot of us read The Art of Memory, and considered it a revelation.
More conventionally, we’re introduced to the mnemonic arts through the story of a Roman orator, a Cicero, perhaps Cicero himself, needing to memorize a speech. Oratory, a branch of Rhetoric, still has huge importance in political theater. How shall we test the integrity of various proposals? We need to hear them from the horses mouths. Get up there on the podium and tell us what we need to hear.
For this purpose, of making sense from the podium, our Roman orator would memorize a set of rooms, and practice walking through them, in a consecutive order. Indeed, why not pick a public building, a real one, that one might walk through. Burn that building’s floor plan into your memory, as well as each room. Then, when you need to give a speech, mentally plant icons in each room. Yes, icons like you would see on a computer. Cicero didn’t have a computer, but he had icons, such as astrological symbols, emblems, logos, much as we have today.
I bring up all these liberal arts by way of reintroducing what I imagine will be a future for Synergetics, a geometry of spheres, floating planets, globes.
I again think of the Little Prince, visiting this planet and that, each one a belief system or lifestyle, inhabited by a representative life form, a doer, an activist of some kind.
I think of Star Trek, our heroic crew hopping from planet to planet by means of warp drive (a kind of hyperlink).
Again: what holds a civilization together is something spherical, our public building. Decorate it with icons, and lines connecting them, and you’re in business, a next Cicero.
Synergetics helps promote a kind of mental fluency with mental shapes. Polyhedrons. Graphs. Networks. We learn a minimalist jargon, a shop talk, and then take to the waves, exploring and experimenting.
We’ve added tension and compression to the mix, gravity and radiation. We’re getting pretty good at remembering. We want the fast reflexes, but not inappropriate knee jerks.
We need our muses, our teachers, our intuitions, our voice within. There’s no attainment of some final peak, but we do get plateaus.
Why make our graphs spherical? Weren’t they fine as they were, more like subway maps? Remember how, when you follow a story step by step, in linear fashion, you continually re-arrive at the same points. Bodies of knowledge are like that: they keep relying on reminding you of what you’ve previously learned. That’s what wandering around on a sphere is like: you keep arriving at the same airports, perhaps coming from and heading for, different places. That’s the geometry of thinking for ya, and what Synergetics aims to reproduce.
See: A Roadmap for Synergetics, to which this Medium story could be considered an addendum.