Gregory Bateson: “The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think”

Bateson was one of my early heroes, and his concept of the “double bind” was a revelation. Especially the example which he used to explain it: the mother who calls to her child while pulling away. Why was that so important for me? Because it’s exactly the situation I was in. I was a mother of young children, and while I knew I loved them, there was something in me which was always pulling away.

The double-bind is a paradoxical kind of communication that has fertilized family systems therapy ever since.

Any double bind induces paralysis. There’s no way out, the only way is through. We are in the same situation now collectively: the double bind of what we perceive as the need to “grow” the economy by devouring more and more natural resources while also becoming more aware that we live on a finite world with rapidly depleting resources.

Again, the only way is through. Every paradox is a growing point, breaking us through to a new reality, a new way of perceiving both the economy and our Mother Earth.

Bateson: “There are times when I catch myself from thinking that there is something which is separate from something else.”

Here’s the trailer to a 201o film, Ecology of Mind, by his granddaughter, Nora Bateson.

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2 Responses to Gregory Bateson: “The major problems of the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way people think”

  1. This is the story in a nut shell, the way we are versus the way naure functions may be worlds apart. Sunday I attended the Reunion of the Taliesin Fellows, the remenant and new edge of the apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright. We needed Mr. Bateson as moderator. I attend an open discussion group at the close of the event. It was the first such discussion of he direction of Taliesin I had attended since I retired in 2004. I listened as long as I could, my intention being to keep my opinions to myself. But as the meeting continued someone pointed out the fact that I hadent been at the last reunion discussion five years ago, and here I was. Perhaps a sign of progress, that aroused old passions and I felt compelled to break scielince.
    I said the reason for my inattendence was that I was still recovering from the last such meeting, and here we were again having the same discussion of the same issues. Issues which will never be resolved without facing them head-on.
    Frank Lloyd Wright was attempting to make his work and life-style a reflection of nature, and now the times have changed but the situation stays the same. This aging organization is no longer able to live in the same way Wright did. Drafting boards have been supplanted by the computer and even though many of the young apprentices have skills they are not based on hand drafting or hand work, such as gardening, milking the cows, and all the other chores which occupied apprentices of earlier generations. They are different generation and in some cases screen addicted and nature deprived. They are sincere and dedicated learner but they are on a digital time track, and they tend to think in sound bytes instead of learning to perform household tasks they are immersed in data transfer and working within complex building codes and systems of institutional red tape.
    The former apprentices, those who have spent years bent over drafting boards are sitting around with bowed backs waiting to hear snippets remeniscent of their times. But no, the program Theme this year was “Minding Architecture” an exploration of Neuroscience and architecture. The Foundation and School would like to define the old timers as an Aliumni Foundation or former students, but they dont fit that mold and it seem like another way of spelling DONER to them.
    Wrights work was about integration, but the rules of business and academia are pointing the way toward further disintegration and specialization of the compontnets which composed the school. It is a minaturization of the process taking place in the country as a whole!
    I’m wating to see the effect of Saturn in Scorpio and hoping for the emergence of a new paradigm, perhaps a school of organic living rather than just a program to create architects. Perhaps the new formula will make the client the true architect as nature intended, as referenced in the lives of creatures including the birds and the bees?
    I feel priveledged to b alive to witness the magical transformation now taking place!

    • Right on, Jay! Architecture, even at Taliesen, the template for organic wholeness in this field, has succumbed to the disintegration of the mind that supposedly studies living systems but instead end ups mimicking cut-and-cried, neatly defined, left-brain illusions.

      At yet, at another level, as a six year old friend once asked, “Are machines a part of nature?” How do we reconcile this paradox? Another portal to open, and step through.

      I felt with you as you sat there in that audience, feeling invisible and “outdated” by current standards, and yet your living, breathing presence a vivid reminder of our original communion with natural systems that Frank Lloyd Wright hearkened to with his architecture.

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