Patterns in Politics and Otherwise

Starting out with clear definitions, at leasts clear as common usage allows, is always a useful method with which to talk about the same thing--even though conclusions may be different and often are.

pattern

|ˈpadərn|

noun
1 a repeated decorative design: a neat blue herringbone pattern.
• an arrangement or sequence regularly found in comparable objects or events: the house had been built on the usual pattern.
• a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations: a complicating factor is the change in working patterns.
2 a model or design used as a guide in needlework and other crafts.
• a set of instructions to be followed in making a sewn or knitted item.
• a wooden or metal model from which a mold is made for a casting.
• an example for others to follow: he set the pattern for subsequent study.
• a sample of cloth or wallpaper.

verb [ with obj. ]
1 (usu. as adj. patterned) decorate with a recurring design: rosebud patterned wallpapers | violet-tinged flowers patterned the grassy banks.
2 give a regular or intelligible form to: the brain not only receives information, but interprets and patterns it.
• (pattern something on/after) give something a form based on that of (something else): the clothing is patterned on athletes' wear.

This is the particular portion of the definition which shall be used to explore the concepts of patterns in politics. This definition also occurs in real life.

a regular and intelligible form or sequence discernible in certain actions or situations: a complicating factor is the change in working patterns.

The genesis of this essay, which I hope you find of some value, comes from an observation I made while standing in the foyer of a friend's hospital room, waiting for an opportune time to enter. Strange how discoveries can seemingly be made at random times in situations which in themselves bear no particular relationship to the situation generating the observation. Perhaps this is due to an internal connecting all the dots, as synapses stealthily reach out and connect with each other, during an unrealized process. That line of exploration however deviates into a separate but related bit of epistemology which is not pertinent to this topic.

The carpet was decorated with lines, dots, figures of various shades. The decorations, although complex, did fulfill the chosen definition of pattern.

First we start of with an elemental notion: one homogenous element can not be a pattern by itself. This element will constitute a single instance, which therefore by definition can constitute a "regular arrangement". Thus patterns must be constructed from at least two members. A single dot is just a single dot. A line, even of infinite length is just a single object. Although patterns occur in many sensory realms, such as vision, or sound, or smell, my preference here is to focus on the visual realm, though other realms of perception are susceptible to this reasoning.

Are two dots sufficient to make a visual pattern? Yes, but conventionally people perceive objects (thoughts, events, images, etc.) as simplistically as possible. This facility has survival value. For instance, trying to figure out of the pattern of black and yellow stripes represents a charging saber tooth tiger will do your gene line no good if your processing is slow. So making a pattern out of two dots is effortful and unlikely to be successful for most who attempt this.

Take a slightly more complex figure: -0-. Can we make a pattern out of this? Of course, there are at least two elements present (3 actually if one disregards the surrounding blank spaces around the item). But should we disregard those blank spaces? From a philosophical, as opposed to a utilitarian view, it is important that we both notice AND give weight to the "blank" space. The only essence about the creation of such blankness is that our perceptive abilities fail to attend to the existence of such nullity.

For ease of comprehension, we shall consider visual two-dimensional patterns. In the political sphere, the similarity is the false but widely perceived right-left political duality. Existence is 4 dimensional, at least. Politics being a part of the existing universe is thus 4 dimensional, thus making a true-life comprehensive assessment of such a subject incapable of simple explanation. Commentators have labored for centuries trying to make 3 dimensional precepts of patterns in politics, let alone the influence of time: "the more things change, the more they remain the same".

Back in the foyer with no obligation but to wait patiently, a decoration of the carpet attracted my attention, probably due to the silence and my stationary posture.
fixing my gave on the floor, I organized the visual stimuli into third order precepts (that part of the occipital cortex which partakes of pattern recognition). There I saw many faces, human faces--all differing from one another--despite construction of the same visual elements. Some faces on the floor were recognizable, others were unique to my experience. After realizing the phenomenon experienced, I lifted my gaze, looking at nothing in particular attempting to clear my head of the visions so produced. The respite from such visual input, although brief, indeed cleared the preceding facial syntheses. Then I looked down again awaiting to see if my brain would replicate the human facial patterning so soon assembled inside. On the second such floor scan, if you will, I did not human faces. In their stead, animal bodies (including a snarling tiger) occupied my thoughts. Although the perceptions, human faces, animal bodies, were quite vivid, I did not mistake them for reality. (Another referent to epistemology).

From this set of observations comes several interesting considerations. First of all, why human faces or animal bodies? The interpretation of perceptions--including patterns--is dependent not on just the moment but the prior life experiences, and not just visual ones. Components of such synthesis, i.e., pattern recognition, is dependent on an incalculable number of conditions and experiences: the state of vision, degree of alertness, ambient lighting, childhood rearing (parenting, school, etc.), employment (or lack thereof), inborn traits of empathy/narcissism/sociopathy. And that list is very incomplete, offered just for starters.

Returning to the misleading left-right paradigm, we may perceive a pattern. In the FDR era, that pattern was one of Democrat concern for the underclasses (disregarding the underlying rational for so doing) as compared to the Republican "I got mine; you work to get yours" Calvinistic ethos. With changing times, these patterns have proven to be transmutable--but the idea is the same: right versus left, a strictly two dimensional construct.

In a perfect world, assuming that elected officials were serving strictly pro bono publica, then we could accept the above duality as representative of a pattern; e.g., Dems empathetic, Reps materially based.

But is there another vantage point, other than this linear spectrum upon which the above pattern has been created? Yes, in fact substitute the Mr. Smith Goes to Washington versus Scrooge McDuck conception, with another equally valid precept. This new axis of reality comprehension I shall the "venality axis". Perhaps this axis is perpendicular to the right-left axis. It matters not. The opposite ends of this particular world view (perceptions of an unclear reality) could extend from Saintly, like the Mahatma, to the Most Corrupt, like the Evil Queen.

Trying to consistently perceive two-dimensional patterns on the rug, no matter how large the rug, will provide viewers with often quite different interpretations. They must be different as our own unique circumstances are different. Even if many on this board, as well as elsewhere, may be of politically similar views, there will not be a uniformity.

Add to this the venality axis and we have a 3-dimensional construct adding to it an infinite number of interpretations.

Why is pattern recognition important? As mentioned above, simplicity in pattern recognition has survival value. But civilization is more than survival, although a particular structure of a civilization often dictates who will survive. Accouterments develop, whether it be decorative beads or property taxes. The complexity of civilization is due to the underlying diversity of experience combined with the supra-added coercions of a society.

If pattern recognition is so important and so unique, how does an individual recognize a safe path with which to move forward, or at least not to self-imperil?

In order to achieve some semblance of uniformity, to make at least certain parts of society manageable, perceptions have to be managed. That means some patterns will be publicly emphasized and others suppressed.

The more complex the society, the more emphasis or suppression respectively must be employed.

In the end, it is the success or lack thereof, in modulating public perception, which determines, at least in the short term, the ability of a civilization to either flourish or decay. One example (a personal favorite of mine) is why people vote Republican, even those dependent upon government grants in aid. It is perhaps of an old established but unrealistic pattern recognition of rugged individualism fostered by the Republicans. Yet like the pattern(s) on the carpet, others might see the Dems as fostering a something-for-nothing mind set.

In a somewhat free society, pattern recognition is essential--but only if the differences are discussed with reason and a unifying resolution be achieved. Furthermore, the complexity of 3 dimensional patterns cannot as readily be understandable as the 2 dimensional exemplar used in this essay.

Selecting the chosen patterns recognized should be as flexible as possible in order to maintain enough social cohesion to facilitate mutual freedom, yet not too much as to enforce authoritarianism.

Dogma is the enemy of unfettered pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the primary organizing principle of living. Language is the most elegant example of pattern recognition. Language is the mold for ideas. Ideas create the vibrancy of culture.

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anything that anybody wants to characterize as "intelligence".

"mapping" the elements of one pattern to the elements of another -- in other words, recognizing that they are the same pattern, rendered in different domains -- is usually called "analogy", a higher-order process associated with our concept of "intelligence".

an oversensitive pattern detector -- one that perceives structure that isn't really there, or that is within the expectation of random events -- leads to paranoia, superstition, conspiracy theory, backwards-playing of Led Zeppelin songs, and so on.

an undersensitive pattern detector -- one that misses many real structures, but rarely imagines nonexistent ones -- leads to conventional, brittle, inflexible thinking that limits adaptation and evolution.

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Alligator Ed's picture

@UntimelyRippd As UntimelyRipped deduced from the abstraction of this essay, perception is personal at its basis and environmental in its directionality. Inborn or induced response patterns of necessity condition our world views. Flaws in processing anywhere along the chain lead to unexpected results. But using the word "flawed" represents a value judgement. Nevertheless, the sensitivity, whether high or low, to observed events inevitably colors perceptual constructs. For instance, why are we self-identified, more or less, as "progressives"?

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@Alligator Ed
our pattern perception systems are trained by our empirical experiences. each of us has a unique, individual set of empirical experiences, layered on top of our individual neurobiology; the result is that each of us has a uniquely biased and uniquely sensitive/specific set of pattern perception systems.

this simple truth is what underpins "the Rashomon effect", named for the Kurosawa film in which we see the same series of events as they were perceived and understood by the various participants. (It's a trope that has subsequently been copped many, many times by TV series writers desperate for a new plot idea.)

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k9disc's picture

There must be 3 choices to account for the agency of the observer. 2D or binary choices deny the agency of the view - It's an intellectual trap.

Two doesn't exist, or two is actually 1. If you put a point in an infinite nothing, you have the point and the space around it, like your - 0 - pattern. If you draw a line differentiating nothing into 2 parts, you don't have 2 nothings, you have 3 nothings - the first nothing, the 2nd, and the line itself.

Yin and Yang is not 2. It is at least 3, and most likely greater than 4. There is the light, the dark, and the line, the whole, the 2 dots, and space outside. That yin and yang has been appropriated by the West as a binary duality is a bummer.

The 3rd choice: the line, the whole, or there other; any differentiation at all, IS agency. To only offer 2 choices is to deny agency or to place the agency at a higher level of authority than the choice maker, giving us no ability to make a choice or get our bearings. It hides the line between the two, hides the whole, and hides the other. There is no hope of making an informed decision because we don't have control or an understanding of the differentiation. We are incapable of knowing where we should stand, or what the whole looks like.

Coke or Pepsi? Republican or Democrat. With us or Against Us. Winners or losers. The saved and the damned. What do you want him to do, NOTHING!?

These are not natural choices. If we accept these binary, 2D choices, we surrender our agency, and refuse to accept the reality that the spaces are part of the pattern: - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - ...

You might want to check out Joseph Farrell's topological metaphor. It's an interesting concept that has great bearing across multiple disciplines. The spaces, or the dividing line between this and that are key; and our current binary, 2D managed reality pretends that autonomous differentiation doesn't exist.

The Enlightenment put blinders on the Renaissance. IMO, it's a straight line from the Enlightenment to digital. It's a recent realization that has upended my intellectual balance. It has put me in touch, and at odds with the new religion of material science. I don't think I'll be fit for any proper Science Discussions. There are no sacred cows in science, science can and does fail, and will fail in the future.

Science is not truth. Science is pursuit of the truth. It is not infallible, it is not completely correct, and never will be. Nobody should trust established science is the whole truth. But just go and say that and you'll be a luddite, flat-earther, religious nutter, or conspiracy theorist.

Great piece. Thanks a bunch, AE.

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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

Alligator Ed's picture

@k9disc

You might want to check out Joseph Farrell's topological metaphor. It's an interesting concept that has great bearing across multiple disciplines. The spaces, or the dividing line between this and that are key; and our current binary, 2D managed reality pretends that autonomous differentiation doesn't exist.

The Enlightenment put blinders on the Renaissance. IMO, it's a straight line from the Enlightenment to digital. It's a recent realization that has upended my intellectual balance. It has put me in touch, and at odds with the new religion of material science. I don't think I'll be fit for any proper Science Discussions. There are no sacred cows in science, science can and does fail, and will fail in the future.

Your comment is worth a full essay in its own right as do several others in this thread both above and below. There are so many aspects discoverable in exploring pattern recognition. A critical point here is not the correct assertion that once at least two elements are present, patterning can be appreciated. We could discuss here Schrödinger's cat--but then be forced to a non-patterned situation (regardless of how many elements even the simple - 0 - pattern contains). The point which you correctly apprehended is that in the world of politics practicality depends upon constraint of choices. Strict practicality is essentially strict authoritarianism. Creative thinkers are initially intellectual outliers--until, at least, their insights are more widely adopted. Such creativity comes at the cost of cohesion.

This also applies to "science". Science is a means, not the end. If science stagnates into not allowing opportunities to refute or expand known "facts", it becomes dogma.

Once again, political pattern recognition to be widely perceived must be constrained to some degree, else no general understanding, shared albeit by small groups, could be attained. Government is by definition constraint. The test of intellectual liberty is the degree to which the allowed degree of differing interpretations are allowed to exist. In my opinion, we are headed to Orwell's 1984 summation: "black is white"....If you say so, boss.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

...nicely stated, ed.

I am another of those pattern-oriented individuals, and it is my opinion — after years of wording my offerings in the language of patterns — that sorting reality by patterns is not a ubiquitous ability. Pattern languages can be learned, however, and many endeavors require facile pattern recognition.

But, as you speculatively extend the perception into social patterns and intellectual patterns, and then into patterning the esoteric and intuitive — I think that is an analytical approach that needs more development in this culture. Perhaps the deficiency is deliberate, because the lack of pattern recognition certainly simplifies the process of applying negative reinforcement in brainwashing societies and enforcing invisible laws.

I liked the way you apply it to politics. I ran across an article recently where Canadians were comparing their politics and elections to the US. Are their patterns subjective, or are ours? In the sketch, below, note where they have placed Trump, Clinton, and Sanders on the political compass. Like many Europeans, they do not recognize any political parties in the US that come close to being on the Left. All of American history to the present has taken place in the upper right quadrant. At least, according to their patterns, which I also happen to see.

You might also be interested in this Canadian developed tool that plots other dimensions onto the X-Y axix of the political compass:

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Alligator Ed's picture

@Pluto's Republic In the lower of your two diagrams, which are rendered as 2 dimensional already encompasses numerous patterns of political thought, derived from a pre-selected set of options. This perfectly fair. But the "pattern" so developed will change according to the changes of preselected variables.

The MSM does the pseudo-intellectual provision of what those variables should be from their own viewpoint. Most people do not think about politics. They go to the polls and then sheepishly respond to their limited information AND limited concern about the people and things voted upon; yet are the very ones to bitch and moan about the sad situation in which we find our nation.

P.S. I would have ranked Killary as more authoritarian than Trump but fortunately she lost and thus did not get to prove my point.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Pluto's Republic The Greens are authoritarian right-wing?

That is...odd.

I notice that in your second graph, there's no place even for Bernie Sanders, much less New Deal or Great Society Democrats, much less for actual socialists.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Pluto's Republic's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

I was addressing more the topic of analysis through patterns and glossing it with examples from politics. But those charts are interesting, no? To answer your questions as best I can:

A voter may envision their overall political position and the views of the candidates on the same plane, we might use a familiar map like this one:

But this type of map may change significantly across time and really must be adjusted to changing views in the party platforms.

The first chart in my comment above is a Canadian view of American politics. The "Green" reference on the chart refers to the Canadian Green Party, not the US Greens.

::

The second chart shows the rotation of the Party's political views across time. It is meant to provide an overall adjustment/update to one's mental mapping. There is a very good chance that the candidates are not in the quadrant you think they are. You may have consistent political principles, but the candidates are affected by external forces that can switch them around, especially money or the need to conform to compromising Party leaders. This was an issue for the Democratic Party in 2016, when the People noticed they were no longer represented by any party in the upper left quadrant.

It's easy to conflate our political parties with our actual political beliefs — especially if we use the mental model I was using, since one side means Democrat/liberal and the other side means Republican/conservative.

But there's a chart... by political scientist Jennifer Victor, that illustrates why it's important to quantifiably map our own political beliefs onto this two-axis chart. She shows that Republicans and Democrats used to be split along economic lines, but that's shifted in the past 50 years to be along social lines. So if you are in the top-right quadrant, your views were better represented by Republicans in 1960, but by Democrats in more recent elections.

After analyzing the voting spectrum on policies and issues, most foreign democracies will observe that there is no Left Wing party in the US.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Pluto's Republic The rotation of the parties over time? That is extremely helpful.

And the subject of charts itself *is* interesting, because they're usually a bit subjective. For instance, I'd argue that Hillary Clinton is absolutely not in the upper-left-hand quadrant in any way, nor was she ever. She was a leader of the movement that moved the Democrats into the upper-right-hand quadrant--and as for the Secretary herself, well--

Start at the place where it says "You" and move in a straight line rightwards to the edge of the graph, and that's more or less where she resides. She can also, on occasion, be convinced pretty easily to dip down into the bottom-right-hand corner, because she doesn't actually give a crap about social freedoms.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Pluto's Republic's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

Glad you found it useful.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Pluto's Republic

I know that VoteCompass says it's based on quantifiable data...but those data in themselves are subject to interpretation. I'd love to see which votes they think put Hillary Clinton into the "economic left." The only wealth redistribution she favors is from the bottom up.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

better, in that it places everything in Canadian and American politics other than Bernie Sanders, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois on the right-hand side of the graph (I'm still puzzled as to how the Canadian Greens became authoritarian right)>

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Alligator Ed's picture

@Pluto's Republic Dispense entirely with the economic axis. Both duopolistic monsters have dispensed entirely with variance in economic spectra. Their spectrum is what their donors want.

This leaves actually a one dimensional line ranging from social libertarian (leaving economics out of the question) and social dogmatism. The slippery end-points of this social/not-social single dimensional axis lead to authoritarianism on one end and anarchy on the other end.

Do not believe politicians when they promise anything. Look at the Andrew Gillum fraud: first promising M4A and then recanting before immolation on the DNC stake in order to embrace ACA. At least we know where DeSantis's position is. Gillum is a second rate liar.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

@Alligator Ed

The academic study came to the same conclusion: That there is no economic axis in the US anymore. The Parties look to be opposed, with different sets of tired slogans, but both parties occupy the same spot (which I suspect is where their capital-rich industrial donors tell them to stand). FDR was able to stop them with a wall of regulations before they strangled the entire nation with their greed. These days, we have no people of character in power to rescue the economy from the predators.

The axis the Parties differ on is the social axis, as you say. The rugged individual vs society. And there are many points inbetween and branching off. Domestic lifestyle issues and social identity is the political playground where the people are permitted and weaponized. But the monumental global issues that will decide their fate are forbidden topics. It's unAmerican to bring them up. The Deep State makes those decisions.

This is the pattern outside observers see. It is recognized that the American People are poorly informed and unable to steer international policy.

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divineorder's picture

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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

is the endless attempts to explain why republican voters go against their own interests. The pattern I see is that in red states no matter what the people want, republicans win. All sorts of theories are out there, but I can only conclude that voter suppression and "other" means are used to bake in a 1%-2% republican bias, maybe a little more to put an election into Florida vote count territory.

Pattern recognition may be influenced by upbringing and nurture. Our ancestors, before electricity sat before the fireplace and conjured faces and animals in the flames, and watched the sky for ships and unicorns in the clouds. A great deal of patterning happens in infancy. I think seeing patterns in everything was a fundamental survival trait, one that evolved enough intellectually for "primitive" societies to survive and create calendars that predicted comets and eclipses. I think we're hard wired for it, and to pass down the observations. Native peoples oral traditions have often turned out to to be true.

Can a series of patterns be linked to form a system? If we are hard wired for it as a survival trait, will we "see" new patterns because we must, when means of survival change? We've gone beyond agriculture, barter and putting up food for the lean years on to capitalism, which like the republicans voting against their own interest, is essentially killing us. We're daily voting against our own interests, and we don't know how to stop.

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Lookout's picture

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on. These phenomena are often described by fractal mathematics, which captures the infinite complexity of nature. Many natural objects exhibit fractal properties, including landscapes, clouds, trees, organs, rivers etc, and many of the systems in which we live exhibit complex, chaotic behavior. Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world can give us new insight, power, and wisdom. For example, by understanding the complex, chaotic dynamics of the atmosphere, a balloon pilot can “steer” a balloon to a desired location. By understanding that our ecosystems, our social systems, and our economic systems are interconnected, we can hope to avoid actions which may end up being detrimental to our long-term well-being.

Fractals: A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc.

https://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-is-chaos-theory/

Here's a couple of examples from nature...
fractal_11a.jpg

fractal_7.jpg
Many more examples @ https://www.wired.com/2010/09/fractal-patterns-in-nature/

Seeing the pattern in rivers makes me thing of Yu. I've become a big fan of Yu the great. He saw and implemented the force of (water) flow, and helped create the Tao philosophy.

It was under the reign of Emperor Shun that the legendary “Yu The Great” was challenged to subdue the flooding of the Yellow River, a task which – through some combination of magical and technological prowess – he accomplished with great success. He subsequently designed a system of dikes and canals which proved to be of great and lasting benefit to his people.

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-shamanic-origins-of-taoism-3182893

From one pattern to another we skip the light so to speak...
Enjoyed the essay.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Keep pushing the door open. Light the corners till the melt.
--Magiamma

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti