Time To Get Real

If we are at all interested in concepts, we must develop the ability to move seamlessly back and forth between the abstract and the physical, in the manner of rotating a circular control smoothly around a dial, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise. Rather than being two discreet states, these are merely locations on a spectrum that intersects with other spectra at every point on its surface.

I have given notice in previous posts of my intention to start with themes that lie at the conceptual end of the spectrum and gradually move towards the  concrete pole. As with any worthwhile journey, the direction of travel will not be linear but will see the path double back on itself and meander at will, becoming convoluted in places.

You must surely be wondering whether this blog is really about knot gardens at all, or is merely a vehicle for expressing some personal beliefs and presenting my own peculiar view of the world. After all, I have spent the last year, since the blog’s inception, dealing with general themes that do not appear to be closely related to knot gardens.

I feel now that the time has come to start an exploration of real, extant knot gardens. Only by doing this will I  become equipped to eventually design and build The Knot Garden in its corporeal form. I expect the completion of that assignment, still several years away from starting, to mark the conclusion of this project.

Precisely why is it important for me to visit existing knot gardens? Firstly, so that I can study their geometry. In a wider sense, I wish to understand the patterns used in their construction. It will be interesting too to learn something of those who commissioned them and those who built them and to discover the gardens’ historical context. Most of all, I wish to gain insights into the belief systems of the people associated with them.

Through a piece of good fortune I have discovered, after scanning through hundreds of images of knot gardens on the Internet, that the one that caught my attention more than any other sits just across the river from where I work – a mere fifteen minutes on foot.

Having done some brief research on St Mary-at-Lambeth, I am drawn both to the garden’s setting – which features a churchyard and a wild garden – and its history. For the site contains monuments to both the Tradescant family, of botanical fame, and Admiral William Bligh of The Bounty, who once found himself on the receiving end of a famous mutiny. Here must surely lie a rich vein of belief-yielding ore.

The Knot Garden believes that balance must be maintained between the theoretical domain of ideas and the tangible world of material entities. My forthcoming visit to The Garden Museum represents the first significant step towards creating the required tension. I very much look forward to entering for the first time the real world of knot gardens.

Ratios For Living

The Knot Garden has written before about the importance of numbers and has mentioned, in passing, ratios such as phi, represented by the Greek letter φ, and the less precise one, generally expressed as 80:20, that underpins Pareto’s Principle.

The Golden Ratio has intrigued some of history’s greatest minds for two and a half thousand years. The actual number, which approximates to 1.618, has remarkable geometric properties that have been recognised and applied by mathematicians, architects, observers of the natural world and (more recently) financial markets traders. Many people claim to have found evidence that φ was used in the design of the Parthenon and the ratio was subsequently given formal mathematical treatment by several prominent individuals, including Euclid and Leonardo de Pisa – otherwise known as Fibonacci.

The Knot Garden, when it finally starts to take shape, will no doubt manifest the Divine Proportion, to use another expression for φ, because of its elegant derivation and pleasing aesthetic. I find these to be more compelling reasons for using the ratio than any mystical attributes that people might imagine the number possesses.

But that time is still a long way off. And in the meantime there is much living to be done. And I am thinking more and more that I can use ratios in a loose, simplistic way to improve certain areas of my life.  The enhancements I have in mind will take the form of a more favourable balance.

I am starting 2018 with a significant step forwards, for I have negotiated an extra work-from-home day. Henceforth I will be home-based on Mondays as well as Fridays, saving me valuable time and money. I will be able to work more effectively and my quality of life will be upgraded.

Although I do not need a ratio to tell me that the extra work-from-home day will improve my life, I nevertheless find such numerical representations useful. They are, after all, very much a part of my nature. I am reassured that the ratio of home-working time to office-working time has increased by a factor of 3.33 from 0.200 to 0.666. The metric gives me a benchmark to work from.

I have considered the informal application of ratios to other aspects of my life. Omega-3 PUFAs to Omega-6 PUFAs, raw food to cooked food, vegetables to meat, water to beer, reading to television, walking to bus travel. The possibilities are endless.

The Knot Garden approves of the use of ratios in a light – even playful – manner. These numbers can truly help us to visualise the balance in our lives and to monitor progress towards our goals.

Human Energy

I am watching a video of what appears to be an alien world. The animation shows brightly coloured life forms of irregular shape moving through a sea teeming with activity, performing tasks whose precise purpose is a mystery to me.

One could be forgiven for believing that this is a science fiction movie. You would be half right. It is science but very definitely not fiction. Far from being set in a distant galaxy, the action unfolding on the screen is taking place inside our bodies. The star of this extravagant production is not the latest silver screen celebrity – it is the mitochondrion. This, as you will already know, is the organelle concerned with cellular energy generation through its role in converting glucose into adenosine triphosphate.

If we are at all interested in human energy then it is helpful to visualise the physiological mechanisms responsible for it. Unfortunately the science is well beyond me and I cannot justify the considerable investment of time required to fully understand it. But that does not prevent me from using a few key concepts to help build an abstract view of this fascinating and important domain.

Why should I take the trouble to construct such a mental picture? Because human energy is a fundamental component of performance. One could even assert that our ability to consistently generate human energy and to apply it effectively is a definition of performance.

To perform well, simply being able to generate the energy is not enough. Filling the petrol tank of your car won’t allow you to reach your destination if you drive around aimlessly or have no map or directions to guide you. The energy needs to be controlled and applied in a very precise way. And without the energy itself we are unable to even start the journey. A vehicle with an empty tank will not reach its destination.

You could easily fill an entire library with books about human energy. We will satisfy ourselves for now with an ariel  view of the factors that influence its supply and the effectiveness with which it is applied.

It is well understood that exercise promotes increased cellular density of mitochondria. The process, known as mitochondrial biogenesis, is facilitated by the remarkable cellular signalling mechanisms that respond to changes in stress – such as those caused by strenuous physical exertion. The human body is smart enough to know when it needs to make more mitochondria. Can you imagine your car building some extra engines because you keep increasing the number of passengers you carry and the speed at which you convey them?

Moving from the physiological sphere to the psychological, we must be aware of factors that sap our energy or cause it to be dispersed,  diffused or squandered.  We can look out for – and hence avoid – vampire beings, animate or inanimate, such as the Cyclops.

The manner in which our energy is directed depends on our goals, our cognitive ability, our mental health and our ability to concentrate our efforts. The Knot Garden considers human energy – and the effectiveness of its application – to be a matter of absolutely critical importance to the way we live our lives.