By Joe

Here's an introduction I wrote for our upcoming work of publication re: PATTERNS...

In my early twenties, someone told me that the spiral of a snail’s shell was mathematically the same as the spiral of our Milky Way galaxy. I found that astonishing, and actually quite touching. It gave me hope that maybe life, the universe, and everything was more than just a nonsensical mess. Maybe there was some kind of order, or connectivity -- some kind of pattern.

Ever since then, I’ve always looked for patterns. Things that repeat: visual patterns, rhythmic patterns, behavioral patterns. They’re everywhere if you seek them out. Of course, there’s a danger in seeing patterns that might not really be there. This is how we fall victim to scams, superstition, or bigotry.

Human beings are natural pattern seekers. Back when we lived in the wild, we looked for patterns to find food or avoid predators, and successful pattern seekers were rewarded with full bellies and safe hiding places. It’s baked into our biology to notice patterns. And so, if we’re hoping to find one, we probably will.

Over the years, I’ve looked closely at a lot of snail shells, and one thing that’s become obvious is that they’re all different. Some look more like the Milky Way than others. At first, this made me question whether life, the universe, and everything were meaningless after all. And perhaps I’m just being an optimist, but ultimately I haven’t given up hope.

Mathematical patterns are perfect. They’re also abstract. In the real world, no patterns are perfect. They all fluctuate between repetition and deviation. So, how can you tell the difference between a false pattern and an imperfect one? Well, I haven’t found a way that works every time. And as far as I know, nobody has. But these days, I try to approach my pattern seeking with a healthy dose of skepticism and self awareness. And now I find that when I do see one, it’s all the more beautiful.


Created: Sep 09, 2016

Tags: patterns book, introduction

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