A Pattern Language ~ Immerse your Soul in Love

I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.”
~ Gustave Flaubert, November

Wordplay hides a key to reality that the dictionary tries in vain to lock inside every free word.”
~ Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

The magical pattern of life and its cycles

When I was a child, I enjoyed playing with words in my mind. It was a repetitive game for which I would hide in the woods or under an old ombu tree, far away from others. I was curious about words’ etymology and later on, when in my teens, I devoted many hours to study Greek and Latin on my own, just to see how words were born and what they meant.

Later on in my twenties, this passion led me to study French, German and Japanese (curiously, English was the last language I learned)…I also learned computer languages, curious to understand how the software “speaks” with the hardware and makes it “do” what it does…

I didn’t know then, but I was trying to discover the patterns of life: the hidden thread behind it all

(Languages are infinite: with finite sounds and symbols, we can create words and with finite words, we can create infinite lines, thoughts and stories…as an old writer said, the stories we can create are limited and have already been written: we just repeat them in different ways…can we ever change these stories, can we ever create new ones that never existed?)

Also as a child, I enjoyed building little houses, channels and labyrinths using sticks, stones and leaves fallen on the forest’ soil, where I spent many hours on my own. Later as a teen, I dedicated long hours to the design not only of houses, but entire communities: I was blown by the concept of the Hanging Babylonian Gardens and the ziggurats, which I saw at one of grandma’s big dictionaries.

Design, as I came to know with the years, is inherent to us: we can’t “not design”, but for some of us, design is also a need and a call to understand the world around us, to re-create little worlds.

My fascination with Permaculture, beyond its sustainable building of human systems, is its understanding of patterns: patterns in Nature and patterns in us (as we are Nature made conscious)

These past days, I have discovered a new language: the language of plants.

I am taking a botany course and at the beginning the learning was somewhat shocking: coming from a “system’s thinking” approach like Permaculture, I was frustrated when forced to learn names after names of what I saw as senseless reductionism: thallus, indusium, gemmae, rhizoids, megasporangia, corymb, umbel, panicle, perianth, sheath, apical meristem…beautiful and mysterious names that meant nothing but our anthropocentric way to understand the world by cutting, breaking and inspecting every single little corner of this wonderful and magical world we inhabit.

A few weeks ago at the laboratory we were studying fruits and seeds. Looking at a naked, open bean through the microscope, its plumule exposed and murdered by our scalpel, I suddenly felt a mixture of sacred humility and shame: I felt as I was invading the privacy of a living being, similar to having a woman’s ovaries exposed for everybody to see…

Suddenly this week, all the new language and images that were thrown at me without obvious connection and I was struggling to learn, got to my core in the form of a conifer’s life cycle as I was drawing it.

Sometimes life becomes overwhelming: being present and with the eyes wide open can be extremely painful and deeply lonely (only those who choose to close their eyes and hearts to the world can be eternally “happy” and deeply dysfunctional while thinking they are “normal”)

This past week was one of those…and to make things worse I decided to read “The Collapse of Western Civilization” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (in it, we can read: “the most astounding fact is that the victims knew what was happening and why” referring to us as society knowing about climate change and its consequences)…one of the ideas that stayed with me from this book was that “knowledge is not power”, an idea that contradicts all what I’ve known…but that makes so much sense after all these years)

A slow but steady “recovery” started when I opened my botany book again: there I learned how plants’ tissues differ from ours and look so much advanced…then I moved to the mechanisms of photosynthesis (“the most important process in the entire world”)

Ombu tree in Buenos Aires, my city
Ombu tree in Buenos Aires, my city

Suddenly I recalled the trees of my childhood and my little games with words while sitting under the caring branches of the old ombu tree: “Silvia means ‘spirit of the woods’”

Then, I turned to Christopher Alexander’s book: (A Pattern Language)

There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do inner work…that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself….The fact is, a person is so formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.”
~ Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language

Finally, I turned to Radiohead and their beautiful song that so reflected my own perceptions and feelings, and the answer came just in the last lines:


“Rows of houses, all bearing down on me
I can feel their blue hands touching me
All these things into position
All these things we’ll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out

This machine will, will not communicate
These thoughts and the strain I am under
Be a world child, form a circle
Before we all go under
And fade out again and fade out again

Cracked eggs, dead birds
Scream as they fight for life
I can feel death, can see its beady eyes
All these things into position
All these things we’ll one day swallow whole
And fade out again and fade out again

Immerse your soul in love


~ Radiohead


I’ll do.

4 Comments on “A Pattern Language ~ Immerse your Soul in Love

  1. I have been feeling this way too, lately. A feeling as though I have been asleep, and the way that I used to look at the world has been very, very limited (and abusive). It’s overwhelming, shaming, sad, and I’ve had an urgency to speak and share too. And yet the awakening has been gradual. I am wondering what brings about awakening, and the desire to see that the hierarchies we construct between life, and between people, need to be overcome as quickly as we can manage?


  2. Yes Nicci, I wonder the same: my “awakening” happened about three years ago, it was sudden and urgent and became an anxiously looking for more evidence on the new world I was able to see…similar to Neo in The Matrix, like taking a pill. Since then, I’ve met wonderful people who seemed to have woken up or lived in that other realm most of their lives…but as knowledge of The Matrix has not yet freed me, I am somewhat stuck and trapped. Oreskes’ book explores the possibility that knowledge itself is not enough, and that sometimes may be even worse as we tend to rationalize: why knowing what we know about climate change, social justice, resources depletion and our abusive and oppressive relationship with the world, we seem unable to change? I’ve found that a quiet dedication to the little things I love (and the beings I love, including humans) is the only way, at least for me, to avoid going crazy with despair and into deep depression…yet this is sometimes not enough

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The stories of your childhood inquisitiveness and wonder still seem to be so much a part of your critical insights and actions today, Sylvia. Plants are amazing – the wonder of plants emerging from seeds never ceases to be a source of mystery and delight, or the way plants bend with the light, or close their flowers at night.

    Thank you for sharing the depth of your spirit – it makes me feel less alone when I connect with your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Carola and thanks for your comments. Reading your blog I sometimes feel the same. We have sisters and brothers in the most unexpected places…

    Liked by 1 person

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