on knots

from Knots, by R. D. Laing

mind as string

"a mind can get into a knot because it thinks of itself as string."
paraphrased from Gary Zhexi Zhang during breakfast in New Apollo Diner, Brooklyn, NY, on September 25, 2023:

What makes a mind a string? The continuity between past, present, and future?!

What if: A desire for continuity is the needle that threads beads of presentness.

A series of moments, seen as the present moments that they were/are, roll around on a table. Ordering them in sequence allows a narrative, maybe a history, perhaps even a teleology. A projection of the future ('where the beads might go') allows and necessitates the need for a past ('where the beads have been'). The string that connects them is formulated out of 'the need for continuity', formulated out of 'the need for prediction', formulated out of 'a fear of uncertainty'.

Fear of uncertainty is the elemental force that generates the "string".

"Part-way through this particular talk," writes Jim Dreaver, who was present, "Krishnamurti suddenly paused, leaned forward and said, almost conspiratorially, 'Do you want to know what my secret is?' " (There are several accounts of this event; details vary.) Krishnamurti rarely spoke in such personal terms, and the audience was electrified, Dreaver recalls. "Almost as though we were one body we sat up… I could see people all around me lean forward, their ears straining and their mouths slowly opening in hushed anticipation." Then Krishnamurti, "in a soft, almost shy voice", said: "You see, I don't mind what happens."

What if: without a fear of uncertainty, a desire to mind what happens, there is no string, and thus no knot?

"At the root of this erasure is the increasing insistence that understanding history, looking at the order of events and the consequences of previous actions to understand why the contemporary moment exists as it does, somehow endorses the present. Explanations are not excuses — they are the illumination that builds the future. But the problem with understanding how we got to where we are is that we could then be implicated. And innocent victims cannot have any responsibility for creating the moment."

Techniques for knots

Given a knot, how do we undo it?

  1. Analysis: Analyze the knot according to its own logic & carefully manipulate the string. Sometimes, tools like a marlinspike are used to directly and strongly intervene. (see: Acceptance and Committment therapy and the "chinese" finger trap toy metaphor)

  2. Forgetting: Cut through the knot. Effective, destructive, and you have less string left.

  3. Decreasing self-friction: Alter the friction between the string and itself. Akin to adding coconut oil to tangled hair to aid in unmatting. The friction between the string and itself is altered.(see: S. N. Goenka on Vipassana meditation as adding detergent to a washing machine.)

  4. Rigidity: Alter the bendability of the string. Piano wire or monofilament fishing lines, are difficult to tie knots in, because they do not bend well.

Materials without knots.

A coil of clay or dough, or a chain of ball magnets can develop a knot, but can be smushed back into a linear string.

(alternative materials, alternative mind-models?)

On Metaphor.

(What does this metaphor enable?)


(How is the bead of the present?)

..... (more soon.)

Last edited 10/18/2023

from Knots, by R. D. Laing