Why I *Feel* Links Are Like Fractals

Why would I compare the links-to-links-to-links experience of the web to a fractal? Even when I say it here, this should almost be obvious – at least to me!

When you dive into a fractal generator, for an infinite amount of time you can go deeper and deeper and deeper. It never ends – and it’s beautiful! This reminds me of what happens to me on the web, my experience of linking to linking to linking. I start to pursue a topic and then explore another branch, and in an infinite way, I can click link-to-link-to-link, diving into what feels to me like the fractal of the web, exhilarating as an unending roller-coaster. For example, I might start out looking at SEMAT, but end up reading about Myrddin Wyllt on Wikipedia – the Welsh legendary prophet and madman. And there is never any end.

It is all connected and interdependent.

Looking at this from a Buddhist framework, does this mean I am becoming “eternalist” in my thinking? Not at all. At the center of the eternalist point of view is the idea that things are unchanging, free of causes and conditions. But even in the simplest example, if you even just look at the cup of coffee next to your laptop in the morning (or, ahem, if I do), then you can see evidence of things that change. The cup is full. I call it “cup of coffee.” I drink it. It is empty. I think of it as lacking coffee and dirty. On the way to the kitchen, I drop that thing I call “a dirty cup” on the floor. The lip of the cup chips. The cup has changed. Maybe it smashes to pieces and becomes “garbage.” I have an emotional reaction to it because I liked the cup because of how I have interacted with it over time.

You might argue that fractals don’t change on the meta level and so this disproves the idea that all compounded phenomena are impermanent.

But there is a great example from Buddhism/Hinduism called “The Net of Indra” which is a net of jewels and within the jewels all the other jewels are reflected. In some ways, you could compare to a spider’s web covered with dewdrops – only stretching into forever.

I started to link to link to link to understand and I found this article:


Roy Maurer, the blogger for this site, writes:

What is much less known in our Western world today is that the discipline of meditation– just watching — led the Buddha to a profound realization of the human experience as a Complex Adaptive System. The Buddha realized the nature of complex causality from the inside out, and this insight came to be known as Dependent Origination.

Fractals remind me of what Buddhists refer to as “Samsara” – the cycle of existence. While mind is focused outwards, lost in its projections, it is similar to being in a fractal – only we don’t realize that. We constantly link to link to link in the reality we encounter every day, a million interconnections and causes and conditions. Even if a scholar would take issue with what the blogger above proposes, I would suggest that you can say that the Buddha entered what we might think of as a meta state in which he suddenly realized the fractal that is Samsara.

So while I am not saying that reality may necessarily *function* like a fractal, I would say that our experience of it is *fractal-like*.

Now, I find it interesting to see that this Roy Meurer is mixing business with Buddhism. Himalayan Buddhists might find this a very, very dangerous pre-occupation, I do believe, maybe. They always admonish us not to mix Dharma and business as business is about ordinary grasping. But I hope that once we humans achieve a certain level of human development, once we begin to realize, this changes and becomes not true.

The reason or the causes and conditions behind my falling into this branch of Samsara’s fractal, what I call a “thread,” is, ultimately, my wondering if we could start to transcend the suffering in the workplace by working differently? By doing as Alistair Cockburn talks about and not having to name the process? Could we work in an enlightened way and then, since this is what we do a good portion of our time, start to achieve realization in this way?

I think it all starts with a realization, a small glimpse of what the Buddha realized, that our minds are lost in a fractal and therefore this affects the very processes by which we work. We think we can solidify everything into a concept, some “process.” As Sogyal Rinpoche often quotes Tulku Ogyen Rinpoche:

Samsara is mind looking outwardly lost in its projections.

Nirvana is mind looking inwardly, realizing its nature.

(To read this excellent article, visit Tricycle’s website here: http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/mind-clear-pool )

OGG file (not embed-able) – very cool example.


One Response to “Why I *Feel* Links Are Like Fractals”

  1. When are we ready for Peer Review? « Says:

    […] not a container.”  I think this is something I need to meditate on because, as I say in my Fractal post, it is how things *feel* that remind me of fractals.  Not necessarily how fractals function in and […]

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