Zone Mapping with Gestalt Perspective

I was on my way to a gardening class this weekend, when I got to thinking about “Zone Maps”.
Zone Mapping is a graphical method in permaculture design that is used to organize and compare systems (most often ecosystems, landscaping, sustainable gardens, and conservatory area regeneration,etc).
After intensive observation of a system, One drafts a zone map with concentric circles. The simplest zone map would start with something like this
Zone 0 – basic necessities of people and dwelling areas.
Zone 1 – areas of ecosystem designated as support of basic necessities
Zone 2 – semi-wild. this is areas with lots of edges.. where system meet (i.e Ecotone)
Zone 3 – the wild. untamed or unknown areas or areas not of use.

Zone maps can be applied to more than just landscape or conservatory projects. A designer can use them to graphically map out communities, business models and just about anythings. This is an application to aid the study and comparison of things and concepts as systems.

Which lead me to thinking about the Gestalt perspective, which includes the study and comparison of “wholes
So I experimented with some zone-mapping with Gestalt:


Gestalt Contact Awareness

o basic necessities basic needs
basic responsibilities
1  support of  basic necessities “nourishment”
cultivation of skills
growth, learning
2  semi-wild
interaction of systems
new interpersonal activity
interacting with environment
3 wild
unused or unknown
expulsion  ideas and activity
that is either “toxic” or
“no longer fits”
letting go


This is what a ‘zone map on gestalt perspective’ might look like:

My zone map is a comparison and between: a simplified organization of a ecological design ;
and an organization of developing awareness from Gestalt therapy perspective. Note these are just my conjectures just for zone mapping practice.
I am starting to learn how to use zone maps, so this one is rough… missing a few components.
I hope to post improved experiments later as I learn.


Swimming between Systems

Today I learned a new word: Ecotone.
An Ecotone is an area where two ecological systems or communities meet, transition and integrate.
That to say: Enough differences between meeting systems or communities to observe a boundary , however resources are constantly exchange enough to to describe any “boundary” as permeable. A simple example would be beach and sea, where minerals and small life are constantly be deposited or eroded.

I cannot help, but to think of my new word “Ecotone”, learned in my permaculture class and compare it withthe word “Contact” from Gestalt Therapy. Contact is the meeting of differences, where resources are exchange between. And so is an Ecotone.

It does not surprise me (anymore, that is) to find similar, if not synonymous terms in both Gestalt and Permaculture. Both approaches merge science and holism. Gestalt therapy places weight on one’s awareness of his/her real-time experience ; Permaculture places heavy emphasis on one’s observation and interaction with ecological systems.
What first peaked my interest about permaculture as an approach, is that permaculture may be far better suited to empirically support holism.
Permaculture design is anchored, concretely, in observing ecology.

I have other ambitions and curiosities with permaculture. Besides I am only beginning my course. None the less, I welcome any personal synthesis between the gestalt theory, permaculture, science and holism , as I continue to learn.

On a completely unrelated topic: It’s still cold here in Pennsylvania, It was sleeting when I left my class for home. I feel like I am swimming between seasons, much like the Swans in the picture above.

Artist and Appreciator (Repost)

Revised posted

Artist and Appreciator” was originally posted on May 3, 2009



Vivaldi’s “the Four Seasons: Spring ”
& Sand Animation film by Ferenc Cak

you tube video posted by franzhun

(I particularly love this video at 1:45 where the artist starts with the image of birds in the sky…that transforms into a figure the face of a woman, then the figure if filled in with emotive facial expression.)

I am both envious and appreciative of Artists. they are able to pull figures out of backgrounds with a few strokes on a canvas.
Often its just a swirl and a sweep of lines, enough to provoke the art appreciator (in this case, me)..
to fill in the rest with his mind, experience and emotions.

The Artist and Appreciator together form images and share aesthetics on the common meeting- ground of a canvas… The Artist and the Appreciator share a complexed timeless wordless communication.. shared ideas and emotions

An interplay forms between Artist and Appreciator

  • A  new figure form out of a ground
  • Its not necessary for an Artist to draw or even explain every detail…
  • Its not necessary of the Artist to analyze the artists motive.

-The Art critic may analyze the motives of the “Artist” .
-A neurologist may map on and explain the way an appreciating on-looker perceives images,
However neither  fully understand the communication, until step into the gestalt fully participate in the Artist-appreciator experience.

the Artist who initiates this communication
I am able to appreciate this communication
we, togethe,r are participate in this communication.

Added Revision:  I  was listening to music yesterday while working on some home-improvement projects (including mounting some art on a wall).  Vivaldi’s Four Season was playing. I thought of this video.  Here it is again.

Gestalt Definition

An  organization or integration of components that are so interdependent , the whole is otherwise not easily described or easily summated.

  •  Most often use to describe spatial and /or temporal “phenomena”  or observable happenings..
  •  but can be used to describe  constructs and relationships.
  •   The organization or integration could graphically described as  a figure that is forming from a backround, where it remains in “contact” the ground.  That is: ” what is the gestalt” is always” in contact with “not the gestalt, globally”.

An example of a gestalt being not otherwise easy to describe or not easy summate might be   hand writing on paper and the hand eye coordination required.

  • One could study the functions of the nervous system and arm and fingers as it writes on paper.
  • One could study the visual process of the nervous system and eyes watching as one writes.

However, one could not just add the data of the  two studies  and expect to understand the interplay of hand an eye that is  involved with writing.  Instead one might treat and study hand eye coordination in writing as an integrated whole or Gestalt, because the components mention formerly are rather interdependent.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

is the creed of gestalt psychology ( a scientific and holistic study of perception that commonly uses gestalts) and a rather striking statement.  Mathematicians familiar with calculus and  analytic geometry might take issue with the literal value of this statement.  but consider the following examples:


In this visual example  of “closure” or “reification”:  an image of a triangle will  appear to a viewer.  the visual data of a triangle(in the right image above) is only constructed with the viewers  biology (his brain, eyes,etc.) and with all the components of the image viewed as a whole.  simply adding the visual components will not produce the visual data that is the triangle.
It would seem that  the arrangement of the smaller components must be involved in producing the triangle in any equation, but this would be hard to predict without at least considering the image as an integrated whole… or gestalt.

See if you can read the following:

you slouhd be albe to read  tihs sneetnce esliay
buscease yuor mind orangiezs waht you raed itno wohles.

(to check your “translation” mouse-over the highlighted above.)

Practical Investigations with  Gestalts

A gestalt   could be an organism,  family, community,  a social movement  a widget in a visual environment on your computer, a market place in business,  a symbiotic relationship inside an ecosystem and so on.
Since some things are difficult to study internally due interdependence  of its components and properties, thinking with gestalts may be helpful.  For example one may study cultures, subcultures and social movements. by comparing and contrasting “what is not” the culture, subculture, and social movement in question.  Graphically, one defines  a gestalt  by its borders, where it interacts with “other”.
The same  comparison is also done in Gestalt therapy  ( * not the same as gestalt psychology) where a client  focus on where and how “he”, or “she”  contacts and interacts his/her  world, environments and circumstances to define him or herself.

Gestalt is a graphical interpretation, that can include approximation. It is origionally a German word to describe a form, shape,or figure. I think that it is an ugly word when spoken yet beautiful in its usefulness.

on Being Empirical, Rational and Epistemologally Plural.

An old Economist  joke revised:

Two economy professors walk into  into a crowded bar .  One  pointed to the ground  and says “look! five dollar bill “. “It can’t be.” replied the Other.   “If it were somebody would have picked it up by now.”

This is  rational expectation in “rational choice theory”.  The  punch line of the joke is that  professors the believes in his principles of logic so strongly that he ignores the facts.  His rational expectation is only a prediction based on a logical foundation. It is only a prediction because circumstance challenges foundation.

I  flip a silver dollar coin  nine  consecutive times and in all nine times tails came up heads . I am now going to a flip the coin a tenth  and final time.

Janus CoinIs it more likely that the coin comes up heads again like it had before?   Or should I bet that the coin flip more likely ends in tails because it tails is due.  What does my experience tell me?
Using Mathematics, we know that neither is more likely: the outcome of a coin flip is 50%  likely to heads, and 50% likely to be tails….each time a coin is flipped, regardless of the past or future.
Thinking otherwise is called “Gamblers Fallacy”. Casinos count on this fallacy to make money..

Whether one relies more on evidence, facts and experience or whether one relies on logic, principles and mathematical predictions… One must consider both being empirical and rational, considering both apparent surface circumstance and the deeper connective constancy.

Empirical worldThe Science of Physics, beginning with Isaac Newton is a universal volume of rule to explain the surface of happenings, constantly being tweaked by new hypothesis and rigorous experimentation.
In that sense  found Newton an early  way to merge rationalism and empiricism to explain the way things work in the common denominator of the natural world.   Science and its method  strongly suggests that all that happens – or- is… follows the same rules.

But Science is largely incomplete,  does not always directly  address how one makes choices in his daily life, and says little about Ethics, Aesthetics or subjective conditions.
I may know what, why, or how things happen much of the time… but how should I or others act? what about quality and  non- quantitative measurable experiences?

Epistemological Pluralism.

Although the rational-empirical synthesis including science and technology  have been productive in age of reason, Its clear our knowledge  is  far from complete :  It maybe necessary to integrate or incorporate  other modes of thought, problem solving and investigations.
Some other modes of thinking  for  assimilating:


Does earth rotate around the sun? or does the Sun and other planets, stars wobble around a earth at the center?

It seems odd, but one  could argue either way.
Ultimately, It is more practical, in science and education to say the Earth Rotates  around the Sun.– the sun being the center of a “solar System”.  That’s how its taught to us in science class.

Pragmatism assumes pluralism.  There maybe two or more ways to interpret: an idea; proposal; or policy… The meaningfulness, or validity of each interpretation is defined by its usefulness and consequences in concrete reality– verifiable by experience.  That is, the most practical, or  most concretely useful interpretation of an idea,  policy, definition, or strategy is the correct one.
Some say we define objects, carve them out in our reality ,due to the objects associate usefulness, example I know a chair when I see one because of how  a chair is used in my life.
Pure pragmatism has its own consequence on its own, someone could justify any action as true by rationalizing its immediate usefulness.  With no other principles, and a too small a bracket of experience,   pure pragmatism- of- the- moment may leave one with unstable fluctuating world- view.   But integrated with reason and  experience I believe it is sound.
Pragmatism may ultimately be a way of deciding which paradigm is most useful for a task, in epistemological  pluralism.

Phenomenological Investigations
An important form of investigation is perspective-taking or “feeling-into“. An individual imagines other being’s circumstances, and the participation, capacity, cognition of other beings (people and animals) in those circumstances, checking in with his own emotions and cognition.
This holistic (mind/body)  form of investigation is a constantly evolving mix of logic, emotion, past experience, and unbias observation. Mixed with reason it is a powerful tool for developing personal ethics ;   understanding of other experiences  and other circumstances, and developing  choice- making of  “doing what feels right“.
Buddhist refer to this as this as “compassion” and western philosophers, humanist and existentialist refer to this as “Empathy“.

A phenomenological method of letting go of bias and mental clutter to experience unity and connectivity to the concrete (and for some spirit).    Also a method of of mysticism, and a way to realize nature  that  transcends using  Reason alone.  Much is written by me  on this blog, from a  Zen perspective.
SEE the Meditation Category.

Somewhat esoteric form of intellectual criticism. Deconstruction is a way of critical thinking from a nihilistic percspective.
decontsruction serves to expose or extract the cultural bias, norms, zeitgeist, symbolism, self containment, meaning, modes of thinking, and or absurdity of a “text”.
A “text” code be anything from film, law books, to music that reflect the thinking time or genre….
Deconstruction is a way to think outside of the box.

Figure and Ground.
Some say  a social movement can be studied by comparing it to what is not.
For example: one might critique “Feminism in Twentieth Century” as to where it contacts “What is not Feminism” in the Twentieth Century.
What happens when a social movement meets, conflicts, withdraws or compares with what -is- not  the movement in the era, gives definition to a movement.  Imagine a figure in a picture against its back round, where the figure is shaped by its edges..  Gestalt social theory is not in vogue, probably because there aren’t many rules.
But it is an interesting way of thinking,  The Figure/ground concept is prevalent in Eastern Philosophies pertaining to phenomena , Holism, Field Theory and gestalt  psychology of perception.
This may give us some ways of looking at social phenomenon that scientific method has difficulty with.

Hermeneutics is a  broad  branch of study pertaining to    interpreting  Scripture , Law, myth and  parable stories … the meaning ,the language ,and  the symbolism.
Hermeneutics  also included the process of interpretation of texts.  For example:
When The U.S Supreme Court interprets  the U.S.  constitution, ratified in 1788  the federal judges consider  the intentions of the Constitutions authors  when they wrote the words.
Another Example:  Protestant reformer Martin Luther postulated that interpreting meaning in the Bible rest in the authority of the reader.
So where does the meaning of scripture, law and myth reside? the writer in his time zeitgeist? the reader in his time, age in zeitgeist.  Who has the authority to interperet meaning? All these are important in  anthropological and cultural study. Hermeneutics is that investigation.

There are many other more modes of thinking.
Why is pluralism so important?   Why do we need to integrate and incorporate other paradigms into our thinking  ?
As Abraham Maslow, early humanistic  psychologist ,once said, “”If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”   Have only one way to solve difficulties and interpret,   than we tend to  know  things in  only one manner.  If we are to understand and study reality in all its  richness and  facets, including science, the humanities, ethics, aesthetics, well being, then we need to have many different kinds of tools.

Permaculture: the ethics of gardening

A couple weeks ago  I took a class on soil, and I learned quite a lot. One definition of soil, pertaining to growing and gardening, is a “The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the Earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of land plants”.

Did you know that plant roots “decide” the type and levels of microbial life in their symbiotic soil relationships?

The  form of gardening that I am becoming more interested in is called Permaculture Design. Permaculture is in fact more than gardening. The name permaculture is derived from “Permanent Culture” and “Permanent Agriculture”  The definition as  definition as stated put by Bill  Mollison:

“Permaculture is a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which in a pattern which functions to benefit Life in all forms. Its aim is to seek a place for organisms.”

“Intro To Permaculture” , B. Mollison

The design principles and methods of Permaculture include an eclectic range of ideas that mirror other important  philosophical systems

  • Taoist themes such  as patterning,  flowing with and harmonizing with Nature; and Wu Wei,
  • Holistic ideas such as diversity, long or self sustainability and self regulation,
  • Conservation concepts such recycling and renewing of resources, ethical concerns of environment-
  • Sciences  a wide range including Topography, Ecology, Biology; observation and data collection

Ethics in Action



I, personally  find it very  interesting , that certain philosophical principles and ideas found in   Taoism, Holism and conservation theory maybe empirically testable, observable and possibly provable, in the form of producing complex organic gardens.

Mollison states that “Everything Gardens”, I wonder if we could say everything IS a garden,metaphorically.

For some, permaculture is paradigm for solving societal problems;  scarcity and  economic problems,  and it serves as an Ethical base for humans regarding society and nature. It address the need for science to have ethics. Its an Ethic in action. Its ethics for  science and science gives it validity.

However, at its kernel, permaculture is a design system, incorporating ethics and problem solving, for gardening, horticulture  and agriculture.

Food for thought

Right now I am just interested in gardening and being creative.

but I can’t wondering: “can a diversified designed garden “make decisions” as whole? If so can I draw conclusion about self regulation and self autonomy in other non gardening systems? Perhaps I’m being a bit ambitious in thinking that gardening can answer age old philosophical questions about “Free Will” and “determinism”  by demonstrating relatively self-autonomic ecosytems.

I am barely a novice gardener anyway.

Bill Mollison is credited by many as the person responsible for kickstarting the permaculture revolution. His 5 core principles are:

  • Work with nature… rather than against nature.
  • The Problem is the Solution
  • Make the least change for greatest possible effect.
  • The yield of a system is  [hypothetically] unlimited.
  • Everything gardens.

These principles mirror Ancient Philosophies such as Taoism, Mollison conceptualized the core concepts after his years of studying organism and symbiotic relationships as a biologist and his study of Tribal farmers in the Pacific. Mollison and others draw upon the laws of physics, biology,  Natural Science with admitted affection for self-reliance, care fore the earth and Care for life,   Aesthetics and wisdom and the willingness to study and pattern other design theories objectively.

Food for Fact

Some real problems that real permaculture designers are working on:

File:20080708 Chicago City Hall Green Roof.JPG

A Green Roof in Chicago

  • Food Scarcity – Designers  use strategy to create long sustaining agricultures in many areas and reinvigorate  land for new areas of food growth. Permiculture has been used to grow orchards and gardens in desert climates and mountains, without the aid of heavy machinery.
  • Supply problems – With the growing cost of fuel to transporting food, Permaculturalist focus producing for local markets and consumers, growing food inside urban neighborhoods  and towns (even on roof tops!), with a diversity of produce. A designer always has community in mind.
  • Conservation – Permaculturalist Use and value renewable resources. A basic ethical  principle is “Care of Earth, Care of people, and the  Reinvestment of those Ends” . A designer wastes nothing if he can.
  • Teaching  awareness – permaculturalist teach and demonstrate a healthy relationship between people and ecosystem and ingenuity in solving problems that the layman can learn. The Teaching of  people to grow there own food Is the teaching of people to be more self reliant.

More thoughts

So right now I  have been learning about gardening and I have been learning about soil. It would not be surprising to me in the future if most people here in U.S grow their own  food gardens, whether they live in Rural, City, or suburban areas in the future.   Permaculture is a new way to use  old ideas . With the need for solutions for such problems as rising food price, as well as the need to fill the void of ethics, Permaculture  as a way of thinking, becomes one more tool for the consumer. One that is potentially here to stay.

breath, existing, and contact

According to one thread of existential thinking, a person exists by separating “self” from “other”; and connecting and integrating ‘self “and “other” in his environment.
The meetings of difference of self and other is called contact and its process is where living takes in the present centered moment.

I ask myself:
What better method is there developing awareness of “contact ”boundary interactions between “self and “other”, than Zazen or Zen meditating?.

In meditation: one begins sitting, breathing naturally, and simply being whole,
Letting go of the the “shoulds”, “should have” and “might have beens” which are imaginary places in ones mind,
and become what is …in the here and now ; mind and physics together as one.

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