The Pause that Refreshes (was Re: ART: What Art Is)

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Sat Jun 03 2000 - 10:38:55 MDT

From: "phil osborn" <>, Sun, 28 May 2000

Your observations about Rand's emotional attachments to ideas and
her personal strategies for accepting or refuting opposing
viewpoints was really interesting to me. I found your analogy
for describing responses as a squeal of feedback loops appealing.
It is quite similar to something that I've been observing for the
last 5-10 years in social interactions and their analogs in the physical
world and their analogies in various human endevours.

I'll quote you again, so that the people here remember what you

>As I have noted elsewhere in this discussion group, one of
>the techniques for improving signal to noise ratio is
>regenerative feedback. Regenerative feedback, however,
>always introduces distortion, generally in the form of
>maintaining wave forms past their original decay period.
>When you turn up the regeneration too much, the feedback
>completely overcomes the input signal and becomes a
>self-sustaining feedback loop - the unmistakeable feedback
>The feedback squeal, however, represents the parts of the
>receiving system that you try to keep invisable. It no
>longer has anything to do with the triggering signal - just
>the harmonics of the receiver. To avoid this, you try to
>detune the receiver, or introduce - in modern high-end P.A.
>systems - smart detection and auto-dampening of such
>feedback. This corresponds in one sense, roughly, to the
>Zen concept of the empty vessel for enlightenment - -
>combined, let's say, with systematic mental tricks for
>I.e., you try to disengage your emotional attachment to
>ideas. Any emotional attachment to an idea is a block to
>truth anyway.

It seems to me that if Rand simply stopped and took a deep breath
when faced with something contradictory to her worldview, then she
might not have polarized the people around her so much. It's a
strategy that is useful in many daily living contexts.

I would like expand, or take your feedback idea a step further, and
illustrate how one can use a feedback "delay" in our personal and
social interactions. So then, allow me to start with "The Physics of
Traffic Flows".

A traffic flow is a classic stimulus-response problem, where the
stimulus is oscillatory in nature, and if the total time lag is too
large before a response or if the response is too strong, then
instabilities result. The three time lags that contribute to the
instabilities are:

1) perception time to recognize the nature of stimulus
2) decision time required to choose response
3) execution time for response.

One of my old professors, Dr. Montroll, at UC Irvine 18 years ago,
modelled the traffic flow problem, deriving stability criteria for
this system and he found that small low frequency disturbances cause
the line of traffic to act as an amplifier. So if the time lag
between an input fluctuation and a response is long, and the
response is very strong, then one may be responding too strongly to
a situation that has passed. The response might then be in phase
with the fluctuation, further deteriorating the control.

The best way to stabilize this flow problem is to make *small*
responses to small fluctuations soon after they occur. He said that
it is good policy for the stabilization of social, economic, and
political interactions as well as those common to traffic flows.

So then, one Rule-of-thumb in responding to any stimulus that one
does not want to become unstable is: the longer one waits in
response to a stimulus, the strength of that response should be
exponentially less with respect to that time.

I prefer to take this even one step further, and instead of a
_small reponse_, just take a _deep breath_.

I call this: "The Pause that Refreshes", or
             "The Space Between the Thoughts"

The times that I have had "ballistic" reactions to something usually
meant that I had experienced a major conflict between my heart and
my mind, or else something in my body chemistry was out of whack,
and so a "ballistic" reaction to someone or something is a major
wake-up call for me to go away and take care of that psychological
or physical conflict inside of myself.

In the book: _First Things First_ by Stephen Covey, Covey devoted a
chapter (9) to the "Pause". He says that the quality of life depends
on what happens in the space between stimulus and response. It's a
moment of choice that is a moment of truth. A testing point of our
character and competence. In this moment, some of the factors that
are acting on us (often unconsciously):

- urgency
- the social mirror
- our own expectations
- the expectations of others
- our deep values
- our operational values
- our scripting
- our self-awareness
- our conscience
- our fundamental needs
- our wants

In our responses, we are responsible for our decisions. It's a
precious moment- even those smallest pauses in response to a
stimulus. Over time, those small conscious choices build to create
an integrated life, where we recognize ourselves as a force of
nature, rejoicing in life for its own sake, following our own hearts
and minds on a particular path.

At the same time that I was reading Covey's book a few years ago, I
was noticing that the "Pause" appeared in a number of other
contexts, which I thought was really cool.

The "Pause" definitely appears in Beethoven's work.

Beethoven was a composer that I have a huge amount of respect for,
and I consider him to be one of my heroes. When he was about 30, he
started going deaf, and the style of his music suddenly changed.
Each piece of music he wrote, he thought might be his last. As his
ears closed to the sounds of the outer world, they opened up to the
sounds of his inner world. By the time that he was 50, his deafness
was total.

Beethoven is a master is his use of silence. Here, I'd like to use
Yehudi Menuhin's words in describing Beethoven's pauses:

        "His pauses are among the most pregnant voids in the
        universe; like the emptiness of space, they are filled with
        the power of magnetic tensions, set up in like manner by the
        mass of each heavenly body. Those pauses are essential to
        the music. When we experience them we find the pulse is
        never absent, and the way the music then continues is quite
        wonderful. If the following phrase comes in a trifle too
        soon or too late, the magical effect is lost, for the length
        of silence is predetermines and fateful."

The "Pause" definitely appears in meditation. When we meditate there
is a meaningless flow of thoughts that pass through the mind, and
one tries not to become involved. A thought that is ignored soon
goes away, and then in the space between thoughts is a glimpse of
clarity, reality. In between the train of ideas that flows thorough
the mind are small gaps between, utterly devoid of form or content.
These calm spaces are the "pauses that refresh", providing a peace
and energy, not anxious, not pushing us in any direction. The space
presents us with an opportunity to break free from negative thought
patterns and habitual behaviors. It is an intermediate state filled
with freedom.

These are some of my thoughts about "spaces" and "pauses". I'm sure
you folks can find more contexts and examples.

By the way, the phrase "The Pause that Refreshes" came to me from
somewhere, but I don't remember from where. I think that it was a
catch phrase from a TV soft drink ad, but I honestly don't remember
which soft drink. I've not had a TV for about 4 years, so it's not a
recent ad. Does anyone remember?


Amara Graps email:
Computational Physics vita: finger
Multiplex Answers URL:
"If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into
you." - -Nietzsche

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