This page is about ideas, subjects, categories. It uses stars and symphonies as a metaphor, to explain various things about “proximity” between ideas, what it is to be outside or inside a “subject,” how to move between them, things like that.

In one paragraph:

You can get into a subject, or get out of it. From afar, all those ideas look the same. As you get deeper into something, you see that it gets more and more complex. No matter how deeply you get into a subject, the more and more ideas you find. Questions only lead to more questions. This is told in the story of IndrasNet?, or the GlassBeadGame?. Ideas are separate and distinct. Wherever you are, you are always surrounded by ideas. Even where you didn’t think there could be any.


If you look at stars in the sky, they tend to come in clumps. Whether they physically form that way, or our mind just collects them like that, we’re not interested in that right now. We’re just noting that we look in the sky, and we see stars in “clumps.”

We may say, “Look at that clump, look at that clump, look at that clump.”

We think of them in terms of clumps. If we were asked to draw the sky, we might just make dot patterns where the clumps are, not worrying about the locations of particular stars in the clumps- it is enough to draw the clumps. We think in terms of clumps.

But if we take an interest in one clump, we zoom in on it, mentally.

We can look at it, and see that it, itself, is composed of clumps, internally. Perhaps it was invisible to us before; We had to pull out a telescope. So that we could really look into it. And then- we noticed- not only does it have clumps inside, but there were tons of other stars in there that we didn’t even notice before. Because they weren’t visible to the naked idea, or they were too dim, or maybe there was a cloud in the way. But looking in detail, we now see all kinds of crazy stuff in there, that we never even noticed before.

And then: Going even further- perhaps we take a particular interest in something insider there, even.

So, we go in even closer. And we see the same thing repeat: More stars that we didn’t notice before, clumping that we hadn’t noticed before, empty spaces, all these things.

The reason we are talking about stars is because we’re talking about ideas. Ideas have the same pattern.

From a mental distance, we can say, “Oh, this is science. You have your physics, you have your chemistry, you have your biology.”

Then, you zoom in a bit, and you say, “Oh, biology. Chemistry. Well, it’s not quite chemistry or biology. Because there are these really interesting links in between. Over here we have our biochem, and over here we have our molecular biology- they’re different, really. And then there’s this stuff we weren’t really thinking about before- there’s geo-physics, geo-chemistry, that kind of thing. Not really biology at all…”

And so, things get more complicated.


Another way of seeing this space is through symphonies.

Classical music can all sound the same. Have you experienced this? You’re sitting somewhere, and there’s music playing, and your mind is thinking, “Ah,… there’s some classical music playing. Hm.” Maybe it’s thinking, “sounds good, sounds bad,” but- it’s just some classical music playing. Now, it’s clearly not jazz, it’s clearly not rap, but: It doesn’t get much more differentiated than “classical” music.

If you think about it for a while, sitting in the restaurant or wherever, you can recollect different classical pieces you’ve heard, and try to put together a little map of what this particular music is like, what it’s not like, and get some finer divisions going on. (More likely you don’t have a map, rather, you have patches of maps. See also: MappersVsPackers?, for tangential discussion.)

But if you really start listening to classical music for a while- really getting into it, you’ll start to experience violent differences between different styles of classical music. Your emotions will start to become strongly sensitive to the variations in the music. “This classical piece makes me feel and think this way, this other classical piece makes me feel and think that way.”

Before, if it had an effect on you, you probably didn’t notice. But now, you notice. You’re “in the space,” and you’re paying attention.

And, you can just keep getting deeper. Deeper and deeper into sensitivities and subtleties.

See Also



When I get going, it’s kind of hard to shut up. One thing leads to another, and I can easily lose sight of the page title I originally chose.

Eventally, I realize I went too far, and have to go back and cut it closed somewhere.

I’m not sure where to put this, if I put it anywhere at all. For now, I’ll just append it here:

(continuing, from “Deeper and deeper into sensitivities and subtelties”)

You do this long enough, you can become a more or less permanent resident of the estate, and you can do favors for people, making decisions for them. Someone asks you, “Give me something classical that does such-and-such things to people.” You say, “Sure, no problem, I know just the place,” and you look for that clump of stars that makes people feel happy with a tinge of anxiety, but with a reminder that things are going to be allright.

When people listen, they’ll take the pill, and it’ll affect them, but they won’t know it, won’t know how to say it, or why. Movies are the products of immense integrations of wisdom from a vast number of fields grown from the smallest of seeds over decades of attention on the part of many thousands of dedicated people. There are artists who have labored to learn how to perform the slightest placement of hairs, in order to deliver precisely the desired communication, so that you will feel and think and recognize the character on the screen the right way. And you won’t have a clue. You’re just sitting in the movie theater, watching the movie, being manipulated a million different ways. And you don’t understand a shred of it. You couldn’t possibly. It’s too many people, too much attention, too much work.

I suppose I was thinking about how microscopic influences can affect us, but produce macroscopic changes that we are incapable of articulating.

That would be a subject for another page.

But it is a tangent from here, because we’re talking about the difference between being inside or outside a mental terrain. From the outside, there’s no discrimination. From the inside, there’s vast discrimination. And yet, something inside of us can receive the discrimination, and react to it, even though we don’t understand it.

I believe this because I read a tutorial on pixel art, and it demonstrated how small tiny changes in just one or two pixels can result in a dramatic effect. Yet, we don’t understand it, unless we are the artist. Since then, I’ve recognized the same thing in other situations. We can say, “This song is more amazing than that other song,” but we can’t say why. The author is targetting our mind. We believe we know it well, but in reality, we don’t.

How do you say this, and interactions with this, in PlainTalk?


  • “things that seem to be in one category are frequently very different”
  • “different like ??? and ???” (need to fill in the ???‘s)
  • “From afar, it looks like just a forest; Nearby, it looks like many different trees, bushes, animals,…”
  • “If you look closely, you see enormous diversity.”
  • “Zooming in, we see…”
  • “From afar, it’s all just X.”
  • “Now we need to pick it apart in greater detail.”

I’m immediately thinking of “he can’t see the forest for the trees,” or “he can’t see the trees for the forest,” but I never liked that saying- it’s very unclear what it intends to say. (Though, with LinkLanguage, we could provide the explanation of what we intend.)

Why not just talk about those things? Because I want to say all of the following:

  • You can zoom in and out.
  • Things are confused as the same from afar.
  • Things look very different near-by.
  • It is recursive at all levels.
  • There aren’t really levels, it’s all just a graph. (LimitationsOfHierarchy?.)
  • Ideas are discrete. (Like stars and symphonies.)
  • Wherever you are, there are a hoard of ideas around you, regardless of “level,” location, … (Like stars and symphonies.)

What I’d like are PlainTalk phrases that communicate these ideas using existing language. I’m sure it’s there, it’s just not coming to me. If it’s not there, it should be possible to attach the explanation to a common, pre-existing metaphor. If there is not a useable pre-existing metaphor, then we should be able to create a metaphor, and build LinkLanguage around it.

The Chinese used to say things like: “Don’t be rare, like jade, or common, like pebbles.” Perhaps we can do that with these ideas.

Perhaps not; Perhaps we will have to resort to ComplexPlainTalk. The title “IdeasLikeStarsAndSymphonies,” communicated with context and LinkLanguage, might be okay.

Further ideas:

  • You can zoom in and out. → “You can get into a subject, or get out of it.”
  • Things are confused as the same from afar. → “From afar, all those ideas look the same.”
  • Things look very different near-by. → “As you get deeper into something, you see that it gets more and more complex.”
  • It is recursive at all levels. → “No matter how deeply you get into a subject, the more and more ideas you find.” Popular aphorism: “Questions (only) lead to more questions.”
  • There aren’t really levels, it’s all just a graph. → This is told in the story of IndrasNet?, or the GlassBeadGame?.
  • Ideas are discrete. → “???”
  • Wherever you are, there are a hoard of ideas around you, regardless of “level,” location, … → “Wherever you are, you are always surrounded by ideas. Even where you didn’t think there could be any.”

Actually, I mean, right there: Just stack all those sentences in a row, and you get:

You can get into a subject, or get out of it. From afar, all those ideas look the same. As you get deeper into something, you see that it gets more and more complex. No matter how deeply you get into a subject, the more and more ideas you find. Questions only lead to more questions. This is told in the story of IndrasNet?, or the GlassBeadGame?. Ideas are separate and distinct. Wherever you are, you are always surrounded by ideas. Even where you didn’t think there could be any.

Which, isn’t all that unreadable, actually..!

I think the only thing that needs replacement is “Ideas are separate and distinct.” We have to explain how they are separate, why we care that they are separate, how they are distinct, etc., etc.,.

Star analogy fits in better; We can talk about brightness, and it is immediately clear that they are separate and distinct. We also have the concept of gravity, and that shows how ideas tend to gravitate around other ideas.

An interesting page. Isn’t it about analytical and synthetical work? Analytical work, going into the details. Synthecial perception, looking at it as a whole. It would also lend itself as an examples about constructivism: with stars, the clumps or patterns we perceive are somewhat arbitrary, constellations like Andromeda or Orion are just constructions, differing from culture to culture - while the stars are objectively measureable in their size and position.

Repeating just to make sure I understand right:

  • Analytical means: “Dividing a thing into it’s parts, figuring out how the parts connect to one another, interact with one another.”
  • Synthetical means: ..? Does it mean picking up patterns? You look out at ideas, and they give you more ideas? (..?)

You’ve used the word “constructivism” recently to describe somebody who believes that they are the creators of the universe, and that everything that exists is theirs to manipulate. (If I understand you right.)

I’ve personally used the word “constructivism” to refer to the constructionists’ thought- people who think that people learn by building a model in their head of what is being learned about.

Your paragraph seems closest to the second: “We are constructing our understanding. The particulars of the construction depend on what we make.”

That is, different people, and especially different cultures, will make wildly different constructions to describe the same basic thing.

I agree with that, and it’s something that doesn’t appear in the article yet, but should.

Physical stars, balls of plasma, are objective and fixed. They move, but only move on the scale of aeons.

Ideas, on the other hand, grow and diminish. We organise some ideas in one clump one day, but in another clump another day.

Yet: They can appear fixed, especially when we are testing them: When we are testing ideas, we lock them down to a position, write them down on paper, and consider how they want to move. Eventually, we learn something, make some discriminations, remove the locks, and let the ideas rearrange themselves however. Then we look again, and see an entirely different configuration of ideas.

When we don’t test our ideas, or when we don’t learn anything new in an area; They appear fixed. New connections may come in, gluing them to different external things, and that may result in some movement. But for the most part, they are stable.


Is this explanation too woo-foo wishy-washy? I’m trying to explain a feeling, and lock it down. I think it’s too wishy-washy.

Hm: Thinking about my context: I think this way when I’m considering ideas, and when I’m organizing ideas.

I look aroud me, and I see all these ideas in different clusters. I feel a sense that ideas are close and far. I see new ideas appearing, and old ideas fading. Some times, after a bunch of thought, clusters move, or the whole thing rearranges like a rubics cube. This is staying within one domain, one subject, one scale, one locus.

Okay: Now, why in the world am I talking, writing, about this?

I don’t really know. I suppose this is just my understanding of the subjective experience of thinking. I don’t know if it has utility.

Looking back at the BackLinks, I see:

  • On CategoryBoundaries, I used the title to talk about how we can mis-categorize things when we’re far away. This is: “From afar, all those ideas look the same.” I also seem to be using the metaphor of the cluster of thoughts, and talking about somewhat arbitrary (but not completely) identification of constellations.
  • At the bottom of HiveMindTheory, I reused the metaphor to talk about going into a subject, and untangling the constellations inside of it. That is: “As you get deeper into something, you see that it gets more and more complex.”

So, why am I doing this?

I suppose that:

  • In my mind, I’ve made a story for describing thinking. Specifically, it’s a language for describing the operations involved in navigating among and operating on ideas, and for describing the kinds of things we can expect from ideas as well.
  • When I talk with people, I want to use the story that I understand, and that makes sense to me.
  • When I talk with people, I want to teach the model, as well, if they are interested in learning it.
  • The model has been personally useful to me, because it allows me to predict the kinds of things that I’m going to experience.
    • If I zoom in on a subject, any subject, I’m going to expect to see a lot of ideas forming around it.
    • If I look at ideas, I expect to see ideas in constellations.
    • If I look at an idea from afar, I can expect that there are going to be subtleties and complexities that I can’t perceive.
    • etc., etc., tc.,.
  • If I can find someone who can point out the weak points of the model, and show me a better or different model, that highlights some things and points out weaknesses in others, then I can add that to my bag of tricks.

I think this is something of how we become mentally dexterous. But I don’t say, “The purpose of this is foo.” It seems to exist at the intersection of a lot of different purposes.

It may be that I’m overly focused on VisualLanguage, and this is what comes out. Perhaps I should be investigating, for example, algebraic models of thought: You were in a land of pretty patterns, but then find yourself attracted and pulled into a river of computations: You hear some static, are mentally disoriented for a moment, and then are pushed out the other side, with an answer in your hand. It happens to be the correct answer.

But I think my focus on visual language comes from the nature of reflection, rather than the other way around. (And, I suspect that blind people think visually as well. Or rather, that they do it spatially, with a concept of shape.)

I should make a page on IntegrativeThinking?, which is how I understand the thinking process as a series of collections, expansions, and contractions. These are islands of explanation though; This is different than, say, day dreaming.

I once tried to make a map of conscious thought, but I didn’t succeed. It ended up just being a bunch of disconnected islands, I couldn’t make a pattern out of it. Some subjects are like that. That said, I attribute this to a lack of reflection. This is typical of a topic that has just been discovered.

This is why I was saying on CategoryBoundaries that seeing ideas in their context is more enlightening than seeing the ideas themselves.

Being familiar with different modes of thinking (daydreaming, concentrated reflection, computation, repetition, …) is radically different than understanding how all those things connect together. Fortunately, we have a process for putting it all together: concentrated reflection, or “mapping,” or whatever it is I’m trying to talk about here.

This explains another purpose for this page, then:

  • To pin down a point for aggregation with others, so that we can have a deeper understanding of understanding.

The advantages when you have such a map should be clear:

  • You can strategize.
    • Understanding how it all fits together, you can then make clear arguments for: “Encourage this, discourage that, in such proportion, beware that, this is good, this works because of this.”
  • You can identify uncharted territory.
  • If someone shows you something genuinely new, or at least unmapped, you can start to investigate it from a solid base. (A solid base which, in short order, may turn into a goo, and then a mist, and then nothing.)
  • yadda yadda yadda.

I just found some pages on Wikipedia that describe "phenomenology." It means: mapping out the space of experiencing. When I’m describing what it feels like (to me) to look at ideas, it is phenomenology. (I gather.)

I have a hard time understanding some of the pages- they do not seem to describe their terms very well. They say every experience has “intentionality,” but if I’m daydreaming and some experiences roll over me, I don’t know that I’m actually intending anything. Dumbo got drunk, and saw a bunch of pink elephants. I guess I’m stuck on the word intention meaning: “I intend to perform some act.” On the other hand, these articles aren’t giving me much to work with.

The mapping of methods of thinking is different than the mapping of the experience of thinking, or experiences in general. But I’m interested in both.

I can’t offer much. The page just resonates with me.

About constructivism: you observed and described it very well. Realism and constructivism are two sides of the same coin. Both can be exaggerated: “I only believe what I can measure” seems as silly as “Everybody is a god who creates his own universe”. But everything interesting is about a common reality and can only be held in constructed tools like our senses or out language. (what I call extreme constructivism or naive constructivism is often called solipsism but I don’t use this term because it is a philosophical term that is less known and it doesn’t lend itself to interpret the spectrum of constructivism that can be observed.)

Many difficult people seem to be extreme constructivists who abnormally ignore any factual evidence and experience that could prove them wrong. That’s why constructivism usually occurs in a negative context in my texts.

Define external redirect: IndrasNet GlassBeadGame IntegrativeThinking MappersVsPackers LimitationsOfHierarchy