The Cage, The Climbing Frame and The Swimming Pool

Alan Rayner
Alan Rayner

Evolutionary ecologist, painter, author, and poet

How Real Life Bends the Rules of Intangible Mathematical Structure

Much of my privileged early childhood was spent playing in a Kenyan garden, which sloped down to the River Nairobi at its bottom. There were trees to climb, lawns to run, jump and sprawl on and a swimming pool to immerse in. There was also some potentially dangerous wildlife and a Mau Mau uprising to contend with as a constant source of fear in the ‘black-ground’. And, yes, there were dark-skinned, pink-palmed African servants and their children to care for me and play with as an extended family. But their living conditions in a hut near the chicken run were a far cry from those in our elevated large house and veranda overlooking all that lay below it.

Years later, having just taken my final exams in ‘natural sciences’ at King’s College, Cambridge, I painted this picture as a recollection of those vibrant but scary colonial times, transported into an English context.

tropical involvement alan rayner occurrity

One fateful day, I climbed too high up a jacaranda tree, a branch bent and broke under my weight and I was lucky only to suffer a severely broken arm and gashed leg. Not long afterwards my father suffered a stroke and required hospital treatment back in England.

Trauma followed upon trauma. Literally overnight I found myself transported from that tropical involvement, never to return. And before long I was confined within a London schoolroom trying to decipher the abstract mathematical mysteries of whole numbers, fractions and straight-sided figures. These mysteries converted the boundless freedom for movement of natural space into a three-dimensional cage, and time into a line of separate instants from beginning to end. They didn’t add up to anything resembling my actual experience of continuous real life outdoors. Nonetheless, they were supposed to define ‘The Laws of Nature’ as a fixed set of rules. They needed to be learned and adhered to, especially as a good, ‘objective’ scientist, if you were not to ‘go wrong’. So that is what I tried to do. But somewhere deep within me would have none of it.

A year after painting ‘Tropical Involvement’, as I was embarking on a PhD study on fungal ecology, I made another painting, entitled ‘Arid Confrontation’. This brought my by now unconscious discomfort with abstract scientific methodology and mathematics out into open expression.

arid confrontation alan rayner occurrity

One fateful day, I climbed too high up a jacaranda tree, a branch bent and broke under my weight and I was lucky only to suffer a severely broken arm and gashed leg. Not long afterwards my father suffered a stroke and required hospital treatment back in England.

Trauma followed upon trauma. Literally overnight I found myself transported from that tropical involvement, never to return. And before long I was confined within a London schoolroom trying to decipher the abstract mathematical mysteries of whole numbers, fractions and straight-sided figures. These mysteries converted the boundless freedom for movement of natural space into a three-dimensional cage, and time into a line of separate instants from beginning to end. They didn’t add up to anything resembling my actual experience of continuous real life outdoors. Nonetheless, they were supposed to define ‘The Laws of Nature’ as a fixed set of rules. They needed to be learned and adhered to, especially as a good, ‘objective’ scientist, if you were not to ‘go wrong’. So that is what I tried to do. But somewhere deep within me would have none of it.

A year after painting ‘Tropical Involvement’, as I was embarking on a PhD study on fungal ecology, I made another painting, entitled ‘Arid Confrontation’. This brought my by now unconscious discomfort with abstract scientific methodology and mathematics out into open expression.

how compassion fruits alan rayner occurrity

Further Reading:

Rayner, A.D. (2011). Space Cannot Be Cut—Why Self-Identity Naturally Includes Neighbourhood. Integrative Psychological and Behavioural Science, 45, 161–184. Rayner ADM (2011). NaturesScope: Unlocking our natural empathy and creativity. Winchester, UK; Washington USA: O Books. Rayner, A. (2012). What are natural systems, actually? Advances in System Science and Application 12, 328–347. Rayner, A (2017). The Origin of Life Patterns: In the Natural Inclusion of Space in Flux. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer. Rayner, A (2018). The Vitality of the Intangible: crossing the threshold from abstract materialism to natural reality. Human Arenas 1 pp 9–20.

Rayner, A (2020). From Abstract Freeze-Frame to Natural Kinship

Rayner, A (2020).  Cold & Warm Geometry

Rayner, A (2020). The Natural Inclusion of Difference

Rayner, A (2020). Evolutionary Flow Rayner, A (2020). Simplicity & Entanglement Rayner, A (2020). Permafrost & Fertile Ground Rayner, A (2020). Beyond Objectification Rayner, A (2020). How Can Awareness of Natural Inclusion Help Us Through and Beyond Self-Isolation?

Rayner, A (2020). Inner Motivation

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