Last year, on a road trip through Oregon, we saw endless miles of wire fencing stabilized every hundred feet or so by wire-wrapped “pillars” of smooth fieldstones.

I took this photo in Juntura, Oregon

The labor involved in that task—harvesting millions of fieldstones and placing them in the wire enclosures—was massive, but serves a practical purpose. The “pillars” provide stability to the fence, keeping it upright.

What provides your stability?


32 thoughts on “Stability

  1. Memory of my parents’lives-I remember their great values almost unconsciously and that seems to have been holding me up so far till today.

  2. Home has always been my rock, Laurie. Even when I worked, it was not just the idea of going home, it was actually walking through the door when I got home. Now, I wake up and, no matter what, I have my rock, my home, my stability.

  3. Those fences are amazing. I have never seen any like it and I was raised on the prairies. My stability is my amazing family, from my parents to my grandchildren. I chatted with my daughter for 2.5 hours the other day and I was ready to take on the world after.

  4. At the core of my stability is my faith in God, and surrounding that–family and friends. Oh, and my home too, I grieve for those in the Gulf Coast whose homes were damaged or lost in hurricanes and for families along the West coast threatened or damaged by fires this summer and into fall. Provocative question, Laurie!

  5. Hi Laurie,

    There is a dual role to such devices. Yes, there is a sense of stability to fences, and there is also the role of providing a place to put surface rocks that would otherwise prove damaging to tillage equipment. So putting such rocks (out of the way) allows periodic mechanical treatment of the land to improve productivity (such as oversowing).

    Having spent a lot of time at sea, and quite a few hours flying aircraft, I am aware of many aspects of stability.

    In vessel design, one can go for absolute stability, where the center of mass is below the center of buoyancy (always) meaning that whatever happens, the vessel will right itself (provided it retains sufficient buoyancy). That sort of design is common for things like lifeboats, or yachts. Most ships however are designed to carry a lot of material over great distances as economically as possible, and putting a lot of weight in the bottom of them to lower the center of mass comes with a big penalty in terms of cost of propulsion, so such vessels have a different sort of stability that is self righting up to a point, after which point they “turn turtle” and sink (as happened recently with the ship carrying cattle to Japan from New Zealand).

    In aircraft it is similar but different.

    In aircraft it is the center of lift, that keeps them in the air, and lift is usually generated on a wing surface. Having the center of lift high above the center of mass gives stability (as in most Cesna aircraft) but comes with a cost in terms of maneuverability. Fighter aircraft tend to be designed without stability, so that they can change direction very quickly, but that means pilots need to be very skilled to survive in them, and in modern aircraft, need to have very good computer system putting in thousands of micro control movements a second even to keep them flying.

    Similarly even with houses. The sort of houses that can be safely build on swamps are very different from those one can safely build on rocks.

    And all of that applies to us personally, and how we see the reality in which we exist.

    For me, it is clear that reality is more complex than any computational entity (human or AI) can possibly deal with in detail, so we all have to have subconscious systems that simplify it down to something we can deal with, and that becomes our “experiential reality”. So none of us ever get to deal with reality itself, all we ever get to experience is some model of some tiny fraction of it, that is what our subconscious systems select and present to us as being important enough to experience and consider. Those subconscious systems are unique to each and every one of us in detail, and in most of us they share a lot of very similar components that come from genetics and culture, in the ways our brains are put together and the sorts of experiences we train them with.

    So for me, stability is accepting that there are a vast range of contexts out there that demand very different sets of systems to be able to respond with somewhere near optimal probabilities of survival.

    For me, such stability as is available and appropriate comes from accepting that fundamental uncertainty and eternal novelty seem to be essential parts of the building blocks of our reality that make a consciousness such as we experience possible. So at whatever level we can, we have to be able to get comfortable with risk; and it does seem that life has managed to survive on this ball of rock we call Earth for some 4 billion years, so there does seem to be a reasonable probability that if we act cooperative together, we can continue to keep living for a very long time.

    And that means that we each have deep responsibilities that come with the freedoms we enjoy.

    If we each want to claim the rights to life and liberty, then we all have to accept responsibilities that necessarily come with that, to each, to the best of our limited and fallible abilities, act cooperatively and accept diversity provided such diversity does not pose unacceptable risk to life or liberty. And those latter two questions must eternally contain uncertainties and must be eternally context sensitive.

    For me, that has meant accepting that the modern myth that competitive markets promote security and liberty are necessarily false – the mathematics and logic of that are deeply complex, and beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.

    Security and liberty can only find reasonable expression in contexts that are fundamentally cooperative. And cooperation is not control.

    It seems to me beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that the evolution of complexity can only happen in contexts that are fundamentally cooperative.

    I have no shadow of reasonable doubt remaining about that, and the logic and math of it is deeply, deeply complex and difficult; and I have never managed to communicate it successfully to another human being. I am an autistic spectrum geek who has been deeply fascinated by this subject for over 50 years, and have pushed it further than anyone I know; but I don’t have enough time to be able to communicate the details of that journey, only some of the relevant discoveries.

    So such stability as I have comes from accepting fundamental uncertainty; and the idea of gods does not seem very probable to me, but if I did believe in gods, then the idea of the ineffability of god would be something very similar to what I have.

    To me it seems that all understandings, even mine (complex as they are) are necessarily simplification of the complexity that exists; and as such will necessarily be wrong in some contexts, and some of the older ideas were a close enough approximation to allow our ancestors to survive; and as such ought not to be dismissed lightly.

    Part of what stability I have comes from balancing a respect for the past with an openness to the new and the novel; and such things are always context sensitive, and sometimes seemingly very small changes in context completely alter the balances.

    One thing I am certain of, that all out competition between human beings has a very low survival probability for all.

  6. Oh, Laurie, what a question! So many ways to answer it, but I’ll try to be brief. First of all, I believe self is what comes first and that includes the love of God, values and ethics my parents instilled in me. Then there is my husband, Bob, steady as a rock and faithful to the core. My family, both in-law and out-law! 🙂 Friends, old and new, and my writing, last but not least. Thanks for asking!

  7. Home, my son, my garden, my writing, reading and the libraries finally re-opening after being closed thanks to COVID-19. This pandemic is a trial, an abomination, but I think even some sort of routine, and something to get up for (which may not necessarily be a routine) helps keep you going.

    • Sharon — What a lovely list!

      How nice that your libraries are starting to re-open. Our libraries in Boise are still closed. We can order a book online and then pick it up curbside, but can’t go inside the building.

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