Been thinking about Mount Tamalpais lately, as a consequence of reading a recently completed “determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places” for Druid Heights, the woodsy community-in-the-woods co-founded by radical lesbian poet Elsa Gidlow in 1953. (There’s a good-sized feature on Druid Heights in Arthur No. 16, excerpted from Erik Davis’s Visionary State guidebook with a new sidebar and other material.)
The teacher Alan Watts completed several books while he was living in Druid Heights on Mount Tamalpais, and, being in a contemplative mode more often now that I live in near-wilderness, I obtained Cloud-hidden, Whereabouts Unknown: A Mountain Journal (dedicated, by the way, to Watt’s longtime friend/collaborator/rascal Henry “Sandy” Jacobs, who was extensively profiled in Arthur No. 26) which includes Watts’s essay, ‘On the Art of Contemplation.’ I’ll get to that some other time. What’s caught my eye/mind so far, especially/also in light of all the recent hubbub over James Gleick’s The Information, is this bit (pun intended) from another essay, ‘The Zero-One Amazement,’ dated September 1, 1971, written in the afterglow of studying G. Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form:
So the first distinction is between none and one (or 0 and 1). This is the yin (negative) and yang (positive) polarity of the Book of Changes, which Leibniz read in a Latin translation, and which gave him the idea that all numbers could be represented by the figures 0 and 1, so that for the series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 we have 001, 010, 100, 101, 110, etc., which is now the arithmetic used by digital computers.
I suppose this I Ching-Leibniz-binary code connection is common knowledge, but I had no idea. Alan Watts!