Last week I met with Simon Barrow of Ekklesia and Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network. It was a productive meeting on many levels, but I was particularly excited when Simon mentioned the thinking of the guitarist (and beating heart of King Crimson) Robert Fripp.
Back home I dug out the postcard Fripp included in his excellent album Let The Power Fall (guitar meets echoing tape loops). Here is Fripp’s mixture of philosophy and system theory.
i) 1. One can work within any structure.
ii) 2. Once one can work within any structure, some structures are more efficient than others.
iii) 3. There is no one structure which is universally appropriate.
iv) 4. Commitment to an aim within an inappropriate structure will give rise to the creation of an appropriate structure.
v) 5. Apathy, i.e. passive commitment, within an appropriate structure will effect its collapse.
vi) 6. Dogmatic attachment to the supposed merits of a particular structure hinders the search for an appropriate structure.
vii) 7. There will be difficulty defining the appropriate structure because it will always be mobile, i.e. in process.
i) 8. There should be no difficulty in defining aim.
ii) 9. The appropriate structure will recognise structures outside itself.
iii) 10. The appropriate structure can work within any large structure.
iv) 11. Once the appropriate structure can work within any large structure, some larger structures are more efficient than others.
v) 12. There is no larger structure which is universally appropriate.
vi) 13. Commitment to an aim by an appropriate structure within a larger, inappropriate structure will give rise to a large, appropriate structure.
vii) 14. The quantitative structure is affected by qualitative action.
i) 15. Qualitative action is not bound by number.
ii) 16. Any small unit committed to qualitative action can affect radical change on a scale outside its qualitative measure.
iii) 17. Quantitative action works by violence and breeds reaction.
iv) 18. Qualitative action works by example and invites reciprocation.
v) 19. Reciprocation between independent structures is a framework of interacting units which is itself a structure.
vi) 20. Any appropriate structure of interacting units can work within any other structure of interacting units.
vii) 21. Once this is so, some structures of interacting units are more efficient than others.
Let The Power Fall by Robert Fripp
This was often pinned on my bedroom wall as child and student and I suspect it has a profound impact on my own thinking. In particular I think it has encouraged my (often naively optimistic) belief that you can always bring about positive change – wherever you are situated. Also the notion that we must be conscious of the consequence of the structures we work within. I continue to seek the more “appropriate structure” despite knowing that there is no utopia, and time undoes everything.
At a time when it feels our “larger structures” are less and less appropriate, less efficient, it is encouraging to believe that action with integrity and authenticity remains the key to meaningful change.