Please don’t read this alone, from a screen or in a hurry. Actually, please don’t read this at all. Take your time and dance it.
We are wasting too much time1 scanning too many things from LCD screens,2 probably with more than one tab open, if you know what I mean, and often in a static seated position that detaches us from a physical reality that is always moving and changing.
Our bodies are made to move, so let’s dance these words in the open air with the Sun. Well, we are always with the Sun, even at night. Even when sunlight, which enables our vision, is not visible or is just reflected by the Moon. Even when we are indoors, the Sun is always there and here, in our solar plexus chakra.3
We can think of the internet as a fantastic water-hungry machine4 that distributes and shares information across borders in “real” (computing) time, but when it comes to the experience of information consumption, the printing machine still wins. We invite you to start a micro-revolution on how we consume information and how we relate with knowledge by printing a copy and dancing these words out loud with more people. Ctrl+P to dance.
As you may notice from these first few lines, this proposal is not intended to be as comprehensive, straight-forward or linear as a conventional article or essay. Instead, it is written as something that we can listen with our eyes, feel with our minds and understand from our hearts.
The following words are weaved together as a poetic meditation to collectively feel-think, or sentipensar as coined by sociologist Orlando Fals Borda.5 Sentipensar on a cosmic scale and by doing so try to address the crisis of imagination that is challenging life of Planet Earth.6
To achieve this we will make use of two ancestral and highly sophisticated technologies that employ your physical body: poetry and dance. In fact, we are already dancing, very slowly according to our limited physical perception, around the Sun. In fact, the Sun is always dancing inside us.
Before starting the collective dance of this proposal, take a few seconds to slow down and tune with your heartbeat by closing your eyes and breathing consciously until you become aware of the rhythm of your heart. A rhythm that is connected with the Sun.
Part I: Why Solar-Centered Designing?
Solar-centered designing is everywhere and every time. It is happening now, here and nowhere.8 It is coming from the middle of nowhere. This is why solar-centered design does not need a singular definition.
The aim of this eccentric proposal is not to provide answers or solutions, but instead to become an open invitation to find many meanings, and to let the meanings find us. To seed questions and question solutions. To cultivate alternative worldviews. To become an open invitation to remember our sacred bond with the Sun.
The purpose of solar-centered designing is healing through remembering, rather than solving unsolvable problems or generating new ideas for an old idea of the future. One that has been shaped by the egocentric ideologies of solutionism, extractivism and individualism, combined by the design industry in the standard definition of human-centered design:
Human-centered design is an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ergonomics, and usability knowledge and techniques.
This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance.9
Remember the sun to heal the wounds of the obsession for usefulness, for making everything efficient, for the comfortable convenience, for abstracting the complexity of a human into the simplicity of abstract users with endless and selfish desires. Remember that humans are not the center of the universe.
We invite you to feel-think this proposal as an intergenerational and interspecies call with a relative sense of urgency. A call to imagine-create the conditions for the genesis of alternative, relevant and interrelated schools of (inter)thought, (inter)action and (inter)feeling. A call to enable a long-term paradigm shift towards more centered collective perceptions, imaginations and decision-making practices in everyday life. A call that guides our minds away from the dominance of distorted user-centric and human-centered ideologies in humbling, responsible and plural ways. A call to remember futures driven by solidarity, plurality and generosity. A call to unlearn the linearity, simplicity and stasis of conventional ideas about time and our identity. A call for becoming one. A call to dance with the Sun.
Solar-centered designing is a cosmic whisper, whispering timeless inquiries for radical change in our collective imaginations: What if we listen to the Sun? What if we listen to the heat waves and solar winds? What if we design for healing, more than for solving? What if we cultivate relations, more than results? What if we aim for justice, more than for diversity? What if we repair and maintain, more than innovate and innovate? What if we choose harmony over progress? What if we care more about ecology, than we care about the economy? What if we prioritize planetary well-being over imaginary growth? What if we decide to become rather than just being? What if we let the Sun melt our egos and quit as individuals? What if we remember that we are verbs, more than nouns? What if we remember that we are dancing around the Sun?
The “solar” in solar-centered designing is more brilliant than the sun.10
More brilliant than the sunlight reflecting in millions of extractive solar panels, made with burning coal and burning trees.11 More brilliant than the idea of a transition to solar energy, based on an abstract and extractive relationship with the star at the center of the Solar System. More brilliant than the solar flares that can fry satellites and power grids.
The “solar” in solar-centered designing is always shining through the relatively eternal dance between the outer and inner suns, the creative and destructive suns, the physical and imaginary suns. Solar is as real as our imaginations and as imaginary as our realities. As sunny as solarpunk, as punk as the solar cycle 25.11
Solar-centered designing is centered in the physical cosmic center of gravity of Planet Earth, and centered in the expansion of our awareness of becoming one with the planet. Solar-centered as that moment when we can experience the apparent and ephemeral stability of our emotions. Centered. Centered. Centered.
Solar-centered designing emerges from the increasing need to remember the distortion and dissonance that human-centric frameworks cause. Even more when the human at the center is defined as an abstract user. A consumer of endless desires. A human resource. Anthropocentrism is individualism is capitalism is extractivism is egocentrism.
Solar-centered, as in dancing around the sun and with our inner suns.
Solar-centered designing is a verb. An old one. Older than Copernicus and the revolution his ideas ignited.
Solar-centered designing is remembering that hope is not a thing, or something that you have or possess. Remembering that hope is action. Something that we can practice, for ourselves and for others. Solar-centered designing is thinking, feeling and doing while doing, feeling and thinking.
In the words of Paulo Freire, “what makes us humans is to see the world not as a static reality but as a reality in the process of transformation”, and in this process “we need critical hope the way a fish needs unpolluted water.”
Solar-centered designing is remembering that we can’t live without critical hope just as we can’t live without the Sun. Remembering that we cannot make the world a better place, because the world is not a space waiting to become better.
Remembering worlds as words dancing together. Worlds as ways of living. Worlds as all the humans and non-humans who live, have lived and will live, together as a planet.
Solar-centered designing is remembering that “we need to do better than better”14 and that “better is not a universal good”.15 Remembering better in terms of solidarity, intergenerational and interspecies solidarity. Solidarity through solarity. Solarity16 as a social condition, not an energy source.
Solar-centered designing is remembering the wisdom from our shared ancestors. Those who can remember a world before the nation-state. One with a united state of mind. Remembering a timeless aim for sumak kawsay,17 for Buen vivir, for living well. Remembering to live well, not better.
Solar-centered designing is the cosmic soul of decision-making. Designing as in making decisions. Solar-centered decision-making. Making decisions centered in relation to the solar in the outer sun, the inner sun and in between.
Remember. Solar-center design can not exist, does not want to exist, does not need to exist. Solar-centered designing is everywhere and nowhere.
Solar-centered designing is remembering.
Part II: How Did We Get Here?
Time“Earth”,18 a song by Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson.
Children of the soil rejoice
Tomorrow never is
Time is now
Time is only love
Every metaphor we use to refer to another metaphor takes us one step further from material reality. Both the imaginary distance and the step are already metaphors.
Since the Enlightenment, a period of low solar activity,19 Westernized minds have been taking too many steps away from the solar reality that enables life of Planet Earth. So many steps that we are now lost in abstractions, and one second closer to the end of the world(s). Tick tack. Tick tack.
Astrology and astronomy were one until Descartes divorced them during the Little Ice Age.20 Our cosmic perspective was reduced to human-centric reason and the endless pursuit of progress and happiness that shapes our everyday reality.
Tick tack. Tick tack. The sound of a second. The clock. The calendar. The worker. The electric. The digital. The user. The cloud. The internet. The nation. The money. The market. The economy. The world. The end of the world. Tick tack. Tick tack.
The tick tack stops. During Solar cycle 25 every clock and electrical grid is melted by a magnetic storm. The second dies in silence taking with it the minute, the hour and the week. From its absence a solar whisper emerges. People can listen to the Sun again. The Gregorian calendar dies. Months are replaced by zodiac signs. Workers are free. “What time is it?” Someone asks. They look up to the sun and laugh together.
They become aware of their addiction to electricity and how bad centralized energy distribution systems were. The batteries of their smartphones, electric cars and air conditioning stop working. They can now see the invisible materiality of the digital. The cloud melted leaving thousands of data centers without a metaphor that hid them. The heat from the ruins melts more metaphors: social network, metaverse, Big data, Artificial intelligence. Burning metaphors. Free workers dance around the fires fueled by melting metaphors.
They sing with joy, free from a place that never existed. The internet, an imaginary space perceived as shared states of mind. They tell each other tales about old railroads and other physical networked infrastructures that their ancestors used to transfer energy, units of information, moods and stories. They laugh as they remember that digital files are a representation of reality, but not reality itself.
Days feel longer, deeper, stronger. People gather at sunrise and sunset to listen to the Sun, dancing over the ruins of a big metaphor: the nation. An abstract community of strangers who were trapped in two imaginary jails: the Left and the Right. A free worker finds a page from an old book and reads it out loud: “contemporary processes of globalization and mediatization have contributed to materially abstracting relations between people, with major consequences for how humans live their lives.”21
People can now listen to the real sound of time. The many rhythms of life. Time is not money. Not anymore as it melted along other toxic metaphors. Free workers found other languages to exchange value, while dancing over the ruins of the previously almighty markets. The odorless smell of the melted idea of economy fueled a reconnection to directly experience reality, slowly repairing the wounds created in the Enlightenment. Inspired by the generosity of the Sun, solidarity replaced scarcity.
They continue dancing imitating the three cosmic dances: revolution, rotation and tilting. Tropical years, solar days, seasons and tropics re-emerge from their never-ending and slow dance healing. A colossal revelation appeared in their imaginations as they danced. They started thinking of themselves as one. As billions of system-processes dancing together as a cosmic body around the Sun. People became the Earth and decided to rename it as Planet Water. The most abundant and sacred substance inside and around us.
The Earth was not a place anymore. This was the end of the world.
Tick tack. Tick tack. The end of the world. The world. The economy. The marker. The money. The internet. The cloud. The user. The digital. The electric. The worker. The calendar. The clock. The sound of a second. Tick tack. Tick tack.
…reality is not a constellation of things at all, but one of processes. The fundamental “stuff” of the world is not material substance, but volatile flux, namely “fire”, and all things are versions thereof (puros tropai).– Nicholas Rescher, on panta rhei and process philosophy22
Process is fundamental: the river is not an object, but a continuing flow; the sun is not a thing, but an enduring fire. Everything is a matter of process, of activity, of change (panta rhei)
While weaving these words, I remembered a song. One that I used as an alarm to wake-up every morning in my late 90s adolescence: Dormir soñando23 [Sleep dreaming] by the Mexican band El Gran Silencio. The Great Silence.24 It’s also the title of one of my favorite short fiction stories written by Ted Chiang, which is a story about the earthly creatures we fail to hear in the voice of a Puerto Rican parrot:
“So the extinction of my species doesn’t just mean the loss of a group of birds. It’s also the disappearance of our language, our rituals, our traditions. It’s the silencing of our voice.
Human activity has brought my kind to the brink of extinction, but I don’t blame them for it. They didn’t do it maliciously. They just weren’t paying attention.”Fragment of The Great Silence by Ted Chiang.
In the lyrics of this song I remembered, written by Tony Hernández, I found an almost perfect false end to this experiment:
Original lyrics (en Español)
Con tus ojos tan plenos, despiertos
Con tu corazón lleno y radiante
Alucinante, tan lleno de amor
La vida, la vida, la vida que es la vida
En tratar de entenderla, se nos va la propia vida
Tan simple y tan fuerte, tan llanamente suerte
Lo que acontece, preparación de la muerte
Pero es absurdo ocuparte de este estudio
Cada año, segundo a segundo
No es tan profundo, dormir soñando
Es la respuesta, tal vez es errónea
Tal vez es correcta
Sueña a la par del presente y no del futuro
Porque de esto nunca estás tan seguro
Acá, tus enojos, existes y eres libre
Afuera tus despojos
Llena tus maletas de responsabilidad
Deja para mañana tu personalidad
Mas si tú sientes una contradicción
Que al dormir te despiertas
Y al despertar te duermes
Tal vez si lo dices no eres tan inteligente
La gente solo observa la ropa y los hechos
Mas nunca sienten lo que hay dentro de sus pechos
No existe entre ellos una real conexión
Pues creen tener siempre la razón
La razón justa y procesadora
De lo correcto que se hace cada hora
Pero en este sueño, tú estás sumergido
Mas no te sientas nunca afligido
Porque con en este sueño, tú estás protegido
Y aunque te sientas un poco distante
Tu alma lo dice a cada instante
Con tus ojos tan plenos, despiertos
Con tu corazón lleno y radiante
Alucinante, tan lleno de amor
Lleno de amor
Lleno de amor (tan lleno de amor)
Lleno de amor
Translated to English
With your eyes so full, awake
With your heart full and radiant
Amazing, so full of love
Life, life, life what is life
In trying to understand it, our own life goes away
So simple and so strong, so plainly luck
What happens, preparation for death
But it is absurd to deal with this study
Every year, second by second
It’s not that deep, sleep dreaming
It’s the answer, maybe it’s wrong
maybe it’s correct
Dream along with the present and not the future
Because of this you are never so sure
Here, your anger, you exist and you are free
out your spoils
Pack your bags of responsibility
Leave your personality for tomorrow
But if you feel a contradiction
That when you sleep you wake up
And when you wake up you fall asleep
Maybe if you say it you’re not so smart
People just look at clothes and facts
But they never feel what’s inside their chests
There is no real connection between them.
Well, they think they’re always right.
The fair and processing reason
Of the correct thing that is done every hour
But in this dream, you are submerged
But never feel sad
Because with in this dream, you are protected
And even if you feel a little distant
Your soul says it every moment
With your eyes so full, awake
With your heart full and radiant
Amazing, so full of love
Full of love
Full of love (so full of love)
Full of love
- We refer to wasting time not as money, but time as (the rhythms of) life.
- Did you know how LCD screens are made and how they work?
- Solar Plexus, or Manipura, refers to the third chakra of seven chakras, part of a system that holds your body’s energy (or prana) and your actions can help keep it in balance. This chakra spins in the area around the abdomen above the belly button up to the breastbone.
- We are using the word “machine” as a metaphor. In physical reality, the internet is a complex networked infrastructure interconnecting many machines hosted in data-centers which “consume water directly for cooling and indirectly through the water requirements of non-renewable electricity generation.” (Source: Nature, 2021)
- The term sentipensar is described by Colombian sociologist Orlando Fals Borda (1984) as the living principle of the riverine and swamp communities of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. They imply the art of living based on thinking with both heart and mind. (Source: ‘ORLANDO FALS BORDA- SENTIPENSANTE’ on YouTube, 2008)
- We do not refer to Earth as a place but as a cosmic body which we are part of.
- Taken from Ocean Vuong’s interview ‘On being generous in your work’ (The Creative Independent, 2017)
- If you’re interested in going to the middle of nowhere, follow this link: https://nowhere.is/
- Copied from ‘ISO 9241-210:2019 Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 210: Human-centred design for interactive systems’
- This proposal is inspired by Kodwo Eshun’s book More Brilliant Than The Sun: Adventures In Sonic Fiction, published in 1998.
- Read more on this topic inThomas Anthony Troszak’s paper on Why do we burn coal and trees to make solar panels?
- “Solar cycle 25 is the current solar cycle, the 25th since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. It began in December 2019 with a minimum smoothed sunspot number of 1.8. It is expected to continue until about 2030” Source: Solar cycle 25, Wikipedia
- Taken from Dawn of the Heliocene (Nautilus, 2020), a brilliant article on “Why the next geological epoch should be named for when we tapped the sun’s energy”.
- Further reading on “Why we need to do better than better”, an article by critical designer Ted Hunt
- Further reading on the problem of better on the doctoral thesis by Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
- Read more about solarity on Introduction: From Solar to Solarity by Imre Szeman and Darin Barney
- Quechuan neologism that refers to a “worldview which proposes the collective realization around the concept of harmony and a balanced life based on ethical values, in place of the current one based around progress and economic growth, a development model that views human beings and the Planet as an economic resource.” (Taken from Buen vivir: the social philosophy inspiring movements in South America an interview with Eduardo Gudynas, a leading scholar on buen vivir, by The Guardian)
- Listen to “Earth”, a song by Alice Coltrane and Joe Henderson released in 1974. Written by Kennet Earl Nash and Joe Henderson.
- The Little Ice Age (LIA) was” a period of regional cooling, particularly pronounced in the North Atlantic region, that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period” (Wikipedia)
- Quote from Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community (1996) via the wikipedia page for Abstraction.
- Rescher, Nicholas (2000). Process philosophy a survey of basic issues. [Pittsburgh]: University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 5. ISBN 0822961288.
- Listen to the song on Spotify
- Read the full story here.