Loops

russian cosmonaut life support system diagram

We never begin anything on a blank slate – there are always already things in progress, things that may have gone around hundreds of times before. We are continually stepping in and out of loops. They enfold us, entangle us – it is a wonder we do not see our own backs. Water molecules are so mobile that a glass of water from your tap today almost certainly contains at least one molecule of the water Jesus was baptised in. Your blood circulates, circadian rhythms governed by daylight control your digestive systems, your brain chemistry, and your body temperature. Your sleep phases are cyclical. Even in the linear expedition of walking from A to B, we employ the biomechanical cycle of walking: the same step repeated many times. Runners analyse their gait in great detail, looking for the most efficient biomechanical loop. Oscillations of rubidium atoms and vibrations of quartz crystals permit us to measure time. Weather patterns like El Niño and glacial periods recur more-or-less regularly. The Arctic Tern migrates from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again every year. The pro-surfing circuit follows summer around the globe. Our planet turns, the moon passes through its phases, our star, throbbing with cyclical sunspots circles the black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

A loop begins and ends in the same place. A loop can be a path: the Link bus route, a holiday roadtrip, fitness trails, heritage walks, the planned new rail link under the city from Britomart to Mt Eden. Routines and habits are often cyclical: most days we go to the same places, eat according to the same ritualised practices, perhaps live from paycheck to paycheck, or work at a job that requires us to do the same thing repeatedly. Most hospital visits are return visits. How many times have you been to the same movie theatre? Rituals can be mind-numbing or Sisyphean, but equally comforting or enriching. Many of our mechanisms are based on loops, cycles, oscillations, vibrations: scuba rebreathers, amplifiers and synthesisers, software AI routines. Recycling, rehabilitating, and reusing are processes which attempt to close loops to reduce wastage, or to produce waste which can be fed into other cycles and processes.

We habitually address exceptional spaces; spaces for special events; the out-of-the-ordinary; the linear; the historical. But what about the cyclical, the repeated, the looped?

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