The Golden Arc Φ – Sink or Swim | The Narrative Design Explorer™

The Golden Arc Φ – Sink or Swim

    Back in Detroit I once roamed the College for Creative Studies with no shoes. Why? I like feeling Earth beneath my feet. Even in Detroit. It seemed to make people generally upset. My typography instructor, made a particular point to exclaim on a regular basis “Look at you!” he’d say “You don’t even wear shoes. You’re a free spirit. You can’t draw straight lines!” Despite my efforts with hand drawn typography he regularly would give me “D’s”.

    One day I copied, literally traced a friend’s assignment that had been given an “A”. I still got a “D”. He was this old timer OG graphic design guy. Super talented, drove a hot red Ferrari and loved to talk type. There was simply something in me he found offensive, he kept encouraging me to drop out of school. He wasn’t alone. The other free-loving weirdos, I mean Detroit-based artists seemed to dig it though. I even earned a nickname for it “Shoeless Joe”. In some ways it became a sign of defiance — yes, just like shuffling.

    So too my recent performance project “Pinky Elephant: A Kickstarter Story” ( has been an act of defiance for me. The gamed American dream sickens me. All the false pomp and sparkles we laden on broken tropes, while we let people — whole cities even — fall straight through the cracks.

    Just after grad school, by some stroke of amazing luck I was able to write my own job description and move to a foreign country to take it. There I was only about 50 miles from the US border, but it was a world away. There people didn’t seem so scared of falling through the cracks. Even the panhandlers seemed to have a sense of security. What was it? A social net. In the event of emergencies they had somewhere to go. They could find help. Compassion. Empathy.

    Working soup kitchens as a teen I realized quickly how much we just don’t give a damn here in the US of A.

    My grandfather once wanted to teach my brother to swim. The little man was deathly scared of the water. So in all his John Wayne WWII vet wisdom, my gramps threw my little brother off the boat. It even hurt me to watch, though I could swim and well. There as my little brother flailed and screamed, fighting the soft power of the ocean our grandfather started yelling “Sink or swim boy”. I don’t recall who jumped in, one of my unlces perhaps, but he needed to be saved. He couldn’t swim. He would have sunk.

    Over the past few years of my life I cried for help in so many ways, and it seemed no one could hear me. Not the police, not the courts, not my family, friends — it was only by some stroke of miracle that I found some angels — real one’s made of flesh, like you and I. They lifted me up and helped me find safety as best they could while repeating the mantra “Sorry Stephen, the system has failed you.” It failed not only me, but my children, and yes too, my former wife. Now, no one owes you anything, sure, but as fellow human beings you’d think we have more compassion. I was for all intensive purposes a leper, people would run at my sight and spit upon me when I showed them my tender skin.

    After crawling out of hell on all fours, standing and taking a little spit doesn’t bother you much. After your ego dies, you find something else — Self and self. You don’t have to apologize for it, it simply is.

    That said, others will hate you for it, for no reason. Your very existence becomes offensive, they say “Why is he so free? Who does he think he is?” We are no one and we are everyone, and each deserves such liberty and freedom, it should not take death, but that’s what it took for me. I tried very hard for many years to be what was expected of me, it was only when I found myself at odds with the world that I awoke to a voice within. A voice that begs me simply to be.

    I’ve had many epiphanies in my life, mostly small ones. Like when you catch the dew glistening on a flower, the smell of a distant fire and the humming of birds — there for a splendid moment it’s as if everything fits together. And it does.

    Last fall I had a big one while writing a book which is the culmination of my lifes work. It’s decidedly short and theosophical, theophysiological really. I believe in structure. I believe in universal structure. It came to me one afternoon.

    Our experience of now is like a that of a wave of consciousness running down a s string of being. We too are waves. The ancient Indians called it “nāda” — the vibration wave of being. To them sound was the building block of the Universe. Similarly here the building block is energy, not particles or (dark)matter.

    First we focus on the wave. We tend to see waves as two-dimensional representations, or in the third-dimension with substances like the surface of liquids or crashing waves on a beach. These forms, and so many more, inform us of the nature of the flow of experience and certain classic dramatic forms like 5-act structure of Freytag’s Pyramid and the 3-act structure of Aristotle’s “Whole” story. They point to plot, a string, that takes the form of triangle. Which is apt. Though while our structures are triangular we speak of arcs? In that pontification I found something new, but ancient. Something of the Self.

    The Golden Arc Φ — An illustration of my concept form my forthcoming book.

    A multiversal form, an almost sinusoidal pattern that repeats at scale — the Golden Arc . A universal form of sacred geometry, based on archplot and the Greek Phi Φ. The Golden Arc is that which we seek not only to obtain in art but also in life.

    It is when in a flow state, as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, while engaged in an experience that resembles the Golden Arc that we are most alive as beings. This is where we achieve the ultimate rewards of play — ecstasy, connection and catharsis. It is stories in this from, fiction and non, which resonate with us most. What we seek, is active protagonism, reward for good, punishment for the wicked all modeled in a an attempt to understand self-realization in the dance of survival of the fittest.

    The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Sequence

    The Golden Arc (patent pending) is the Golden Mean for the formation of plot in a potential narrative space. From the smallest event to the largest, the experiential curve over spacetime of the Golden Arc is a fractal — roughly self-similar at large and small scales; above as it is below.

    Plot of a particular temporal value is not a line through time and space, but a hyperdimensional string, or noumena dataset rendered over the curvature of a period of interaction in spacetime. We reward the tellers of such stories for reminding us of this form. So that in the pursuit of the ultimate state we may use their creations as mirrors to reflect and project upon our lives and hence our reality.

    So here in this “Pinky Elephant: A Kickstarter Story” I’ve crafted, to the best of my ability, a golden arc over the duration of the project — 29 days. It was a simple story really, I wanted to finally become a hero, my own, and to shed of so many layers of old skin.