This page represents the opinion of the OSCOMAK project founder, not necessarily that of any of the other contributors.

"Every truly great accomplishment
is at first impossible."
                      -- Chinese proverb

That used to be the quote for this project back when it was called "Stella" (for Sustainable Technology Library and after a kind-hearted countess with a complex WWII past, a past indirectly related to that of my own mother).

The Chinese proverb quote was given to me on a fortune cookie slip around 1990 by Vincent Dass (sp?), a Toastmaster giving an adult-education class at the Princeton Public Schools. (That's how schools should run all their classes IMHO, like the public library -- no grades, show up if you care about something, leave if it doesn't work for you.)

All that remains of that fortune cookie slip (still in my wallet after about twenty years) is "... accomplishment ... impossible".

Now that despite my perfectionism and other failings OSCOMAK is on its way (thanks to Google's and Virgin's Project Virgle April Fool's joke and related caring people of the OpenVirgle spinoff), and given that other related projects exist, and since I am broadening the mission of OSCOMAK to include procedures in general (as Al Globus suggested long ago), I felt it time to change the quote. I also feel that the goals behind OSCOMAK, due to all that, and other changes in the world over the last twenty years, has moved from being "impossible" to just "really, really, really difficult, probably too much so". :-) Which is real progress IMHO. :-) Someday, something like it will exist, whether called OSCOMAK or a Semantic Wikipedia or a WikiKnowHow or something else entirely.

So the new quote is from Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah (from the book To Become A Human Being by Steve Wall, pg. 24).

"The thing wrong with the world is that people don't have instructions." -- Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah

He might be called "Iroquois" but the term people with those roots used for themselves was "Haudenosaunee" which simply in a sense means "human beings", like us all. (Even those sentient AIs reading this in the future. :-) The Haudenosaunee ideals informed the better parts of the US Constitution, which might have been a better document IMHO if even more had been borrowed. :-)

I include the beginning and the rest here, and also to make clear that, as with "adult education", "have instructions" is not about being told what to do, but in finding help in the human quest for meaning. At your own pace.

The thing wrong with the world
is that people don't have instructions.
We were told almost three hundred years ago
that people would be coming to us and asking for our instructions,
We were told that back in the 1700s
that there'd be a day when white people would be coming to us,
asking for instructions and finding out the way we think.

Indians joke that when they see a white man coming,
they see a question mark walking down the road.
That's not one of the things I laugh about.
I feel for the ones who feel lost.
I tell them to use common sense and listen.
The Creator has the answers.
A lot of people are searching for what they don't have.
They're searching for the wisdom of a whole way of life.
So they come to the Indians.
That's why I say it's in the prophecies
that they are coming to us,
because they are wanting to learn our way of life,
what it is all about.
It's true, I get a lot of people, even college people,
who want to know how to be a "Human Being."
We don't laugh at the white people,
Most of the Indians can't laugh
because even they haven't been brought up
in the Longhouse like I have.
They've got to learn too. Even some of the chiefs have had to learn
and I don't know how much they have learned.

I feel those are wise words to reflect on as we in so-called "developed" places find ourselves trapped in a mythological bubble of scarcity between the native cultures of pre-scarcity where money was not needed, and the future world of post-scarcity where money is an obsolete sign of poverty.

You probably won't find the kind of "instructions" on this site Leon Shenandoah was talking about. :-) But in the process of using the site, or Wikipedia, or many other places on the internet, you may find a little of that spirit of sharing "instructions" that informs his words. And maybe, somehow, all that together, along with physical works in the physical world, may come to fullfill those prophecies -- and for people of all faiths, even secular ones, and even if some must find their own other ways to that same eternal truth and giving spirit.

And for the record, I have no relation to the Haudenosaunee other than living in the lands they once enjoyed in greater numbers, and maybe, sadly, my distant Dutch ancestors probably directly or indirectly hurt and killed many of them. And I have to accept that had I been a young man with an unexamined life at the time, I might have done the same. :-(

From: Wikipedia: "As a result of a long-disputed treaty with the Cardassians, the Federation has agreed to return several planets to Cardassian control. One such planet, Dorvan V, is inhabited by the descendants of Native Americans, who had left Earth to preserve their heritage on a new home. They had spent two hundred years searching for a world, having finally chosen Dorvan V twenty years before, and are unwilling to leave. Captain Picard believes they are right, but pleads with them to leave, saying that the Cardassians insist on the removal of all inhabitants. During one debate, the Indian leader tells Picard that, according to their research, Picard's ancestor had been involved in an Indian massacre in New Mexico in the 1600s; they believe Picard's involvement in their case is thus a form of kismet, an idea Picard finds disturbing."

But I would hope the mythological Jean-Luc Picard would have appreciated this:
"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together."

which I feel is the best spirit with which to approach this site and similar ones.

I'd like to dedicate this site to these people (among many, many others) who have helped me in one way or another:

The mention of a person here or on the linked Garden Simulator Acknowledgments page should not necessarily be taken as an endorsement by that person of me or any of my work, including OSCOMAK. But the mentions do show how much one life is touched by the kind gifts from many others, which I hereby gratefully acknowledge and also recognize as a very incomplete list. And also, like Shevek in the Ursula K. Le Guin's novel The Dispossessed after his fight with the similarly-named Shevet, I also have to acknowledged (namelessly :-) the people I have struggled with over the years for the things they had to give me too. :-)

I am slowly coming to realize that a reason I have always been reluctant to give thanks every day for my daily bread etc. and daily instruction by others is that it forces me to admit and accept that I am pretty insignificant in the scheme of things (scales of seemingly infinite space and time, as per a 1990s sermon by Unitarian Minister Peter Sampson on "Religion and the Space Age") and that there are powerful and mysterious forces (even just the weather, the ocean, public opinion, earthquakes, or maybe even the galactic core) affecting my life (as all our lives) which are way beyond my (or our) understanding or ability to significantly control (even with Buckminster Fuller's trimtab idea). And maybe that's a good thing. :-) Especially as we seemingly rush headlong to a technological singularity that is otherwise in some ways just a mirror of our own choice of virtues or lack thereof. Anyway, without saying if "galactic superwave theory" is complete bunk or not, imagine looking outside on a starlit night and suddenly half the sky lights up and stays that way for the rest of your (shorter?) life. Things way beyond us are so easily possible. So, we all have a lot to be thankful for, every day.

And to the people on the MacArthur Foundation committee, who turned this idea down as a proposal (as Stella) for a graduate fellowship about twenty years ago, well, as per the bit on struggles above, thanks too. The struggles probably made me a much better person. :-) Too bad that all our collective failings potentially delayed implementing Robert Muller's 1980s idea for an an ordering of our knowledge. At least now we have Wikipedia. And someday, no dobt, OSCOMAK will merge into a Semantic version of that. And probably be the better for that. As will the ideas of Memex, Xanadu, Augment, Smalltalk, and so on (including all the unnamed human aspirations for such systems all the way back to the first standing bear cave painting used for instructing the young of the ancestors of the Haudenosaunee), as all these efforts become part of a free Semantic noosphere.

--Paul Fernhout

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