Fun with Luhmann
Some of the following items are based on the digital version of Luhmann's original paper zettelkasten at the Niklas-Luhmann-Archiv. Luhmann wrote in German, and I apologize for language barriers that may come up in the following.
What are your favourite single zettels (or zettel groups) from the archive?
I've used the digital zettelkasten and did some probing with abstract and concrete search terms I felt comfortable with - Mathematik, Rhetorik, Kommunikation, or, Baum, Haus, Familie.
I know next to nothing about sociology, so, personally, I found the vast majority of the zettel shown quite simply not worth reading. I am aware that this says a lot about me and the supersuperficial nature of this probing, and nothing about Luhmann.
I've heard about the famous zettels on showing the zettelkasten to visitors and the parallel to a porn movie ("showing everything and nothing but that"), the "joker" zettel, and in my probings I found one about the hypothetical "Überbuben" and and one about Luhmann sitting in front of his office drinking from an inkpot - those are amusing, but perhaps not crucially relevant.
I know no candidates for zettels that show a breakthrough insight for Luhmann's theory of society, but that is no wonder given the nature of my search.
What are your favourite examples of serendipity?
Do you know parts of the zettelkasten that highlight Luhmann's practices in constructing the zettelkasten in such a way that surprising relevant insights appeared in a partially systematic way?
Do you know examples how these practices yielded results?
On a similar note - it is often said that a zettelkasten and its author should surprise each other.
Do you know zettels where the zettelkasten surprised Luhmann?
Do you know zettels where Luhmann surprised his zettelkasten?
The English Wikipedia page on Luhmann says "Luhmann himself described his theory as "labyrinthine" or "non-linear" and claimed he was deliberately keeping his prose enigmatic to prevent it from being understood "too quickly", which would only produce simplistic misunderstandings."
I did not check the original quote, but I assume it's sufficiently accurate. As a caveat - Luhmann seemed to have a refreshing sense of humour, which might be a factor here.
Do you have an assessment of this? Personally, I find it weird to work on a general theory of a huge ultra-complex domain like society and then decide for "enigmatic prose".
But then I am aware that I'm writing in this forum and Luhmann wrote for eternity.