Internet: Media Tools of Inquiry

Dallas, January 5, 2000

Preface: [In mid-December, 1999, I drove down from Montréal to Dallas to begin a month or so sejour here with family and friends, and coincidentally shifted my internet engagement focus, temporarily, from writing essays to participation in an email discussion forum on 'attractors'. ( This is my first new essay in almost a month, and as you can see, I have posted it at my new website at as my old website ran out of space and this 're-location' seems advantageous strategically, economically and domain-name portability wise. I have mirrored everything which was on my rampages site onto the new goodshare site, but will keep the rampages site, to reference the new goodshare site, for six months or so to facilitate transition. The geographical shift, the internet focus shift, the website shift and the 'millenial shift' have indeed triggered some new thoughts, ... amongst which are fresh impressions of internet 'media tools'.]

As I start to type in this essay, it feels soooo relaxing (compared to participating in an email forum), ... like having a fireside chat with an old friend after coming off the political campaign trail. One tends to be 'good to oneself', which, while arguably a slower way to bring about change, is significantly more comfortable. Another pleasing thing is the awareness that no-one is going to jump in and put 'word-meanings in my mouth', ... like, ... "so, you prefer passivity to real world engagement", ... or "you like the States better than Canada and Indians better than Whitemen", ... and so on.

I can't tell you how tired I am of linear logical propositions being thrown around. Sure and I know it's my particular 'bete noir' but, nevertheless, if Parmenides or Euclid showed their faces around here they would soon have a bloody nose. I know that's irrational, ... but so is putting euclidian logic in the primacy of reason, ... it's a bloody dysfunction-engendering religion is what it is! (You can see how quickly my emotions take me back to a 'thing' orientation, ... which suggests that getting angry about dysfunction creates more dysfunction).

Well, there goes the relaxation, ..., but there is no joy without having felt pain, and no understanding without having felt ignorance. 'Good' and 'bad' are reciprocally enfolded aspects of all 'things' since 'things' are inevitably the precipitates of a rich containing environment, ... and this is as true of countries and ethnicities as it is of internet media tools, such as email forums.

What has been good about the 'attractors forum', from my viewpoint, is the live engagement of emotions. What has been bad about the 'attractors forum' is the live engagement of emotions. What has been bad has been the propensity to fall into dysfunctional communication patterns, ... what has been good has been the opportunity to experience and learn about dysfunctional communication patterns (i.e. to equip oneself to move towards more harmonious knowledge sharing and collective reasoning.).

Where to begin? (on the upbeat or the downbeat?). Since linguistic explication (as contrasted with poetry) is a single-issue-at-a-time game, ... it leaves me no choice but to choose, ... or does it? If I am speaking of something which is coming across as negative, the reader could be understanding, at the same time, that negative experience teaches, ... so that what I am nominally implying is 'bad', we can simultaneously be thinking is 'good', ... a simultaneously inclusive duality rather than a sequentially exclusive duality (the fundamental Heraclitean - Parmenidian alternative for perception and inquiry into reality).

This simultaneous duality suggests a discussion of 'attractors', ... the leitmotif of the email forum I am currently participating in. Where some people would look first to a technical dictionary or send an email query to a Nobel laureate to get a definition; i.e. to build upwards and outwards from an axiom or postulate 'in-the-hand', ... my 'bootstrapping' inclination is always, ... to start from purpose, ... an 'outside-inwards' inductive field which halos or englobes you. Why should we talk about 'attractors', ... 'just because the term exists?', ... kind of like Edmund Hillary's view of climbing Mt. Everest? No, the analogy does not work because Hillary was purposefully engaging with nature, ... discovering what it was REALLY like at the crest of the highest mountain in the world. In a semantical exploration, its more as if we are probing the depths of the human psyche, ... and there are all kinds of unnatural worlds, linguistically induced, in which we can 'lose ourselves', if we explore them without the guiding influence of purpose.

In other words, we can look at the concept of 'attractor' as a 'thing in its own right', or as the precipitate of some surrounding, contextual need.

Now this thought is very interesting to me, because of its innate self-referencing. An attractor, by any of the definitions, presents itself as a geometrical entity formed by the relational pattern between a trajectory (the weaving thread of 'system state' or whatever), and its own containing space. We speak about 'attractors' in terms of something which induces a coherency of movement in its containing environment, ... as when an attractive woman catches the eyes of those at a party or when the smell of spilled jar of honey reaches the bees and wasps in the surrounding environment. In other words, an 'attractor' is visualized as the reciprocal precipitate of its own containing context. The radial homing in of the bees on the honey gives the honey a new meaning which goes beyond its passive properties, ... and gets into the reciprocal geometric issues of opportunity and purpose.

So, if we go to the technical dictionary, instead of reflecting on our purpose of why we need to understand 'attractors', .... we will bypass an important question; i.e. ... if we are investigating attractors in order to better understand complex systems, ... if we consider ourselves (the observer) to be immersed constituents of the system we are observing, ... then consistency says that we must conceive of our own inquiry as being in the nature of an attractor (i.e. opportunity-purpose pulled rather than a thing-based causal action). In other words, that we should understand 'attractors' in the terms of the attractor-concept being the precipitate of our contextual need, rather than a 'thing in its own right'. If we do not do this, we effectively accept ourselves and our human mental tools of inquiry IN THEIR OWN RIGHT, placing them OUTSIDE of the context of our inquiry, ... an incomplete approach which rules out its own applicability for inquiring into social systems since those same human mental tools as embodied in other people as well as the observer are inside of the system being inquired into.

The point here is simple but counter-intuitive, and has been brought out by Heisenberg, Laborit, Jantsch, McLuhan, Sartre and others, ... i.e. that the tools of our inquiry (culture-shaped perception and inquiry, the transformative influence of words and media) must be included in our inquiry. This is not an assumption which participants in 'email forums' typically make, ... and as a result, misunderstandings can develop through the exclusion of tools from the inquiry such as the media form; i.e. email-forum based inquiry.

In our typical tool-excluding approach to inquiry, it is easily possible for a group of people with common purpose and intent to quickly fragment and to perhaps permanently condemn the possibility for those participating in the forum, ... for a synergistic coming together in an active effort, ... participants with a common base of purpose who would potentially co-resonate were it not for the distorting effect of the tools of inquiry (email forum) through which they were coming to know each other.

This potentially permanently tainting dysfunction (Acquired System Inquiry Deficiency Syndrome) associated with the email forum occurs when the emergence of discursive conflict is erroneously attributed to the innate character of the participants rather than to process (the email forum tool). This whole question, of whether to attribute system behavior to 'relational interference' ('attractors') or to 'things in their own right' is a fractal question, ... it is the question of the primacy of field over matter or vice versa, ... the question of Heraclitus and Parmenides on the nature of reality; simultaneous unity and plurality or sequential unity and plurality, .... and the issue that while relativistic curved space-time, according to science, provides a more consistent perception and inquiry convention for our reality, we persist in using non-relativistic rectangular space and linear-causal time.

While some forum participants see 'peoples' and 'cultures' as 'things in their own right', others (such as myself) see them as 'attractors', ... as the continually breaking- down- and- coming- back- together- precipitates of an enveloping context (a la Rosen et al)

There are a great many email forums ongoing on the internet. One can project that these forums, by excluding from consideration their own influence on their inquiry, ... are infusing fragmentative toxins into the groundsoil of activism. One can also project that there is learning going on, at the same time, ... and the relative balance of fragmentative toxification versus learning will be determined by the relative growth of conscious awareness of one's tools of inquiry versus the growth of unconscious use and acceptance of new tools of inquiry. This point is effectively the point made by McLuhan, that the transformative effect of the medium is the real message, ... rather than the particular content which 'rides' on the medium. McLuhan's observation re-emerges very clearly from the email forum.

McLuhan also observed that how the balance swings over the longer terms depends on the educational system, ... not just education in a formal sense, but also informally in the sense of how youth 'model's its behaviours after adults; i.e. a deepening of unconsciousness (explicit-over-implicit orientation) at the adult level can be expected to progressively intensive over generational time due to the overriding effects of children modeling after adults. This would seem to be a prime warning message of Y2K, where we are being reminded of the 'automated dependencies' which are progressively characterizing our human behavior patterns. The message is not about our capacity to become more mechanically behaviored with the support of computers, ... but about the transformative effects of this dependency, such as the loss of consciousness and the loss of capacity to evolve and overcome the rising dysfunction in our social fabric. Meanwhile, technology does not have to be used in an unconsciousness inducing way, ... it could instead be used to support and improve our collective consciousness rather than attenuating it, ... however, such utilization seems to be the rare exception today.

In regard to this issue of 'the medium is the message', on January 5th, I sent a note to the email forum [1] to try to shift the discussion towards including the email forum inquiry tool inside of the inquiry. The effect of this or any other note in an email forum can't really be assessed (deterministic chaos), but it seems fair to say that the note did not alter the dominant superficial pattern of excluding the tools of inquiry from the inquiry. Thus, we could say that internet technology in this particular instance is giving us a further unconscious dependency on mechanical process, ... a mechanical process which has transformative effects which we are ignoring. For example, email forums, while bringing together people of common purpose who might not otherwise have 'found each other', seem also to have the potential to disperse and fragment those of common intent who might well become team-mates had the coming-together been supported by non-discursive signalling (resonant timing, touch, smiles etc.) as in a week together in mountain retreat.

The email forum situation is far from simple however, since in the same timeframe, another participant with whom I have been 'coevolving' understanding of complex systems issues for some time, .... and who could better see what was amiss in some of the crossed purpose discussion, ... wrote an intermediating note [2] which seemed to work towards increasing the depth and breadth of idea sharing. In essence, her note converts discord into harmony, ... in line with einstein's three rules of work; "1. out of clutter, find simplicity; 2. from discord, find harmony, and; 3. in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity. In this context, ... it can be productive to catalyze conflict if one can also find ways to resolve it, ... and the email forum is definitely efficient in the former.

In conclusion, the quietness of the Y2K passage may induce a further embrace of mechanical tools of inquiry and dependency, whilst ignoring their transformative effects on our society. Just as people tend to accept the cultures and parental environments they are born into, ... looking out upon the world as if there is an objective reality 'out there' which is not at all molded by one's inherited tools of perception and inquiry, we seem to be accepting new tools of informating and inquiry (e.g. email forums) as inert lenses, ...ignoring their transformative effects on 'community as complex system'.

Marshall McLuhan, .... where are you now that we need you?

* * *

[1] Note submitted on January 5, 2000 to the 'attractors' email forum, ... which attempted to make a case for 'including the tool of inquiry in the inquiry'; i.e. suggesting that forum participants, by standing on their own shoulders, could account for the effects of being drawn into 'role-plays' or 'posturing' etc. (unintentionally or otherwise). While there was minority interest in this 'meta-discussion', the dominant pattern of excluding the email forum 'tool of inquiry' from the inquiry continues to prevail.


Date: Wed, 05 Jan 2000 03:34:58


From: ted lumley <>

Subject: impressions of the embryonic life of an email forum

"in the process of my continuing research into 'community as complex system', i have begun writing a short essay of my 'immersed' perception of this 'attractors' email forum for posting on my website. the basic 'idea kernel' of the essay is reproduced here, for anyone interested;

this 'attractors' forum can itself be seen as a 'life-form' in the informational realm which continues to evolve in an unpredictable fashion, and in a fairly 'unaware' manner. that is, the treating of issues 'which confront us' in this forum (the 'playing of shots') seems to be in the primacy over the cultivation of 'opportunity' (the 'playing of shape') for the full constituency of views.

this 'shots over shape' mode of discussion is the norm, ... and my 'archives ' suggest that 'playing shape', the cultivating of discursive opportunity or 'natural informational balance' as occurs in, for example, a marine ecology, is the rare exception in the discursive experience of groups. outside of family and close friend based 'community' structures, i have only seen the 'management of opportunity' (discursive and dynamical) in the primacy come to characterize the overall process in exceptional teams and native american 'sharing' councils. and here, i am not pointing any fingers at anyone, since this deals with the chemistry of the overall group, ... a nonlinear property which cannot be deduced from the behaviors of the parts. some of the same people as are in this group, could be members of other groups where the chemistry is one of ecological balance rather than analytics.

in the 'attractors' group, as we determine our differences in perspective, we have already begun to choose 'specialization' as a means to proceed, ... with advocacy for new groups or for new affiliations of people who are 'more homogenous' in views. in mcluhan's 'medium is the message' context, it would seem that the natural 'ethic' of the most vocal members of our 'attractors' group is to fragment the discussion. this is the community behavior which would be seen and 'modeled' by youth watching in on us, ... the word-and-thought-content is incidental. as mcluhan says, the transformative power of a factory does not depend on whether the factory makes cadillacs or cornflakes (e.g. the transformative power can be reductionist even thought the content is gaian).

in ivan illich's terms, which are relativistic (curved space-time) oriented, 'silence' must be seen as a 'commons'. his suggestion, based on his own historical experience in living on a small mediterranean island, ... is that from the point that the 'public address' technology arrives, ... a new information 'commons' is set up, which is influenced by those who have access to the microphone.

this 'silence as a commons' view appeals to common sense. for example, for a variety of reasons, many views can remain unexpressed in an email discussion group. there are 77 people in the 'attractors' group and it would be unwise to assume that all of the views of this constituency have been in some way represented. some views which have not shown up may be correct, malicious, hypercritical, illegal, obscene, emotional, sexual, bigoted, aberrant (these terms, of course, refer to 'judgement-related' assessments), but in our 'politically correct' culture, we purge such diversity as being unwelcome and out of place, ... if there are people in our midst who are hard-hearted, or bigoted or criminal or even comedians a la lenny bruce, ... we do not want to INCLUDE their articulations. thus, even for our discussions, we seek to assemble a non-representative constituency of ideas, ... though we are purportedly trying to understand community in the raw, whose overall behavior is doubtless under the influence of the full inclusionary ensemble of ideas.

as psychologists say, ... we tend to accept the cultural tradition we are born into, like the weather we are immersed in, ... it is 'just the way things are', ... even though we are discussing how our cultural ways are engendering dysfunction, such systemic behaviors as our fragmentative 'specialization' approach (linear 'purification') which emerges even as we discuss the topic of culture-induced dysfunction seems to be invisible to us.

there are demonstrated alternative ways of idea-sharing, however, which can be seen amongst other cultures, ... such as the aboriginals of north america, ... their 'sharing' ethic is far more 'inclusionary' and they make a clear effort to dig out and incorporate all the views of their real, 'rough and ready' community in their discussion groups. an implicit illustration of this inclusionary ethic can be seen in paula underwood's stories such as 'my father and the lima beans' which tells of how a father passes on to his daughter how diversity in a community, even the inclusion of types you do not like, makes the community stronger, and also paula underwood's story 'and who shall speak for wolf', which illustrates the importance of giving all constituencies in nature (animal, vegetable and mineral) a voice or representation at the human council table.

taiaiake alfred ('peace, power, righteousness'), in speaking of the need to restore an indigenous form of government based on traditional values, notes how the 'colonial government' (our white western form of government) tends to be exclusionary and have "powerful incentives for non-action built into it". in emphasizing the inclusionary aspect of the aboriginal culture he quotes from the kaienerekowa, the 'great law of peace' of the iroquois;

"You shall be a good person, and, you shall be kind to all of the people, not differentiating among them, the people who are wealthy, and the poor ones, and the good natured ones, and the evil ones who sin readily; all of them you shall treat kindly and you shall not differentiate among them. As to your own fireside, never consider only yourself, you must always remember them, the old people, and the younger people, and the children, and those still in the earth, yet unborn, and always you will take into account everyone's well-being, that of the on-going families, so that they may continue to survive, your grandchildren."

as taiaiake explains in an interview, ... when we (western colonizers) think of 'law', we think in the 'judgemental' terms of 'things' which are 'right' and 'wrong', while the aboriginal thinking is more 'ecological' and space-time pattern oriented;

he says; "No, no. The whole term 'Great Law' is a mistake. That's not what it says in our (mohawk) language. In our language it says, 'the big warmth', or 'the big harmony', or something along those lines."

every mohawk council meeting commences and closes with an invocation which makes clear that all things are 'one' including the rocks and plants; i.e. earth, air, fire and waters, ... as are the people in the discussion group of course, whether or not they are 'good, bad, ugly, inarticulate or indifferent', ...

It is clear that the mohawks (= iroquois) were into 'managing opportunity' rather than 'managing things'. the warrior will certainly kill if he needs to, but this is to 'keep the harmony' rather than to punish the 'bad' (i.e. to play shape rather than shots). The word 'mohawk' is algonquin for 'rattlesnake', ... "...But the rattlesnake is a very peaceful creature, raising its offspring on its own homeland; if its territory is large enough, it will run away. But if you persist, he warns you with his tail --- and finally if you give him no choice, then he will strike you. We are called rattlesnakes because we have that character. . . "

to manage on the basis of sustaining everyone's opportunity, an approach which puts 'natural ecological balance' in the primacy, and demotes 'good' or 'bad' labels on 'things' to a secondary or supportive abstraction status, is very counter-intuitive for us westerners, who tend to label a man for life if he is convicted of a crime or if he fails his school exams etc. that is, the notion of managing FIRSTLY on the basis of the properties and behaviors of 'things' is the euclidian or 'newtonian' tradition which remains dominant in our society.

anyhow, this is the gist of the essay i am writing on an 'immersed view' of the 'attractors' discussion group, ... that, at this point, the discussion 'commons' is being colonized by the few, and there is no process for ensuring a bringing into connection of the full constituency of ideas embraced by the group, nor to generate a feeling of 'oneness' (that we are all individual strands of a common web). in our group, as in the western tradition, 'good communications' is seen in terms of presenting clearly understandable articulations, as contrasts with the native ethic of sharing the full constituency of views regardless of the quality or prettiness of the articulation (this takes more time and patience). the 'attractors' group itself seems rather homogenous along some dimensions (educated, polite, activist), ... pre-filtered by existing affiliations, perhaps (i.e. the better part of the 75 or so members came together and stabilized, numerically, with remarkable rapidity). the early transformation of the group, while the 'talk' or 'content' is often of gaia, seems decidedly of an 'analytical' or 'euclidian' flavour; i.e. form and content are in conflict with each other (in other words, the discussion group does not 'walk its own talk').

in comparing the evolution of the 'attractors' discussion group to the native way, ... what i 'feel' is a major difference is that members of our group are often not 'coming from' their real life experience, ... but are instead coming from their 'roles' as planners and managers engaged in constructing new 'things' (new organizations etc.) whose properties and behaviors will be the 'right ones' to achieve our purpose. that is, the transformation to where we want to get to is implicitly putting 'construction' or 'causal dynamics', ... the management of 'things', in the primacy over the management of opportunity. this seems like a linear feedback effort where we are introducing new 'noise' of the same generic type as the 'old noise' in order to cancel out the 'old noise', .... by goedel's theorem and by relativity, this is an impossibility in a self-referential (curved space or 'relativistic') environment. the more useful approach, as in the native tradition, would be that it is through our own conscious, in-situ management of opportunity that we restore and sustain 'natural balance'.

as the natives have painfully discovered, ... the white man's society (regulation and management approach) is toxic to the ecological approach, both in discursive and dynamical matters, ... hence the major effort underway by the native north america to restore indigenous government in the reserves etc., rather than capitulate to 'integration' which constitutes a 'co-optation' to the narrow, eco-toxic discursive and dynamical ways of the west. meanwhile the toxicity problem exists for us non-natives who would attempt to cultivate the native or 'curved space-time' approach and we will have to deal with this in some way or other (e.g. via educational and investmental 'detoxification by stimulated amplification of harmony').


ted lumley


[2] Note from Martine Dodds on December 31, 1999 attempting to resolve crossed-purpose discussion between myself and others, surrounding the proposition that the notion of a 'problem' invokes imagery which can in itself induce a response which exacerbates the original condition.

>Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 15:49:45 +0200

>From: Martine M E Dodds

>Subject: [attractors] re 'problems', things, space and what we do


>Reply-to: mdodds

>Organization: Stellenbosch University

Hello everyone

forgive me if this is a little long, but I cannot say this in a shorter form without losing what I am trying to say.

just a few remarks here, regarding this discussion about whether there are such 'things' as problems etc.

I concur with Ted on this, and hope that this can make the position somewhat clearer coming from another but similar view. I do not think that what he is saying, is a denial that there are situations which we experience as problematical, or dysfunctional, or situations we would like to see differently. He is saying that the way we think about such things, is very important, because it will determine what we do, and how we do it and hence also what happens as result of our thinking and doing (which are really just two forms of being in the world, and not two 'separable' activities - one in-'forms' (shapes) the other, and vice versa). He is saying we need to look again at what we assume to be 'problems' as well as how we think about them. What are we doing when we assume, that reality can be broken into sets of 'problems'? Has to do with the whole world-view and mindset that has developed in analytical science tradition (western thinking paradigm) , where 'problem' is something that is abstracted (conceptually) from the reality we are immersed in, in other words, we take a 'piece' of reality 'out', conceptually (in our minds) and separate it from its containing field, and then try to understand and explain it by breaking it into its parts, thinking we then have a handle on it - but the minute you take something out of 'context' - conceptually (through abstraction), or by dissection and acting on a part of it - out of the field in which it is embedded (this is the 'full and curved space' as participant in the nature of the 'thing' seen as problematical) - and which is a COplayer in the situation, then you have already 'defined' The Problem very incompletely. All definitions of problems are necessarily incomplette, but some more so that others. There is no such 'thing' as a problem - we are calling a situation or thing 'a problem' because our mindset we have developed in western thinking, SAYS that it is so - it is therefore a CONVENTION we have developed - we may find people, and there are some left, including children, who do not see reality, or the world, in terms of parts, problems, things - but as a full totality of multilple dimensions in which we are participant 'players' .(or 'notes' or 'voices' or whatever metaphor we choose to understand it by).

What the analytical sciences do, and what the systems sciences do, is to come at this, in different ways, and the evolutionary perspective, which is mostly where Jantsch, Laborit, Ted, myself, and many others come from, is yet another perspective and way to

think about this. You can see those three kinds of perspectives as circles within circles - smallest circle, is the analytical view, which sees only structure, and parts, and separable problems) - systems science is slightlyl bigger circle, it includes MORE of the

picture, so analysis, is special case within systems view - but evolutionary view, is the largest containing view, it includes BOTH the other two, as special cases, but it sees also more, and wider and seeks to understand the totality in which things or processes, or acts, and everything else, is embedded. And this then, HAS to include space - so it MATTERS how we view the world - we ACT based on that world-view - and physics, or thinking about space and time, and the totality of fhat that means, is the most fundamental view, that determines al lthe other assumptions as well - so you cannot change the view, ifyou do not examine how you think about space - it is critical for everything else that you think or do, but because it is usually not even acknowledged as implicit assumption - we think we can discount it, and only act or think about 'real' or concrete, or more specific things. That is a HUGE mistake, and when I for example, first started reading Ted's essays on his website, I realized this immediately - he set out to answer the question of how do you get good teams, in business or any other form of organization, and slowly realized you cannot answer that conceptually (artificially) separated question, without also answering al l the other ones as well, becuase just as the world is interconnected - so is thinking - each dimension complements and rounds out, and affects, every other dimension and assumption. Same holds for the logic which we assume to pertain to thinking, AND reality - is it binary logic (thing is EITHER this, OR that) or is it fuzzy or systemic logic (thing is this AND that, AND a whole lot more) - (what De Bono calls, 'rock' logic, and 'water' logic - rock logic being binary (either/or) and water logic, being systemic and inclusionary (and/and) and depending on which logic you choose or assume, you will view ALL of reality, differently.

So Euclidian 'geometry', or Euclidian view (metaphorically) is 'hard' logic - seeks to make hard distinctions between things that in reality flow right into each other.

So physics, unfortunaly, matters, whether we like it or not. Epistemology (theory of knowledge, or how you VIEW the world, which is a 'meta' perspective, asking how do we know, how do we view, how do we undestand, when we talk about the world) is unfortunately ALSO important, and it includes the assumptions about the logic we see as inherent to how the world works. So these form the 'basicis' or foundation, upon which we proceed to talk about the world, and how we seek to solve our assumed 'problems.

If you think about the world or socalled 'reality' as 'OUT THERE' (something from which you as viewer, are separate,as a kind of disconnected 'subject' regarding an 'objective' OBJECT out there, then you are squarely within analytical tradition - which is based on the assumed [conceptual] separation between the 'knowing' /viewing 'subject' and that which is known/viewed, the 'object' - and 'inbetween' those two, is an assumed wide open (empty) space that does not play any role in how and what is viewed.

Similarly, that view assumes, that all of reality can be divided into such parts as subject, object, empty space, disconnected from one another, and that they are objects or things or 'problems' floating in empty space (neutral backdrop) - so we then further assume, that in order to explain change and 'becoming' over time, we have to assume that one thing or event directly, and linearly 'causes' another, like one ball hitting another on the pool table-

What systems sciences mostly have done, is to say, no - there is not just things disconnected - everything is connected in some way, to everything else, and these connections or relationships, are based on exchange of matter, energy, and information - the world is not something that is simply a collection of structural components, but viewing it as a system, means you look at structure, function (or purpose), processes, AND the containing environment (space), or context, and that each of those (conceptual) categories of interpretation, 'coproduces' the nature of the whole, through interaction and mutual influencing, among them. (Ted would say here, that this 'space' is a 'landscape of opportunity' as it indeed is )

Systems sciences then also say, that 'a problem', cannot be understood as something extracted from its containing environment, and that there are, moreover, multiple LEVELS of complexity, and emergent properties (or qualities, or 'problems' coproduced by interaction of lower and higher level, interactions. (levels and high/low are not ethical judgments here, as though some are more real or whatever than others, but simply that there are levels of complexity that emerge when you view the world from smallest to largest components as wholes within larger whole, like a 'nested' system - of which 'Gaia' is the largest. They form a 'chinese box hierarchy' - and similar processes, eg. differentiation and integration, yin/yang - attraction/repulsion, run through ALL these levels of complexity, or nested systems affecting their behavior. Thus differentiation means that things have tendency to diversify, to complexify, to multiply, and to spread 'outwardly' from a simpler base. In the opposite kind of process, integration, things AST THE AME TIME, also have the tendency to cohere, to stick together, to stay the same - even as they change - so that you have these seemingly paradoxical processes going on in every kind of system, from the smallest to the largest - these are also represented by the YIN/(integration) and YANG (differentation) concepts, and in chaos theory, these same notions are called the Joseph (multicoloured coat/yang/differentiation) and Noah (ark keeps everything together/yin/integration) tendencies.(These then, are types of PROCESSES, we distinguish going on in reality)

What the evolutionary systems thinkers are also saying, is that aside from the 'structures' (assumed static 'things' or objects) of reality being more complex than just aggregations of simple parts, that the supposed 'empty' space between 'objects' or situations or 'problems' within that space, is JUST AS REAL and active, as the abstracted 'things' themselves, and contributes to the NATURE of that supposed 'thing' - and that indeed, this is like the white 'canvas' which is just as important as the 'lines' and 'shapes' we draw upon it, with our minds, when we think - those lines and shapes, could not be what they 'are' unless they were also 'shaped' by the space they occupy on the white background, and that white background, is like white light, FULL of dimensions, potential, and latent life, which is the logical precondition, if you will, of any single line, or shape, that may occur upon it. i.e. the 'invisible' is just as real and important as the visible - the latent just as real, as the manifest. Analytical science, has chosen to focus ONLY on the manifest, the structural, the tangiblel, the 'lines' and 'shapes' and 'things' - and ignore the 'white canvas' (curved space latency) and all that goes with it.

And Ted would say (I think), that the 'latent' (Bohm called it the Implicate Order) or the energy fields within that 'space' which CONSTITUTES that space, is logically 'prior' to (more basic) than even the objects contained within it. That does not mean it is more important or 'worthy', but that it is the precondition for anything else's emergence. Western analytical science (which looks at the STRUCTURE of reality by breaking it down into its constituent 'parts'/things/objects/problems) IGNORES that entire field of energy and potential, and assumes, as it does typically in a laboratory, that all external influences to 'the thing ITSELF', i.e. its containing environment or latency field, can be ignored and should indeed be DISCOUNTED in description of the problem/thing/object - so the laboratory view assumes, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, 'If X, ,then Y.' But we know, that all things are NOT equal.! Each 'context' of 'allthings' is different to every other. So how can we simply discount its influence on 'things' , problems, or whatever else, we abstract from its embedding field?

To do this, is to ignore the largest 'part' of reality, the latent force-field (albeit invisible, and hard to 'measure' since it is not readily quantifiable) which shapes and constitutes what 'is', and HOW it is, so what use is such structural knowledge, if we are trying to really understand the world we are immersed in.?? It is extremely, 'incomplete'.

Moreover, we, as the viewing 'knower' or subject, INFLUENCE the very thing/problem/object we are viewing BY THE ACT of viewing (Heisenberg principle) - so that there is no such thing, as a 'disinterested' or 'disconnected' subject - the 'subject' is PART of the totality under discussion, just as much as the supposed 'object' and the containing force-field or energy field is. (which is the FULL or CURVED space we are talking about.)

In the past, and unfortunately still, we think that we can identify not only 'a problem' (on the analogy of 'a thing') as it is, IN ITSELF, disconnnected from ourselves and the context, but that we can break it into smaller parts, solve each part separately, and thereby, in aggregate, solve also the whole - so we distinguish between sets of problems, according to the DISCIPLINARY perspective we are coming from.

Take the example of an old lady dying in the Bronx on the 24 floor of her apartment - what kind of 'problem' is that? Is that an 'architectural problem' (no elevator, so she couldn't get out to the doctor and the stair climbing 'caused' her heart attack) - or is it an 'economic problem' (if she were not so poor, she would be living someplace else and getting proper medical care) - or is it a 'sociological problem' - her children do not take care of her because the family is fragmented in today's society, so she had to fend for herself. And so we could go on, and name multitude of PERSPECTIVES which each,from the viewpoint and assusmptions of a separate discipline, seeks to 'understand' and 'explain' this situation. I.e. the particular disciplinary 'perspective' and hence what the problem is CALLED, therefore, tells you more about the person VIEWING IT, than about the problem itself - yes? This is what Ted means, when he says, there are no 'environmentala' etc. problems, IN THEMSELVES - we just CALL them that, coming from a set of assumptions that break reality into parts, and then into 'problems' corresponding to those parts, and think we can solve them one by one, as though every one of them is not closely interconnected and influencing every other - Many people, in keeping with the analytical assusmptions, think that 'interdisciplinary' science, is to AGGREGATE all these disciplinary perspectives, and that thereby we will have solved the problem of the whole - but again, it is not about the parts, but the interactions among them, including the influence of its containing space, that coproduced X or 'the problem' or 'thing' or 'situation'.

So from an evolutionary perspective, we are talking about 'trans-discplinary' view of things, and that includes not only the 'things' and their environment or containing space field, but also US, the viewers and 'problem-solvers' - so WHAT KIND of view, explanation, understanding, and practical response, emerges when you DROP those analytical assumptions, and come from 'full space or curved space' perspective, where there is no simple 'linear' causality (stairs caused her death) - or even multiple linear causality (stairs, poverty, family fragmentation, nature of health care system - in aggregation - 'caused' her death) ? And similarly, what kind of 'activism' does such a changed view, imply? Because current view of 'activism' is one that assumes, that focusing and targeting single isolated 'causes' and problems, and attackign them head on - will 'solve' them. The result, often, is 'operation successful, patient dies' - for example, you stop ALL killing of elephants, and you find they destroy their environment because they overpopulate, and then they diei anyway - so HOW should we address (both in our thinking and undestanding, AND in our doing, or action), such 'messy' and 'complex' and interconnected and 'fuzzy' non-linear 'problems.?? THAT is I think, where we are today -

Usually, we would get a gang of 'experts' (disciplinary specialists, who define a problem from their background of assumptions, ignoring the interconnectedness of everything) to come in, and 'define' The Problem. Each one then also puts forward, a 'solution' which is ALSO based on their set of disciplinary tools and methods, and so we tinker with the world, in a piece-meal and partial way, we are addressing PARTS of problems, and in dooing so, more often than not, AGGRAVATE and exacerbate, that 'problem'. We do not realize, that everything we thus 'solve' creates a ripple effect throughout the system - hence the butterfly notion - you could not understand the 'butterfly effect' if you did not assume curved or full space - that tiny 'flutter' affects the air around it, and so on, into the entire containing curved space and as this 'effect' moves, it gathers size and momentum in interaction with OTHER such actions and behaviors - hence, little beginnings can have large outcomes - etc. Moreover, there is no such thing, as 'all things being equal' - any place in that full curved space we call the world or reality, is different at any point, than any other point - we cannot say, this object, or thing, or situation, is 'exactly like that one' - we can say it only if we IGNORE the context which coproduces, co-constitutes, that situation, and how can we do that?

In an organization (or institution, or government, or whatever), we look at it by breaking it down into functional components, and we LOCATE 'THE problem' as either a financial problem, a people problem, a technical problem, etc. and we go and 'solve' it in that abstract category 'space', but we do not realize, that whatever part of it we touch or change, no matter how we define it, affects the WHOLE. So we mess up the organizations the same way, as we mess up our understanding, through analysis. Organization, is a WHOLE, which cannot be broken into independent parts - there are no such things, as interdependent 'variables' - there are only INTERdependent variables, and each separated 'variable' is a conceptual and analytical 'abstraction' which we project on reality.

That is why Ted would also say, all wars are civil wars - the EFFECT, is felt thoughout the system, including the actor or viewer - we cannot 'win' at the expense of other people, cultures, nations or sectors, or environments, any more - we realize that what we do to other dimensions of reality, we are also doing to ourselves - the 'effect' of the butterfly flapping its wings, eventually comes around to it again, and in turn, affects IT. Those who discriminated against black people, under Apartheid, were not unaffected by this policy and the behavior it drew in its wake - it also dehumanized everyone else - the captor AND the captured, are shaped by the behavior, of the one. That is why the 'liberation' that occurred here, was not only the liberation of black peoplel, it was the only way, the white people could become free for the first time - I felt that for the first time, when I voted alongside everyone else, in 1994 - we all then realized, what had REALLY happened. We had freed ourselves AND others. De Klerk, understsood this, that is why he did what he did.

Everything is in everything else. And this is not only about THINGS, but also the curved space we are embedded in. And what holds for 'things' and container, holds for problems and what we do about them - We (the western nations) 'solved' the problem of some diseases in Africa, previous century, the effect was, that populations burgeoned, but we did not address the WHOLE system - we do things piece by piece, forgetting that the nature of the system, is a function of the interactions and therefore the WHOLE, not any of its contituent parts alone. So with 'development' we first defined it as 'economic problem' - we send in an economic solution - nothing happens - things get WORSE , in effect - Ah, the World Bank says, we forgot about the POLITICAL dimension - now we go add a political solution (representative democracy) ('structural adjustment) and think, why is it STILL not working? now we add ANOTHER perspective (ah, it has to do witih the KNOWLEDGE in the society- so the educational and technological dimensions, have to be addressed too. - and so we add pieces of solutions to piece-meal (separated, abstracted from reality) 'problems'.

And THIS is how we screwed it up everywhere. So, ' more of the same' (analytical approach in thinking and problem solving), is not going to swing it in this world. We ALSO cannot only 'work on ourselves' because we found that 'working on the world out there' has failed - we are just doing the same thing, but now with a different PART of that totality - ourselves in isolation. It is indeed the case, that UNLESS we adapt our world view and how we SEE the world and ourselves (our consciousness), we will not improve our performance in it, but that is not the whole story either. We are ALSO a part, and not the whole, even though we may say that viewed holonically, the whole universe is in every part of it as well - but that means, that every part of it, has to move and change in 'harmony' -

Today, I switched on the tv, and saw the first such event ever in our history, where the entire WORLD, is celebrating new millennium CONCURRENTLY - like a giant ripple across the worldl, where every moment, as the clocks ticks to new year again and again, is just part of one entire ONE moment - there is not boundary where one moment ends, or one 'thing' or 'country' or 'idea' or person or culture, 'ends' and another 'starts' - it is ALL interwomen, both time and space. every nation or culture, may have a different 'calendar' and not everyone sees this moment, as THE shift - but the fact that everybody is ACTING as though it were so and thinking about it as such - makes it significant for all of us - we are thinkning about ourselves, as ONE world, not just collection of separate parts - we are still who we are (i.e. different) but today we are also one world in our consciousness - and if this crazy big party is to have only one effect, namely to create that unitary consciousness within us, also with regard to nature of which we are a part, it would have been worth while.

so happy new Millennium, happy new mindset, and happy whatever - to all of us.


Return to Index of Essays ('98/'99/2000)