Dallas, January 21, 2000
Self-Assessment Quiz for Parents:
Prior to reading the essay, if you wish, you can 'calibrate' your assimilation of modern scientific concepts such as relativity with respect to their practical implications on 'the way the world works' and particularly with respect to how our complex society works. Please read the following three paragraphs and briefly reflect on what the three have in common, and the 'today's' implications of your findings with respect to social dysfunction and the restoring and amplifying of harmonies in the social and ecological realms. You can then compare your results with the essay-perspective as you read it, so as to self-assess how well you are prepared, in this science and systems area, for schooling your children in complexity 'navigation'.
* * *
1. Newton's Concern over an 'Incompleteness' in his Principia re 'Implicit Motion'
"I wish we could derive the rest of the phaenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from physical principles; for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they all may depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other; which forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain; but I hope the principles laid down will afford some light either to this or some truer method of philosophy." (From the 'Author's Preface' to 'Principia', 1687)
2. Newton's Disbelief in Gravity Fields Being Fully-Determined by Matter
"It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and affect other matter without mutual contact; as it must do, if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it. And this is one reason, why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me. That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another, at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it." (From Newton's letter to Bentley)
3. An Abstract of the Film 'The Gods Must be Crazy'
'The Gods Must be Crazy' homes in on the philosophy of one of the oldest cultures on Earth, the !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in the northern parts of South Africa, The Bushmen, like the Native American cultures, feel that they are a strand in the 'web-of-life' and their social customs fully reflect this. For example, no animal is killed for food by the !Kung (aka 'San') without being thanked by them, both at the time of the hunt and later when a dance is done for the soul of the animal. And animals are only killed when there is a clear need for the food. In the film, when a coke bottle drops out of the sky (is thrown out of an airplane) and lands in an !Kung village, it induces strong changes and considerable conflict in the social patterns of the village, as different groups vie for possession and control over this new thing, arguing over the best use to make of it. Whatever it gets used for, the field of controversy it induces around it, in the containing community, is an overriding effect. In the end, recognizing that harmony in the pattern of relationships in the village takes precedence over the material benefits of the new 'technology', they decide that 'the gods must be crazy' to have given them this new tool, and they throw it off 'the edge of the world' (a massive escarpment).
* * *
If you don't 'get' the connection, it will resolve as the essay progresses (Hint: All material 'things' seem to have dual identities, ... an explicit identity flagged by 'name-label' which is supported by an inventory of properties and behaviors, and an implicit identity given by history of interactions with the containing environment. A supplementary 'hint' can also be found in footnote ).
... end of parental quiz, ... beginning of body of essay.
Since these over-simplified assumptions have been made at the basic level of our conceptions of space, matter and motion, ... they colour and permeate all of our perceptions of the world around us.
The suggestion herein is that an introductory lesson be given to all children, by their parents, which gives them an awareness of the incomplete scientific-philosophic assumptions (and their effects) which continue to be infused into the culture at large, including the formal educational system, and which continue to amplify dysfunction in our environmental container, through leveraging by increasingly powerful linear systems and technologies. Clearly, this suggested 'introductory lesson' approach is a 'rational' and structured approach, ... and the process by which children learn is more strongly tuned to spontaneous, relational modelling ('the medium is the message', as McLuhan said), so a 'lesson' is no answer in itself to the rising dysfunction. Nevertheless, as Vygotsky's research shows, the zone of interplay ('zone of proximal development') between spontaneous learning and structured learning is where overall learning is most well developed (where understanding is most thoroughly assimilated), at the confluence where the child's natural and spontaneous inquiry reconciles with his structured knowledge.
The mental imagery which will be conveyed by the 'introductory lesson' on 'the way the world works', ... which corrects the assumption that our containing space is 'empty' (which has us think that we are fully detached and independent and not part of our 'environmental container'), ... will be somewhat congruent with the Native American teaching, e.g;
"So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself."
Following their exposure to the 'introductory lesson' on 'the way the world works', ... where children find discrepancies between what is being done or taught relative to the basic assumptions embodied in the 'introductory lesson', he will likely come to his parents with questions. In those instances where it appears that the child is being given a contrary or misleading teaching through an employee of a public institution (elementary school teacher etc.), it will be important, from a modeling perspective, that the parent responds in a manner well-visible to the child and speaks to the teacher (or the misinforming party) to attempt a clarification, and to at a minimum, arrange that the teacher 'makes space' for continued cultivation of the more complete view of the child.
A basic geometry and content for the 'Introductory Lesson' is suggested as follows;
An Introductory Science Lesson on 'The Way the World Works':
When man began to reflect and inquire into 'the way the world works',... he noticed that there were three aspects to the world, .... there was a containing space which held 'things', there were the 'things' which were contained in the space and there was 'motion' wherein both space and the things 'moved' relative to each other, ... with the 'things' often gathering into groups or dispersing and the shape of the space which contained them always 'making up the difference' like water does when a school of fish move through it. He noticed that new 'things' often emerged or were born, and old things were swallowed up by the container and that the containing space itself seemed to be the source of everything which went on in the world.
In the western world, whose culture is now dominant across the globe, ... prior to about 500 B.C. the explanation for everything was given in terms of myth about very powerful Gods who could make the wind blow and the rain fall and do all manner of things. But the western people of the mediterranean region, whose thoughts had been stimulated by ancient Egyptian and other ways of thinking, grew impatient with the arbitrariness of the many different God myths and hungered for a deeper and more consistent and predictable way of interpreting and understanding 'the way the world worked'.
When they began to publically think and debate about it, they had to start with some basic assumptions about space and things (matter) and motion, ... and two fundamentally different assumptions rose into the public awareness. One view (Heraclitus) was that space and energy were the most important aspects of our world and that matter or 'thingness' was a secondary view, ... where 'things' were simply apparent patterns in the swirling 'fire'-flow. Heraclitus compared space and matter to a burning candle, where the invisible continuous process of fiery transformation was the primary aspect of the world, and the image of the candle flame which appeared static and stable, a secondary 'impression', corresponded to material 'things'. He saw 'things', then, as swirls or features on the containing flow, which were not at all 'independent' but which were instead, implicit aspects of a unified whole.
Others, including Parmenides and Aristotle, preferred the assumption that material things were the primary aspect of our world and that the 'cause and effect' interplay between things was 'the way the world worked'. The Parmenidian 'binary' assumption that 'things either exist or they do not', set up, and went hand in hand with Aristotelian 'exclusionary logic' and the 'law of non-contradiction' which are the mainstay of western science and philosophy as taught in our schools and universities. What we now know is that the discordance which arises from this teaching is not because it is 'false', but because it is 'incomplete' and for us to assume it is 'sufficient' in describing our reality is to breed dysfunction. This Parmenidian-Aristotelian 'material-over-space' assumption, chosen by the western world and prevailing to this day in the culture at large, gives one the impression that 'things', and that includes 'people', are fully independent entities 'in their own right' which move within an infinite empty space. While these 'material-over-space' assumptions deal with 'things' and 'motion', they do not deal with where 'things come from' and where 'things go to', ... and for a long time this 'hole' in the theory was covered by 'creation theory' where it was assumed that God created things and took them away.
The space which surrounds 'things' is seen as empty and infinite in this 'materialist' view, and we therefore assume that 'what we do' is independent of the container and that it doesn't effect other 'things' which are remote in space and time, ... other than through domino-like sequential, material-causal effects. This view has been termed a 'mechanical' view and it opened the door for the western world to the building of mechanical 'machines' and technologies without having to account for any other effects besides what the machines did.
[**Additional info for those who find this material easy**.... Later, researchers such as Marshall McLuhan would say that what the machines actually did, the cause-and-effect aspect, was just a small part of the overall effect of the technology and far more important was the transformation the technology induced into the containing environment. McLuhan suggested that the major effect, the implicit, induced tranformation of the containing environment, was almost indifferent to the explicit 'content', ... whether a factory produced cornflakes or cadillacs. McLuhan referred to this effect in the terms that 'the medium is the message', ... that the implicit, inductive effects of a thing on its containing environment is the larger story within which the explicit 'content' aspect is a secondary, contained story.]
Over the intervening years, western scientists began to discover that the original assumptions of Heraclitus, ....that space was not empty but was an energy and information flow, and 'things' were a secondary aspect, kind of like 'swirls' on the energy flow, ... were far more consistent with our overall observations of nature.
At the turn of the sixteenth century, Johannes Kepler noted  that the relative motion between the sun and planets seemed to 'fold back on itself' and to dictate the 'shape' of the orbital space-time motion of the planets. He made very clear that this 'self-referential' effect meant that we could not deduce the behaviour of a whole system, such as the system of sun and planets, from the behaviors of the parts, the individual planets and their orbits around the sun, since the overall system manifested a 'simultaneous' harmony of the whole system and its constituent parts. Kepler, in making this assertion that 'things' were not 'independent', declared that he was borrowing from the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians, as perpetuated through Heraclitus, Proclus and the 'neoplatonists', and postulated that this container (space)- content-coresonance, or 'whole-and-part' harmony was a general aspect of nature which operated on all scales and levels. While Heraclitus had called this ordering principle 'the Logos' and equated it to the 'wisdom of Zeus', Kepler called it, simply, 'geometry', ... emphatically stating that 'God is geometry' (Kepler was a Lutheran Christian and was very vocal in his view that the 'good doctors of the church' had it all wrong on issues of science.)
Newton, while he perfected in his 'mathematical principles' the Aristotelian 'matter-over-space' assumption which used the simplifying approximations of binary exclusionary logic, empty space, and 'cause-and-effect' as 'the way the world worked', emphatically pointed out [see Newton's statements in Parents' Quiz] the nature of the 'incompleteness' of his mechanical theory, but did not go so far as Kepler and Heraclitus in proposing a more complete assumption on the nature of space, matter and motion, ... that space was not 'empty' but was in the primacy over matter. In fact this notion was, at the time, viewed as 'occult' and a heresy. Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake for this and other heresies in the year 1600 and Kepler came very close to being tried for witchcraft in Wuertemberg (indictment papers were prepared but not served as Kepler was the Imperial Mathematicus to Emperor Rudolph II and under his 'protection').
Newton was a devoutly religious Puritan Christian, and was therefore able to explain the problem of creation, where 'things' came from, in terms of God and creation theory. This was consistent with the Aristotelian philosophy of trusting in abstraction moreso than in our common sensory perceptions. While Newton based the creation part of his physics on the current interpretations of the Bible, Kepler had aligned himself to the 'evolutionary theory' of Heraclitus, by way of Proclus. Heraclitus had based his space, matter and motion propositions on the observations that while the containing space 'lived on' as a river flows on, ... 'things' continually swirled up into life in the containing space and disappeared back down for 'recycling' in the containing space. The containing space ('cosmic fire or 'aither') was, to Heraclitus, like a 'recycling market' which contained everything in the ongoing Cosmos (container), ... "All things are an equal exchange for [space] and [space] for all things, as goods are for gold and gold for goods."  Kepler uses very similar terms in his works, and because they clashed with the euclidian abstraction-based philosophy of his time, which persists in our current era, ... Kepler was termed 'a mystic' and with this term, his deeper theories of 'the way the world works', which were far more consistent with our sensory perceptions than Newton's, were discounted by the general public and its institutions.
In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Emmanual Kant bolstered the euclidian (empty space, matter-in-the-primacy) view by declaring that it was the only way the human mind could work, but by the mid-nineteenth century, several mathematicians, most notably Riemann, showed that empty, rectangular space was simply one of many ways we could perceive space, and that space could equally be perceived as 'curved' in various ways. Riemann showed how, in spherical curved space, there were no 'parallel lines' in the rectangular space sense that two 'parallel' trajectories could be fully stand-alone and non-interfering. Instead, in spherical space, straight lines fold back and around and interfere with themselves, and in a matter-and-space context, the only way you can interfere with yourself is to influence your containing space which then has a reciprocal influence back on you; i.e. curved space is self-referential as is the Heraclitean 'aither' and 'flow' models.
The concept of a self-referential space is not as difficult as it may sound (since it agrees with natural processes such as turbulent flow), and it fits with our sensory perceptions of 'the way the world works', ... if we think in terms of a 'space-time continuum' rather than trying to explain things in terms of the abstract 'static' (time stands still) geometry of 'force' and matter'. As Newton pointed out, the static mechanical view is a very useful approximation which the mathematical device of 'fluxions' (differential calculus and time 'derivatives') makes possible, ... by giving us a view of the world 'in the [abstract] limit' as time goes to zero. Anyhow, we know that everything we do somehow effects our containing environment because we are a 'part' or aspect of our containing environment, ... so our very motion changes the container since we 'are' the container, though a very small part of it, just as a water molecule 'is' the river, though a very small part of it. Thus whatever we do is self-referential but not just in a 'causal' way, ... in a much more basic way; i.e. our movements change the configuration of space-time and thus they change the 'opportunity landscape' for all constituents of the space-time container.
If we protect (accidentally or intentionally) another person by walking in front of a gunman and 'taking a bullet' intended for a young woman, ... the effects are not simply 'causal' or a function of ''what we do', or what the 'bullet does', but influence parts of the system in other regions of space-time which are not in 'mechanical contact' with these 'causal transactions'; i.e. non-mechanical effects are induced in the context of what does NOT happen due to the not-continuing of someone else's life which would not have occurred without our 'motion'. Simultaneously with the causal effect, ....for example, ... for someone on the other side of the world who was planning a life with us, the now-deceased, the 'shape' of the whole containing space-time environment is radically changed in a very important way which induces changes in their behavior and thus the overall system.
In other words, we can generalize the 'causal' shooting incident, and say that relative motion (and the emergence and subduction of constituents) induces transformation in the space-time environment which goes well beyond the causal, and if we are looking for answers to questions such as 'why are systems behaviors more complex than the causal sum of parts?', ... and 'why did the overall system behavior evolve in the way it did', ... we must look at the overall reciprocal disposition effects which are the more general case within which the 'causal' aspects are a secondary way of viewing 'the way the world works'.
These implicit, over-riding 'beyond causal' effects, ... the effects that 'really count', are the theme of the classic motion picture 'It's a Wonderful Life', ... and the film tries to remind us to think about these 'beyond-cause reciprocal effects' which attach to everything we do (our motions), and which change the topography of opportunity for the rest (reciprocal) of the system, rather than focusing exclusively on 'cause and effect' as is our western cultural tradition.
In the nineteenth century, Michael Faraday proved once again and in a new electricity and magnetism context, that space was in the primacy over matter, that 'matter was a secondary entity' (in his words), and that what was primary was the order-inducing energy of the invisible 'fields' which occupy all of space. James Clerk Maxwell, in order to put Faraday's findings into mathematical equations, had to come up with the law of conservation of energy, in other words, to revive Heraclitus' principle "All things are an equal exchange for space [aither] and space for all things, as goods are for gold and gold for goods."
Henri Poincare in the 1880's, in research into turbulence and the apparent stability of the solar system (wherein he discovered 'deterministic chaos'), showed that our euclidian space (empty space) convention was simply a 'convention' and that it was the 'simplest' of space conventions in a mathematical sense, just as a polynomial of dimension one (linear) is simpler than a polynomial of dimension two or more (curve).
Thus the way was 'prepared' for Lorenz and Einstein to propose the theory of relativity wherein the basic aspect of our world was no longer 'things' and empty containing-space, but instead, the basic aspect was 'relative geometry and energy'. Einstein laboured long to share with people the idea that 'space is not empty' , but such an idea continues to be infused deeply into our culture, ... the medium has become the message, ... our way of life which manifestly fails to consider reciprocal effects and which our children 'model after', induces the belief in us that space is empty and material 'things' are in the primacy. This continuing inductive circle of 'way of life' and 'belief system' has shown itself to be very resistant to attempts to transform it into the larger scientific 'storyview' of 'space-over-matter' which is 'waiting in the wings'.
Einstein and others continued to search for a 'unified field theory' which could explain everything known to science in terms of 'field' (space-time ordering energy), but none has been found to date. Nevertheless, as in the case of Faraday and Maxwell, and as in the case of Einstein's own theory of relativity, the implicit theory precedes the hunt for the appropriate mathematics (e.g. Riemannian space). Similarly, the theory of 'space-over-matter' in its pre-mathematical implicit form or its 'out shopping for mathematical rendering' phase, is alive and well and in no way negated by having to wait on a mathematical rendering.
The notion of 'things' as being in the primacy over space, and the notion of 'cause and effect', though only 'mechanical approximations', are extremely useful in many ways and we shall continue to use them because of their usefulness and simplicity, as Poincare points out in 'Science and Hypothesis'. However, what we need to remember, and it is the theme of this 'Introductory Lesson', is that there are bigger views of 'the way the world works' which are far more consistent with our sensory perceptions of the world. And in particular, the view that our unified space-time container is in the primacy over all material things, ... including us, ... is far more consistent with our common sense observations of the world, and it is validated by our most modern and complete scientific theories including relativity and quantum physics.
When a 'thing' emerges, moves, evolves or enjoys a sustained existence, it opens up and closes down opportunity for the diverse constituents of its containing environment. Thus, there is a 'co-dynamic' between 'things' and their containing environment associated with the changing 'opportunity landscape', and the behaviour changes this induces amongst the constituents of the containing environment. As this co-dynamic proceeds, it further transforms the opportunity landscape so as to set up a self-sustaining container-constituent- coevolution. The implicit, induced impact of 'things' is a 'beyond causality' effect since it is inspired by 'imagination' or the 'field' based equivalent thereof in the inorganic realm.
As Darwin notes in 'Origin of the Species', the encounter between a bird and and a seed-bearing tree he has never seen before (e.g. which occurs if the bird has changed locations or the tree is a new growth) induces the bird into a new, seed-eating behaviour which may, in turn, lead to the evolution of a strain of birds increasingly adapted for seed-eating. In other words 'imagination' in combination with 'things' which transform the opportunity landscape stimulate new behaviour within which mechanical 'cause' is a secondary, derived or 'consequential' effect. Films such as 'The Gods Must be Crazy', where a coke bottle drops out of the sky (from an unseen airplane) into the village of a tribe which has never been exposed to modern technology (glass bottles) depicts how 'things' can, by their mere presence as opposed to their causal effects, induce great changes in the lives of a community.
This 'space-over-matter' primacy wherein the induced transformation within the constituency of the containing environment is in the primacy over the causal effects produced by the 'thing' is the general case, as is well expressed in the following poem by Lao Tsu;
"Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there."
--- Lao Tsu, "Tao Te Ching"
With respect to 'shaping clay into a vessel', if I look at the coffee cup I have in my hand at the moment, I can think of it in terms of its detached, explicit 'material' identity which is given by its properties and behaviours; i.e. it is hard and brittle and impermeable and a poor conductor of heat, ... it has a map of the London underground on it and says 'you can't beat the system' (truth comes to us in many ways), and it just sits there and holds its shape when you set it down. But I can also think of this cup in the implicit or 'reciprocal' terms of its history of interactions with its containing environment. For example I know that clay comes from the decomposition of rocks and sedimentation by aolian and fluvial and marine processes, ... that it has been worked over by atmospheric and submarine processes for millions of years. Any iron content in it will still be responding to the earth's magnetic field (if its baking temperature was not too hot), ... and while it will remember, or partially remember its orientations relative to past magnetic fields, it will still be actively adjusting, even as i hold it in my hand and turn it, to whatever field it finds itself in. The person who worked the machinery which gathered the clay from which it made, was paid for it, and perhaps the money he got for it helped to pay for antibiotics which saved the life of his child who was ill with pneumonia. There is implicit container-content interaction record here in this 'thing', as in all 'things', which gives another type of 'identity' to 'things', ... an identity which is space-time continuum based and beyond the 'properties and behaviors' view where our western vision of 'the way the world works' typically cuts off.
To ignore the implications of this 'space-over-matter' theory is to ignore the fact that our movements have a simultaneous reciprocal effect on our containing environment, ... and the dysfunction that we have infused into our containing environment by this ignore-ance has become so substantial that it is important for all of us to keep reminding each other, as in the Native American tradition, ... that rather than being 'standalone' creatures 'in our own right', we are 'strands in the web of life', and that in all of our actions, as a child or adult, we must assume responsibility for the ongoing harmony of 'whole-and-part'. As the pool player does, .... we must put the 'management of the implicit shape of space' in the primacy over the 'management of the explicit material content', allowing 'material management' to fall into place within the primary and containing strategy of 'space management' ('harmony management' or 'opportunity management'). A thumbnail sketch of the theoretical model underpinning this need is included in the appendix to this essay.
Meanwhile, it is very useful to continue to develop tools based on the simpler approximations of the world, not in their own context, but on a HARMONY- SUPPORTING BASIS, ensuring that we do not forget that they are based on a simplifying approximation. Johannes Kepler, in his 'Epitome of Copernican Astronomy', pointed out how our practice of teaching 'what is most easy rather than what is most true' can induce a kind of 'schizophrenia' in us, saying;
"As regards the academies, they are established in order to regulate the studies of the pupils and are concerned not to have the program of teaching change very often: in such places, because it is a question of the progress of the students, it frequently happens that the things which have to be chosen are not those which are most true but those which are most easy. And by that division in things which makes different people form different judgements, it so happens that certain people are in error contrary to their own opinion."
Kepler captures our current plight. While we agree that the 'field' theory is more complete than the 'matter and empty space' theory, we continue to teach the latter because it is more easy, rather than more true. And as we apply it in our daily lives, we err in what we do, contrary to our own opinion.
The question before us now is; do we want our children to be in possession of this less easy but far more natural theory 'upfront' in their lives so that they can better navigate complexity and amplify social harmony rather than adding to the dysfunction? If so, we need to act to make it happen.
* * *
This appendix is an attempt at a concise statement of the scientific theory which underpins the perspective presented in the above essay. It is 'relational theory' so it is not like a 'bottom line', 'this is the way it is', summary, but more in the vein of a suite of relationships dealing with 'how all things are steered through all' as Heraclitus says. And with respect to Heraclitus, ... his self-referential statements, based on experience and observations and providing a complete and consistent 'relativistic flow' view of reality, have a strong congruency with the modern scientific theory. For example
"An unapparent connexion is stronger than an apparent one"
"The real constitution is accustomed to hide itself"
"They do not apprehend how being at variance it agrees with itself [lit. how being brought apart it is brought together with itself]: there is a back-stretched connexion, as in the bow and the lyre."
In these Heraclitean statements, one can see Mcluhan's 'the medium is the message' (i.e. the implicit (hidden) identity of a thing, its 'real constitution' is stronger than its explicit, causally-defined identity. Also, the notion of relativistic curved-space 'reciprocal disposition' can be found in the third statement. In other words, a relational view is needed along with the standard rational view to open up our perception and inquiry to issues of the 'implicit' as well as the 'explicit' (in systems science terms, ... to issues of 'up-and-back-down-in-again' inquiry as well as 'down-and back-up-out-again' inquiry).
The Theory in a Thumbnail:
The basis of our reality is space, motion and matter ('matter' being seen as notable features in space-motion or 'flow'). Time is a derivative of our experiencing of space-motion flow.
Relativity puts space in the primacy over matter (the features of flow) since matter is basically dynamic and upwells and subducts into space over time (could be millions of years, could be nano-seconds).
Relativity suggests there is no fixed reference base other than the 'whole dynamic mess itself'. So a 'thing' garners its meaning from its relationships with the whole. This principle is embodied in the notion of spherical space, ... a self-referential space where the identity of each element of the ensemble which makes up the whole is given by its situation within the space-time patterning of the whole, ... its 'reciprocal disposition' or 'implicit identity'. It is important to note that 'motion' is a primary informational entity furnished to us by our sensory perceptions, ... not 'time' (which is a derived notion). Two corollaries emerge here, (a) Since motion 'straddles time', there is a basic flaw in referencing anything to 'time' as a dimension 'in its own right' since it cannot be split off from space (motion is a space-time interference phenomenon), ... and (b) Since motion is continuous and does not happen in a series of discrete steps, there is no definable boundary in time, thus the acceptance of motion as a primary informational entity equates to our acceptance of space and time as being bound together in a 'space-time continuum' which has neither a beginning nor end. We can visualize this (recycling) 'continuum' in terms of the surface of a space-sphere where explicit things are continually emerging and subducting [since explicit things are transient, ... informationally, our imagination and memory has to be brought to bear to comprehend this full relational view; i.e. informationally, imagination is in the primacy over explicit thought.]
Our western cultural tradition is to embrace a 'materialist' ('explicitist') approach to perception and inquiry, to lean on the 'explicit' identity of things which starts off by psychologically 'detaching' the 'thing' from the containing whole, ... a useful tactic, but a serious approximation which discards the implicit identity of the thing, and refocuses on generalization of a class of things and their statistically derived properties and behaviors.
Similarly, our cultural tradition applies this same 'materialist' approach to 'motion' by psychologically 'detaching' the 'motion' from the containing whole and looking only at the 'causal-dynamics' where explicit material things are involved in energy exchanging transactions with their neighbours. This is a useful tactic, but a serious approximation which discards all information on the implicit containing 'shape of space', ... the motion associated with the transformation of the whole-and-part patterns of relational space-features (i.e. 'things')[refer to Newton's 'incompleteness' concerns in the 'Parents Quiz']
If we listen to Heraclitus and Mcluhan, ... in their notion that the 'implicit' has a bigger role in evolving our reality than the explicit, ... and they are simply presenting to us their interpretations of 'the way the world works' which we can 'try out' and see how the ideas fit, ... we can see that the native americans are of this mind, while our western culture stresses the role of the explicit (content) over the implicit (medium).
In terms of 'things' which have two meanings, ... there is implicit meaning coming from a 'thing's' reciprocal relationship with the unbounded space-time continuum from which we psychologically precipitated or abstracted it (its cosmic source, its geological history, its human history, how it changed the environment and people's lives etc.), ... and explicit meaning which sees the 'thing' as detached and 'in its own right' and one of a set or class of like (homogeneous) 'things' whose properties and behaviors can be statistically defined in ever finer detail, so that the 'thing' is defined by the sum of its detailed properties and behaviors out of the context of its implicit identity.
As an example of looking at 'things' in terms of the explicit versus implicit, we can reflect on the ghetto black who commits a crime and who is judged under the premise 'all men are equal in the eyes of the law'. In the western culture, this materialist 'equality under the law' principle is seen in a positive light. But, by the judicial murder of the blackman, ... there is an implicit transformational effect in that the 'voltage difference' (responsible for inductive effects) between the ghetto and the surrounding community rises. Mcluhan would say that it is not the content of the trials we should look at but how the 'judicial factory' is transforming the society in which it is immersed.
With respect to the duality of meaning of 'motions' or 'actions', there is implicit action coming from an 'action's' reciprocal relationship with the geometry of the unbounded space-time continuum from which we psychologically precipitated or abstracted it (the overall continuous dynamical flow which is spherically self-referential and recycling so that it has no beginning and no end), ... and explicit action which sees the 'action' as detached and 'in its own right' and one of a set or class of like (homogeneous) 'actions' whose aspects and inferred impacts can be statistically distilled in ever finer detail, so that the 'action' is defined by the sum of its detailed aspects and inferred impacts out of the context of its implicit meaning.
As an example of looking at 'actions' in terms of the explicit versus implicit, we can look at the action of 'killing'. In the western culture, we tend to think of such actions in explicit (generic) terms and we have such rules as 'Thou shalt not kill' which underscore the explicit view (in the anthropocentric western culture, such rules are aimed exclusively at humans, and even this 'human' qualifier within the 'homo sapiens' category was historically debated, with the Church granting european explorers general dispensation for killing 'savages' in the new world). In wartime, rules (rules are necessarily based on explicit meaning) are modified so that it is ok to kill humans who are classified as 'the enemy', whether or not they are women and children in their homes, or soldiers on the battlefield. This 'trains' or 'conditions' people to follow the explicit meaning based rules, rather than to look to implicit meaning to guide their responses. Working from a base of the explicit forces one into a judgement of 'what is good' versus 'what is bad' (as in the designation of 'enemy' and 'savage' in order to issue 'killing' dispensations).
Since responding on the basis of 'explicit action' means ignoring the implicit (by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle), the issue of classifying actions as 'good' or 'bad' becomes an imperative. in this regard, Pope John Paul II says, in his most recent encyclical ('Fides et Ratio', .. 'faith and rationality'), in the opening of his conclusions;
"Once the idea of a universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost, inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no longer considered in its prime reality as an act of a person's intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgement about the right conduct to be chosen here and now."
Meanwhile, my Abenaki pool-playing friend, who is a very skilled fisherman by everyone's account, never takes a fish unless it bleeds (he fishes with unbarbed hooks and throws them back in unless they 'give themselves' to him), ... unless it presents itself to him according to the natural harmony of things. This 'implicit action' of 'taking from the common container of nature' doesn't use an explicit definition of 'killing' nor does it utilize the intermediating base of 'good' or 'bad' and 'conscience'. When Jean was in elementary school (white school) and the teacher told the class that the indians in their pre-christian savage days used to eat the hearts of their victims in a demonic and sadistic frenzy, ... Jean, tried to tell her, as his grandmother had imbued in him, about the native respect for all life and all of nature which involved rituals of respect for what the Creator had endowed in the things which were given to us, and that if an opponent had great courage, or great strength, eating a part of him (taking this gift of the Creator inside of oneself) was ritual recognition of what the Creator had endowed in this taken brother. Jean was mercilessly 'put down' by the teacher and the class for this attempt to share his native teaching and this was his 'wakeup call' to the kind of world-culture he was growing up into.
Thus in 'managing' by 'explicit actions', one must resort to the notion of 'good' or 'bad'. In managing by 'implicit actions', one does not use the intermediary psychological abstraction of 'good' or 'bad' but instead tunes in to the harmony of the 'action' with respect to the containing 'implicit dynamic of the whole', the bigger picture from out of which the smaller, generalized view constituted by the 'explicit action' was psychologically abstracted. And one may need to 'take out' a constituent which is snookering the whole landscape of opportunity in implicit management mode. There is no 'explicit killing' here if one believes that we are all part of the whole (that no 'thing' is fully independent), but instead there is a subduction of a feature of the whole back into the latency of the whole.
Resorting to subjective judgements of 'good' or 'bad' as the explicit action management (causal action management) demands, removes one's thoughts from the realm of 'space-time continuum' and puts them into linear time and euclidian space mode, as is evident from the Pope's statement cited above where one is required to ... "apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgement about the right conduct to be chosen here and now." (i.e. the Pope's recommended procedure is to psychologically detach the action and constrain it to the present, .. "a specific situation ... right... here and now."
The above summary, a thumbnail theory of implicit and explicit perception and inquiry, makes clear that in the west, we base our formal schemes of management and regulation on materialism, ... 'explicit things' and 'explicit actions', taken out of context of the implicit whole. In our attempt to deal with 'problems' (an explicit term which would be termed 'discord' in the domain of the implicit) which continue to grow in number and severity, our focus is on becoming 'more explicit', ... as in ethnic cleansing, separatist movements and in the growth of fundamentalism (managing on the basis of explicit actions) as are occurring in religious terrorism and the tightening up of law enforcement and punishment (republican right) as a means of 'solving the problems'.
If Heraclitus and Mcluhan and the Native Americans and the Celtic traditionalists and the Zen Buddhists and the Taoists are on target, ... the biggest influence on our containing environment comes from the implicit, and the growing 'problems' (discord) we are facing are being engendered by our too exclusive focus on the explicit and our ignore-ance of the implicit. Thus our re-strengthened efforts for causal actions, management and regulation (even in activism) to 'solve our problems' are amplifying the discord rather than amplifying the harmony.
In order to amplify harmony, we must restore the implicit to primacy over the explicit, ... this is supported by modern physics in the sense that relativity and quantum theory implies that we must interpret our experience in terms of 'field' (implicit ordering energy) being in a primacy over 'matter' (explicit ordering mechanics)
* * *
 Supplementary Hint to Parental Quiz:
Newton's concern about the incompleteness of his principles with respect to determining the patterns of motion which envelope and contain any subsystem which his mechanical dynamics principles are being applied to, and his concern that the 'field effects' of gravity are incompletely determined by ascribing gravity effects solely to matter, ... presage the discovery of the theory of relativity. What Newton is effectively 'saying', in systems sciences terms, is that his principles provide a way of inquiring which is 'down-and-in- and-back-up- and-out-again', ... but since they are downward and inward looking, they do not provide the needed 'up-and-out- and-back-down- and-in-again' view. Kepler had already pointed out, in the case of the solar system, that observations of the planetary orbits on their own and then considered together were fundamentally incomplete with respect to describing the simultaneous harmony of 'whole-and-part' of the overall system; i.e. Kepler asserted that the containing space along with the material constituents seem to 'co-produce' the dynamical phenomena (so that the preferred orbital characteristics needed to set up overall multibody system 'resonance' were achieved.). The 'incompleteness' which Newton struggles with is therefore of the type wherein things in motion induce effects in their containing environment which simultaneously impose a more complex influence (greater than the 'sum of the parts') back down-and-in on themselves, ... 'gating' or constraining which particular mechanical dynamics can actually occur, though without effecting an analysis of those mechanical dynamics which do occur. Such 'induced' effects would require, as well, an 'up-and-out- and-back-down- and-in-again' mode of inquiry, an inquiry which gets into implicit 'inductive effects' and goes beyond the explicit 'material causal' effects which Newton's Principia were limited to. It is clear that the !Kung are having a similar problem in that an analysis of 'what is being done' is incomplete with respect to describing overall system behaviour. Instead, congruent with Kepler's assessment of the solar system, induced 'field effects' in the containing 'space' which simultaneously induce reconfiguration of the relational patterns in the system geometry, seem to be an overriding influence within which 'what is explicitly being done' is a secondary feature.
 Excerpt from the original, Johannes Kepler's 'Harmonice Mundi' (english translation follows); "Nun aber tragen zur Vervollkommnung der Welt mehr die Gesamtharmonien aller Planeten bei als die einzelnen Harmonien bei je zwei und die Paare von Harmonien bei je zwei benachbarten Planeten. Denn die Harmonie ist gewissermaßen ein Band der Vereinigung. Es liegt aber eine weitergehende Vereinigung vor, wenn alle Planeten miteinander eine Harmonie bilden, als wenn immer je zwei für sich in doppelter Weise harmonieren. Im Widerstreit dieser Harmonien mußte daher von den beiden Harmoniereihen, die die Planetenpaare miteinander bilden, die eine oder andere nachgeben, damit die Gesamtharmonien aller bestehen konnte."(http://www.uni-karlsruhe.de/~za146/barock/harmonie.htm#Kepplers Fehlschläge)
"Now, the 'harmony-of-the-whole of all the planets contributes more to the perfection of the world than the single harmonies by twos and the pairs of harmonies by the twos of neighbouring planets. For harmony is, so to speak, a volume [containerfull] of unity. A deeper unity yet is presented, when all the planets form a harmony with each another, as when just two at a time harmonize in a doubled manner. In the interference of these harmonies deriving from the dual harmonic line-ups, which the pairs of planets form with each another, the one or the other must capitulate, so that the harmony-of-the- whole can prevail."
 The word "space" is used here rather than 'fire' since it better connotes the 'cosmic fire' which Heraclitus equated to the 'aither', "the brilliant fiery stuff which fills the shining sky and surrounds the world; this aither was widely regarded both as divine and as a place of souls." ... "... fire, by the regularity with which it absorbs fuel and emits smoke, while maintaining a kind of stability between them, patently embodies the rule of measure in change which inheres in the world process, and of which the Logos is an expression. Thus it is naturally conceived as the very constituent of things which actively determines their structure and behaviour --- which ensures not only the opposition of opposites, but also their unity throught 'strife'." ('The Presocratic Philosophers', G.S. Kirk, J.E. Raven and M. Schofield, Cambridge University Press).
Return to Index of Essays