Testing Your Vision - In the 'Other Direction'
Omak-Kelowna-White Rock, August 14, 2001
The interdependent questions of 'who are we' and 'how do we know' have been a major preoccupation for 'man' in both a collective and an individual sense. In considering 'who we are' as individuals, the feeling comes to us that we are unique and independent even though we persist in the cultures of our parents that we have been born into. We intuit that genetically engineered homo sapiens will similarly persist in the cultures of their manufacturers. But rarely do we seek to understand 'who we are' through inquiry into 'how do we come to know who we are', and that is the topic of inquiry of this essay.
As the late evolutionary biologist Henri Laborit commented in an interview Le Nouvel Observateur in regard to the ideas of the worlds great physicists in such matters;
"The problem is that their ideas are the fruit of their tools of mental inquiry but they do not even understand how their tools of inquiry function. People make thousands of assertions without even understanding what they have done to come up with them. Having studied the processes of mental inquiry for forty years I remain a bit circumspect when listening to those who affirm whatever without even knowing the fundamentals of their tools of inquiry."
Henri has a point. In the culture of the west, we are so focused on 'knowledge' that we tend to take for granted the quality of the 'lenses' through which we 'make sense of things'. When we 'look out around us', ... is what we see 'the absolute truth' or is it somehow a function of our 'visualizing lenses'? The theory of relativity had a lot to say about this, but we seem far away from assimilating it in our culture. That is, the dynamics we see 'out there' are relative to our own dynamics which are often (the general case) circularly coupled to the dynamics we see 'out there' via the mediating role of the common space we are included in. When we drive on a crowded freeway, each driver within a 'cluster' of vehicles moving under the mutual influence of the enveloping others, our motions simultaneously, reciprocally co-create the shape of our 'opportunity-to-move' space. Thus the actions of our fellow freeway drivers we are observing are not 'theirs in the their own right' (i.e. not 'the absolute truth') but are instead coupled to our own actions through the mediating role of the common space in which we are all immersed. The same dynamic coupling between the dynamics 'we see out there' and 'our own actions mediated by our common including space' is evident in our observations of Mars from the Earth, as was pointed out by Johannes Kepler. As Kepler observed, we cannot 'trust' our raw observations based on our 'self' as the central reference and point of stasis, but we must instead account for fact that 'we' and 'what we are looking at' are in general dynamically related to each other in the manner of water molecules circulating in a common whirlpool, ... co-participating in the creation of the whirlpool dynamic and, at the same time, submitting ourselves to its 'bigger-than-us' influence.
In our western scientific culture in particular, as noted by Laborit, we tend to brush over questions of the quality of our 'lenses of inquiry', ignoring how our own dynamic is tied up with the dynamic of what we are observing, and this is leading to aberrant thinking and dysfunctional practice, ... an exposure that is greatest amongst the educated who are the pedagogues and implementers of non-relativistic 'technologies' (i.e. 'technologies' that ignore the simultaneous reciprocity between the actions of the individual and the enveloping geometry of opportunity to act, ... or 'who we are' in a dynamical sense relative to the enveloping 'community dynamic' in which we are immersed, co-creative participants). That is, the question of 'who we are' takes on very different 'flavours' depending on whether we include or ignore how our actions simultaneously reciprocally co-transform the enveloping geometry of the common space within which we are immersed and whose geometry constitutes 'opportunity-to-act'. To ignore this relationship is to ignore how our individual actions influence other constituents opportunity-to-act. 'Who we are' based solely on a record of our actions gives a very different identity from 'who we are' based on how our actions have (co-)transformed the shape of 'opportunity-to-act' in our enveloping 'space-commons'. Mathematically, the latter 'relativistic' view is simply a transcendently 'enlarged' view of 'who we are' that includes the former 'cultural standard' action-based view of 'who we are', and while it is rarely considered in our culture, it is necessary for an understanding of 'sustainability' of opportunity-to-act for all of the constituents (animal, vegetable, mineral) of the enveloping space-commons, the legacy of nature that constitutes our sole source of 'opportunity-to-act'. This rarely considered relativistic view of 'who we are' was the subject of the classic film favorite 'It's a Wonderful Life' (Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart).
So the answer in general to the question 'is what we see out there 'the absolute truth'?' is clearly 'No'. Our own codynamical involvement with our fellow constituents within the common including space co-determines the dynamics we see when we look out around us.
We of the western culture need to have our 'vision' tested. We need to test our vision in such a manner that we overcome the complaint of Henri Laborit, ... that, as scientists or scientifically reasoning people, we are ignoring the nature of our tools of inquiry as we carry out our inquiry. That is, when we think of 'testing our vision', we are likely to think in terms of 'inside-outwards-looking' vision that brings us the imagery of 'what's out there' as if it is 'in its own right', ... and less likely to think in terms of testing our 'outside-inwards-looking' vision that brings us a 'what's out there together in here with us' view of ourselves in dynamical context with our fellow constituents of our common 'including' space (i.e. 'what's out there swirling around with us in this codynamic we are jointly making)
This note is to provide a few guidelines for 'checking out' your own 'outside-inwards-looking' vision in case you want to see how 'you score'. The appendix at the end provides a few of the 'issues' that can result from neglecting to include, in our view of 'who we are', the cross-coupling effects between the dynamics we are observing out there and our own dynamics.
Our 'hunter-gatherer' ancestors depended not only on the 'sharpness' attribute of their 'inside-outward-looking' vision, but also, and at the same time, they depended on an 'awareness' coming from their 'outside-inward-looking' vision. That is, it was not enough to be able to see the deer through the camouflage of the thick forest undergrowth, it was equally necessary to 'see yourself' as 'the forest sees you'. For example, startling all the birds in the vicinity and setting them to flight while 'stalking' his quarry was not a viable tactic for the hunter and thus, he had to develop his 'outside-inward-looking' vision. That is, the hunter had to deal with the fact that the deer was also sensorily equipped for 'outside-inward-looking' vision that gave him an awareness of the dynamics of other constituents relative to him in the shared commons of the enveloping forest.
The first 'guideline' as you set up to test your 'outside-inwards-looking' vision, then, is (1) to note that this 'reflective' view of one's 'self' is not based on 'static' geometrical shapes as in 'inside-outwards-looking' vision, but instead, emerges from a dynamical signalling associated with our engagement with the enveloping 'otherness' in which we are immersed. We are in the domain of the implicit, relative dynamics in this 'outside-inwards-looking' vision.
When the guy coming towards you winks and pretends to do up the zipper on his trousers, ... he is signalling to you that your zipper is undone and the message is purely implicit rather than explicit. Meanwhile, he may refrain from 'signaling to you' over issues of bad breath or having spinach caught in the gap between your front teeth. Robert Burns reminds of some of the limitations of our 'outside-inwards-looking' vision, in writing on the topic of seeing a louse 'exploring' the contours of an attractive lady sitting in front of him in church, ...
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An' foolish notion:
Returning to the 'zip-it-up' signal, ... as children, many of us heard variants of the ditty 'There's a place in France where the ladies wear no pants, ... and the men go around with their doo-daas hanging down...'. This imagery 'fascinated' us with its allusion to the fact our local world was not the only world, and that 'norms' can differ radically from place to place; i.e. the allusion to the inversion in cultural code if one lived in a nudist 'colony', where the signaling would be to 'expose yourself' rather than to 'cover up'.
This brings up the second 'guideline' for testing one's 'outside-inwards-looking' vision; (2) the fact that 'the canvas of silence upon which you will paint your outside-inwards-looking imagery is never empty' but instead reflects the evolving codynamical balance or 'coresonance' between oneself and one's enveloping others; i.e. if the birds do not fly when you walk through the forest and people are not signaling to you to 'get in phase' with them, this can indicate that you are 'in harmony with' your surroundings. When you 'do something', you leave behind the memory of all of the things you have trained yourself to do that now are accepted smoothly and silently by the enveloping culture. These culturally-in-phase actions are not 'nothing' but are instead the 'taken-for-granted' norm, the 'silence' deriving from the absence of dissonance that becomes the 'blank reference canvas' upon which one can then focus one's rational inquiry. This 'silence' coming from dynamical balance is the enveloping 'vessel' within which all action occurs. For example, our actions on earth reference to the balanced codynamics of the planets and sun, ... but we do not include this in our inquiry into what is involved in going from Dallas to Wichita Falls. Such omission is imposed by us as a matter of 'convenience' but it is not imposed on nature and forgetting that our local vortex may by immersed in a larger enveloping vortex can get us into trouble; i.e. our actions may be simultaneously influencing multiple cyclical processes at the same time, ... processes in which we are immersed and which influence our opportunity-to-act.
The 'codynamical balance' based essence (as opposed to 'empty euclidian space') of the 'blankness' of the canvas upon which we paint our 'outside-inwards-looking' imagery runs very counter to our cultural intuition in the west. Why this is so, is discussed by Lev Vygotsky ('the father of Russian psychology'). He points out that in our developmental process, as children, we initially make gestures-in-themselves in innocently and openly exploring the things in the space around us, then as we come to learn the way in which the things around us respond to these 'gestures-in-themselves' (e.g. as our mother comes to fetch and bring over to us the toy we are reaching out to grasp), we develop an awareness of the 'gestures-for-others' nature of our gestures (i.e. we become aware that when we 'gesture like this', those things out there respond 'like that'), and finally, we start to manage and manipulate our gestures in 'gestures for oneself' terms where we are focused on how to use gestures to achieve our personal projects and simply take for granted the culturally-dependent 'meaning' that underpins the gestures. That is, the 'innocent and open exploratory gestures' of the early development phase of the gesturing and the culture-specific response by others to them underpins our later, personal-purpose-oriented management of our gestures. Meanwhile, we 'sublimate' the earlier historical phase underpinnings and they descend below the surface of our awareness. As Vygotsky says, our consciousness is built from the outside inwards through our engagements with others;
"The mechanism of social behavior and the mechanism of consciousness are the same. . . . We are aware of ourselves, for we are aware of others, and in the same way as we know others; and this is as it is because in relation to ourselves we are in the same [position] as others are to us."
The third and fourth 'guidelines' for testing our 'outside-inwards-looking' vision are; (3) that we must first 'perturb' the enveloping other constituents or 'make waves' in an open and innocent way in our shared space in order to 'illuminate' who we are and learn about ourselves through the process of moving into a codynamical harmony with our enveloping others, and (4), our arrival at a state of outer-inner coresonance (i.e. 'other-self-coresonance' or 'community-constituent-coresonance' or 'habitat-inhabitant-coresonance') is a function of the particular relational characteristics of the 'place' we are immersed in. For example, to avoid 'making waves' we 'cover up' and refrain from 'exposing ourselves' in most situations in western society, but we avoid 'making waves' by 'exposing ourselves' in the nudist community, ... thus the development of the 'blank' canvas of silence (absence of dissonance) upon which we visualize our selective focus of inquiry is very much a function of the enveloping place in which we are immersed..
The fifth 'guideline' follows on from the third and fourth; i.e. (5) we can increase the resolution of our 'outside-inwards-looking' vision, which includes a view of 'who we are' - ourselves in dynamical context with our enveloping space, by going through the developmental progression from 'making waves' to cultivating 'outer-inner-coresonant balance' (and thus preparing our 'blank' or 'absence of dissonance' reference canvases in a number of different environments). By this process, we can raise our awareness not only to the role and nature of the silent and taken-for-granted reference canvases upon which we paint our selective inquiry, but also to the arbitrariness of, and our natural acceptance of these reference canvases (they form as the 'backdrop' in our minds, simultaneously, reciprocally with our foreground learning process; ... the more we learn in terms of adapting to diverse enveloping situations (cultures, geographies, environments), the richer the 'unconscious' reference backdrop and thus 'who we are' takes on a more tolerant and adaptable form.). 'Who we are' thus evolves and deepens in the process of our wave-making and coresonance-seeking inquiry into 'who we are'.
The sixth 'guideline' derives from the observation that when multiple constituents co-create a resonant and accepting 'dynamical receptacle' for each other, ... wherein the individual develops a way of behaving that is 'accepted' by his fellows (and wherein this mutual acceptance applies, in the same symmetry, for all of the fellow constituents of the community); i.e. (6) the structure of the dynamical community-constituent codynamical relationship is the record of the community- constituent learning experience. That is, in the act of developing our outside-inwards-looking view, we co-create the common community dynamic in which we are immersed (which we have no choice but to 'submit to' and 'reference our dynamics to'); i.e. we gesture 'innocently and openly' in our individual explorations [gesture-in-itself], ... we become aware of how others around us respond to our gestures [gestures-for-others], and we then use our knowledge of these responses for 'ourselves', to achieve our personal ends [gestures-for-oneself]. The interferential dynamic constituted by all constituents in the group participating 'thusly' in the co-creation of an accepting, resonant community dynamic constitutes a group learning process and the community dynamic they are co-creating 'is' the record of this collective learning process. In other words, ... we co-create community in the process of discovering who we are, and the patterns of community-constituent-codynamic constitute the record of that collective learning experience.
Since we cannot avoid co-creating an enveloping community-constituent-codynamic that 'carries us with it' and that we must reference our dynamics to (in the manner that a whirlpool in water flow cannot avoid being 'carried' by its containing whirlpool and having to reference its actions to the enveloping dynamic, we cannot therefore claim 'independence' on an 'individual basis' in a dynamic sense. We can, of course, ignore our dynamical coupling with our enveloping community, as is our cultural habitude, but this is an artificial freedom, ... an aberrant view that infuses dissonance and dysfunction into our common, enveloping living space. This western cultural tradition of cultivating an 'ignoring' of our dynamical coupling with our containing space was evident to the Native North Americans during the colonizing of North America, ... eliciting the following words from a Suquamish Chief in 1851;
"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. All things are connected. . . . The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste."
Our 'independence' and 'free will' seems therefore to derive, not from our individual 'physical dynamics' or 'actions' (which are interdependently coupled to our containing space), but from our ability to learn and adapt to differing environments; i.e. to 'become aware' through our engagements with our enveloping fellows with whom we share the commons of space. As Vygotsky says;
"The mechanism of social behavior and the mechanism of consciousness are the same. . . We are aware of ourselves, for we are aware of others"
Thus, our 'outside-inward-looking' vision is what provides us with a vision of 'who we are' in container-constituent-codynamical context, ... rather than a vision of 'who we are' in the detached 'in our own right' terms of empty euclidian space.
Summary of Guidlines for 'Outside-Inward-Looking' Vision Testing
So the 'guidelines summary' for 'outside-inward-looking' vision testing is as follows;
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1. The outside-inwards-looking vision is not a 'static' view but is instead based on reflected-back 'signaling' from enveloping others.
2. The 'reference canvas' for visualizing outside-inwards-looking vision is the 'silence' that comes with resonant balance with enveloping otherness.
3. Developing one's 'outside-inward-looking' vision involves first 'making waves' then developing the imagery by cultivating coresonant balance.
4. One's view of 'who one is' in the outside-inward-looking vision is 'place-dependent' (culture, geography etc.)
5. Resolution of one's 'outside-inwards-looking' vision is increased by repeating the developmental process (3) in a diversity of environments.
6. We co-create community in discovering who we are and the community-constituent-codynamic is the record of our mutual learning experience.
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The above experience-validated 'guidelines' (as opposed to abstract scientific axioms) replicate the general geometry of 'holography' in their extending of the explicit 'inside-outwards-looking', 'static flatscreen' imaging capabilities of the eye and mind based on the direct 'message' brought to the eye by the light, to the implicit 'outside-inwards-looking' 'dynamical volume' imaging capabilities of the 'mind's eye'. Informationally, the 'outside-inwards-looking' imagery, based on relative dynamical relationships, is a transcendent superset of the 'inside-outwards-looking' imagery that informs us not only about 'the world out there', but about 'who we are' in the dynamical context of our immersion within that 'world out there'.
An important 'meta-guideline' follows from this generalized geometry and it is that our 'outside-inwards-looking' vision is the only vision we can rely upon when we, ourselves, are 'included' in the dynamic we are trying to visualize. For example, the earth-based observer cannot use his 'inside-outwards-looking' powers of observation to capture the dynamics of the solar system because he is an immersed participant in what he 'looking out at' and there is no way that one can obtain a 'outside-inwards-looking' view or 'photograph-like' view of the dynamics of a system one is an immersed participant in, from a position within the system. In fact, such an 'outside-inwards-looking view' can only be achieved by 'imagination'; i.e. 'by bringing a multitude of real and imaginary experiences into connection in the mind'. Thus, for example, mathematical and pictorial descriptions of the dynamic of the solar system are not the product of our direct perceptual experience but are instead the product of our imagination.
While this discussion on 'outside-inwards-looking vision' and 'who we are and how we know who we are' has been oriented to 'man', the relativistic geometrical relationships apply generally. That is, the implicit dynamical context based 'personas' of animal, vegetable and mineral constituents of space adhere to the same 'guidelines' as man; i.e. there is an innate container-constituent-codynamical balance-seeking on the part of the constituents of nature (Kepler, Prigogine et al) that gives rise to 'self-organization' in which the dynamic of 'community' constitutes the record of the collective learning.
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Appendix: Example Issues against which to 'test' one's 'Outside-Inwards-Looking' Vision
(examples are, respectively, from the point of view of man-and-his supersystem of community, and also, from the point of view of a bacterium and his cell-and-microbe level supersystem).
1. Representative Governance versus Participative Governance.
If the dynamic of the constituent is interdependent with the community dynamic, does it make sense to disempower the 'individual' and manage things centrally through autocratic hierarchies (ignoring the interdependencies)? Or would it make more sense to employ the 'participative model' where the management of order in the system is cultivated in conjunction with the awareness of the individual constituents, as in Vygotsky's "The mechanism of social behavior and the mechanism of consciousness are the same. . . We are aware of ourselves, for we are aware of others"
2. Inside-Outwards-Looking (Causal) Medicine versus Outside-Inwards-Looking (Inductive) Medicine
If 'health' is the 'silence' of coresonance amongst multiple simultaneously interfering constituent subsystems (the view of 'naturopathy'), rather then the machine-like model of 'all of the causal parts working correctly', then 'what is the cause' of ill health?... is it the system 'falling out of balance' or is the system 'being attacked by malicious causal agents'? As Pasteur offered while on his deathbed, conceding to the ideas of Antoine Béchamp and Claude Bernard, 'le microbe n'est rien, le terrain est tout', meaning that what he had previously identified as the 'malicious causal agent' (the bacterium responsible for the illness) was simply the 'result' of the innately interferential system of health 'falling out of dynamical balance' and offering resonant (selective) opportunities to participants that were, in the healthy state, in a codynamical balance with the overall system dynamic. Do pro-biotics therefore make more sense than 'anti-biotics'? Is AIDS really caused by a 'virus' (HIV) or is the virus simply the 'effect' of a breakdown in the dynamical balance in the system induced by other environmental factors?