valentine's day, 1998
no offense intended but to set aside a specific day so as to routinely 'demonstrate' one's affections (i.e. valentine's day) seems like a huge insult to one of nature's most charming emergent behaviors. the (pagan) roman's idea of this february 14th celebration was that " single men and women would hold toga parties during which the winners of a love lottery would slip off to make love". moral and practical questions aside, this seems to be far more in the spirit of 'creativity' or 'fertility' than is the current practice.
the essence of all types of collaboration (loving couples, anthills, beehives, factories, families) is 'resonance' --- a synchronous mutual reinforcement which may be brought about by two very different devices; i.e. by mutually recognized generalizations (rule structures) based on historic experience and/or; by a mutual 'tuning-in' to evolving patterns of creative (unpredictable) flow. while we regularly make use of both, the priority or 'polarity' of usage is what separates eastern and western philosophies.
so which resonances 'should' one seek first? ... the resonances of an unpredictable (mysterious), creative, collective flow (i.e. 'the Tao') or the resonances of predictable 'material' generalizations? there is mounting introspection in the west (e.g. 'The Spell of the Sensous') as to how our western 'resonance polarity', which subordinates creativity to generalization, may be 'out of synch' with nature and the primary source of much of our social dysfunction.
the choice between 'rules-first' (generalizations first) versus 'creative patterns-first' corresponds to choosing to see the world in terms of tangible things (icono-causally) or in terms of evolutionary flow (tuning-in to evolutionary patterns). lau tzu put it like this; [lau tzu lived in the same era as the young heraclitus];
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
the west, western language, western culture, western science and the western worldview as a whole, through it's sociohistorical adaptation, has become increasingly oriented to the pursuit of the definitive-manifest. just as we look for our understandings of earthly phenomena in 'superconducting supercolliders', we look for understandings on a personal level in concise icono-causal rule or contractual structures. for example, 'tell me that you love me' or 'tell me that you trust me' is not translatable into some eastern languages because love and trust are concepts which are both broader, deeper and more diffuse and creative than the manifest actions of a good actor and good script, making it nonsensical to deal with such issues by means of linguistic affirmations or structures. as david whyte observes, we cannot say; 'we are going to increase our creativity by 5% per month for six months until we plateau at the new 30% higher level.' there is no way to 'plan' creativity (or love for that matter) and therefore what we plan for is something other than creativity. to trust and to love is to be prepared to 'tune-in' to emergent patterns in an unpredictable world and to collaborate in such a way as to make music flow out of a creative dissonance.
if you don't know where you're going, not only is it hard to get lost, but plans and commitments decline in importance (i.e. they are subordinated to 'music making').
nevertheless, it is possible to 'train' for 'tuning-in' to the unpredictable and creative, as many people do, but this turns out to be a very counter-intuitive process which requires the removal of desires rather than their intensification. hence, there is a fundamental clash between being intensely goal-oriented approaches and 'tuning-in' to the creative. in lao tzu's terminology, there is is fundamental clash between desiring something and 'tuning-in' to its 'mystery'. in 'tuning-in' to the creative flow, one is opening up oneself to changing one's view and direction in an unforeseen way, guided only by the pursuit of harmonious evolutionary consequence.
in the case of loving couples, psychologists have found that, in the west, few couples reach a state of intimacy that is taught in the 'tantric' traditions of the east. whereas most western couples are oriented to 'good sex' and focus on satisfying each other's desires, the tantric tradition is to use sex in a ritualistic manner so as to induce a state of resonant intimacy. as the psychologist and sex therapist david schnarch says; "One of the great myths of American culture is the belief that we achieved sexual liberation in the 1960's. That was the era that we convinced ourselves that sex is a natural function and gave ourselves permission to like sex. The squeaky clean effectiveness of 'the new sex therapy' encourages our technocratic society to believe we could break sex down into its component parts with the right technology, study it and subdue it. We were about to discover the secrets of eroticism the same way we had cracked the atom."
schnarch goes on to describe how only a small minority of westerners discover (since it is not only not taught but avoided in our upbringing) the eastern ways of using sex as a ladder to climb to a state of 'ecstatic, self-realizing, and self-transcending' intimacy, a 'one-ness' with one's partner and with the collective. this does not come about by acting so as to ensure a good mark on the cliche'd post-sex question; 'how was it for you?'. in fact, the tantric approach and the most successful approach in schnarch's many real-life studies, involves two people 'doing their own thing' in a dance where the desire for satisfaction is subordinated to the quest to 'tune-in' to creative 'flow'. it is about 'eyes open' sex and the building of resonances by bringing down the many cultural rules (sociohistorical generalizations) we have internalized about what we 'should or should not do'. it is a trip which is no longer bounded by 'good' and 'bad' (subjective 'best practices'; i.e. cultural constructs) but is solely contained by culture transcending intuitions as to what is innately harmonious and what is dissonant (evolutionary flow patterns). tantric exercises to help one 'get a feel' for this approach include such things as masturbating in each other's presence with the lights on and while having continuous eye contact. this imagery may strike some western adults as obscene or pornographic, but it could easily come across to a child of any ethnicity (who has not yet been culturally indoctrinated) in a far more innocent way.
whether the vision which induces collaborative resonance is heterosexual-intimacy or organizational achievement, language is likely to play an important role (positive and negative). what a common language does is to set up shared, 'stationary' resonances. one can see this particularly well where the words are strongly emotive. e.g. where the shared word-icons (attributed generalizations) sex, AIDS, cancer, mother, rape, woman etc. come up in a conversation, there is a high degree of resonance amongst those listening which becomes a 'blocker' to more subtle, non-stationary (i.e. flowing or evolving) patterns. where the words are negative, we become 'anxious', i.e. the anxiety comes from our 'desiring' to be free from the attributes associated with these icons.
language used in its mainstream 'signing' or 'icono-causal' mode implicitly makes use of the three approximations of nature cited by henri poincare in 'science and hypothesis' (1903); i.e. "homogeneity, relative independence of remote parts, simplicity of the elementary fact". in using language; e.g. in defining a 'substantive' (noun) such as 'woman' in preparation for causal discussions of what 'women do', we must assume 'homogeneity'; i.e. we must statistically generalize the attributes of 'women' (or whatever substantive we are using). secondly, we must assume 'relative independence of remote parts' since language is a 'single-issue-at-a-time' mechanism (a 'bivalent' mechanism) and cannot directly represent 'multivalency' (simultaneous 'threading' in multiple activities). this approximation is what allows us to treat 'word-things' as being 'independent' even though the innate unity in nature tells us that 'no-thing' is fully independent (i.e. if we view nature in the more 'complete' terms of an evolving energy flux which 'manifests' in the form of material things).
the concept of 'independence' is not difficult for us to accept in the west even though all four basic forces in nature (gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force) act 'at a distance', suggesting that true 'independence of remote parts' is an impossibility. it is not hard for us to accept the 'independence' of 'things' because our sociohistorical tradition has had us think in terms not of 'space-time' flow (the concept of a space-time continuum from minkowsi and einstein is a bare 95 years old), but in terms of orthogonality between 'time' and a spatial reality seen as a collection of 'things'. this classical western worldview has us see a world of basically independent 'objects' which causally create the future by acting upon one another to the pace of some great space-indifferent 'skyclock' which ratchets forward time increment by time increment. the fact that this does not jive with the 'circular causality' of evolutionary processes is only now beginning to cause us consternation, and it certainly has not yet upset our 'resonance polarity'. our 'faith' in classical rationality (science) and its approximations was indeed what separated us from our mythopoeic past (and eastern mystery) helped to focus our energies on technologies which we seem to feel can rival the divinity in assuring our earthly 'immortality'.
poincare's third-cited approximation is also inherent in our mainstream (non-poetic or non-signalling) use of language, and this is; 'simplicity of the elementary fact'. this third point implies that as we drive down to finer and finer detail, we shall find increasing simplicity. what this 'simplicity of the elementary fact' does for us is to allow us to understand phenomena 'from the bottom up'. unfortunately, this simplifying condition, assumed by newton and classical physics until this century, has not held up. for example, in the case of particle physics, what we have found by digging down to the elemental is; "An elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzeable entity, it is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to other things." (H. L. Stapp, physicist at Berkeley, 'Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics', 1993).
to summarize the relationship between our classical approximations of nature as cited by poincare, and language, we can say that the definition of substantives draws on the approximation of homogeneity (e.g. 'woman' can be defined by a common set of attributes); that the causality which is implicit in language (e.g. 'spencer killed thomas a'becket') draws on the approximation of 'relative independence of remote parts', and that the 'bottom-up' approach to perceiving and inquiring into phenomena draws on the approximation of 'simplicity of the elementary fact' (e.g. 'read my lips' 'just the facts, maam'). from these three approximations, built into our language, comes the western sociohistorical 'faith' in the existence of definitive 'bottom-up' 'icono-causal' explanations to all phenomena.
clearly, the collaborative resonance which we can garner from language is a classical clockworks type of resonance based on gross generalizations and approximations which not only fail to capture the creative order in an evolving flow, but (since statistical generalizations assume 'stationarity' or the absence of creativity), destroy the essential information on creative, evolutionary ordering patterns, the essence of natural process. in this manner, the collaborative resonance which we build through the direct 'signing' use of language clashes head-on with the concepts of; 'homogeneity' --- such 'things' as 'women' can transcend their statistical attributes in an unpredictable way; 'relative independence of remote parts' --- creative inspiration and behaviors do not come in a vacuum but from the perceptual confluence of remote external stimuli, and; 'simplicity of the elementary fact' --- the emergent [creative] behavior of complex systems such as drug addiction and alcoholism cannot be deduced from the properties of their component parts.
the creativity inherent in nature's 'evolutionary flow' and in all natural phenomena, including social collaboration, is bound up in the concept of 'deterministic chaos'. as henri poincare (the 'father of the "science" of complexity') puts it; "A very small cause which escapes our notice determines a considerable effect that we cannot fail to see, and then we say that that effect is due to chance. If we knew exactly the laws of nature and the situation of the universe at the initial moment, we could predict exactly the situation of that same universe at a succeeding moment. But even if it were the case that the natural laws had no longer any secret for us, we could still only know the initial situation APPROXIMATELY. If that enabled us to predict the succeeding situation WITH THE SAME APPROXIMATION, that is all we require, and we should say that the phenomenon had been predicted, that it is governed by laws. But it is not always so; it may happen that small differences in the initial conditions produce very great ones in the final phenomena. A small error in the former will produce an enormous error in the later. Prediction becomes impossible, and we have the fortuitous phenomenon."
fortunately (the world would be a very boring place if it were not so), this 'deterministic chaos' which inevitably leads to the creation of new patterns of 'order', is the way of nature and the world. as lao tzu was wont to put it; "Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea."
as a social collective, it is natural for us to seek to develop collaborative resonances so that we can achieve our goals. as the above discussion indicates, we have a choice of two types of resonance; a resonance based on generalizations or rule structures which relies upon the validity of the poincarian approximations, or a resonance based on 'tuning-in' to the creative 'evolutionary flow'. we use both of these approaches all of the time. however, as one delves into the sociohistorical psychological underpinnings of western systems perception and inquiry, it becomes clear that some years ago (apparently around the 13th century b.c.), there was a bifurcation between eastern and western philosophies with the west opting to put the 'icono-causal' or 'material' view (i.e. the generalization and rule-based view) of reality on the highest possible status level with respect to the inducing of collaborative resonance (e.g. 'the ten commandments').
equipping ourselves with technology and an increasingly specialized and detailed generalization-based language (i.e. a language which is driving down from looser to finer generalizations), we seem to be desirous of ever more 'definitive' understandings of the complex 'manifestations' of natural phenomena which can be used as the basis for social resonance. and we seem to be only too ready to forget poincare's counsel not to overlook the hidden underpinnings of what is 'manifest' in the world; "For here the mind may affirm because it lays down its own laws; but let us clearly understand that while these laws are imposed on OUR science, which otherwise could not exist, they are not imposed on Nature." or as wittgenstein counselled us, we must think of our linguistic or philosophical generalizations (rules, propositions) as expedient 'ladders' to get a look at things, but which to regard them as 'nonsense' in themselves.
in the extreme case in the west today, we are ascribing causal relationships between 'gene' structures ('genes' are a scientific-linguistic generalization based on the triad of homogeneity, independence and elementary simplicity, of a very complex and not-yet-understood piece of biophysics) and human behaviors, so as to be able to label and deal with different 'types' of people in a more socially resonant (and potentially very pathological) manner.
with this 'inverted polarity' in the west, wherein generalization is embraced as a more powerful means of collaborative resonance than is our natural ability to 'tune-in' to patterns in the creative, evolutionary flow of nature, we are exposing ourselves to increasing levels of dysfunction and allowing our 'pattern recognizing' sensory apparatus to atrophy. this case has been argued, in one form or another by heraclitus, poincare, wittgenstein, prigogine, erich jantsch, david abram and many others.
i don't know about you, but when i was in elementary school, it was with the greatest ecstasy that i opened the valentines which came out of the class 'lottery box' to find i had received a valentine from the one whom i most admired, even though scarcely a word had been spoken between us. when i dared to raise my eyes and look across the class at she who had sent it and who was the recipient of my valentine, there was such a flash of intimacy and mutual resonance in that eye contact as to delight me for years to come. it was a 'mysterious' experience which flew well above any desire for possession or ownership or satisfaction, and it was far away from the commercially stimulated and clockworked and scripted resonances of a western adult's 'valentine's day'. in the natural resonance polarities of childhood, there are no generalized 'expectations', no discussion, no word-based commitments, simply the desire to 'make music' with others who seem to possess similar rhythms and resonances to yourself.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
--- Lao Tzu, 'Tao Te Ching'
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