Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Simplicity and Self-ishness

I have been looking at contributive and dissipative cycles at the humanity scale and a topic of intrigue is whether providing contributions to systems of destruction provide a coaction of meaning. This is a very theoretical way of asking: "Does doing good things for bad systems really help anyone?" 

While localized benefits can always be found, in extensive coaction analysis the ecological benefits (and detriments) are often distributed and so are more complex. Such is the path of looking at the health of the whole. Recognizing this complexity, those seeking simplification while still caring want to know: "What should we do?" 

For ecological management, we already have the answer; courtesy of intellectual ecological systems leviathan,  Simon Levin, who always provides such elegance and brevity in describing natural systems complexity. In Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons, he provides a framework for sound practice by the eight commandments of sustainable stewardship of the natural commons. They are, in summary, (with apologies for the brief paraphrasing):

1. Reduce Uncertainty (expend effort on knowing what it present and how it contributes)
2. Expect Surprise (build flexible systems able to respond to what is not knowable)
3. Maintain Heterogeneity (diversity does enable resiliency by the fact of probability)
4. Sustain Modularity (compartment connected functions to preserve parts in the whole)
5. Preserve Redundancy (be able to replace lost functions with the spare one)
6. Tighten Feedback Loops (makes costs and benefits more local to their impact sources)
7. Build Trust (demonstrable actions count, even if you are not to be held accountable)
8. Do Unto Others as You Would Have them Do Unto You (the universalism of respect)

While I am biased towards always looking at the positive and generating feedback loops in human systems, in this rare situation, the entreatment to the opposite of the moral 'ought' invited a question as to how is the future we are creating truly "fraught" (my word of the month).

So ... from a more detailed academic paper I am working on dealing with the alternatives to Simplistic Singularism, is the negative brainstorm of Levin's commandments, being a reverse-apithological perverse list of commandments for destruction of the complex commons, simplistically and selfishly, simply to highlight the apparent absurdity of the present:

1. Increase Ignorance (ignore what we do know and negate what is already obvious)
2. Plan for Predictability (adopt linear predictions with no change of assumptions)
3. Mandate Uniformity (ensure there is only one source or type of each vulnerability)
4. Centralize Connectivity (design so if there is a failure of a part the entirety falls)
5. Zealotry in Efficiency (reduce alternative forms and favor only the extreme case)
6. Untraceable Externalities (make feedback and consequence as remote as practicable)
7. Delay Cooperations (wait to be the last to commit and never lead as an exemplar)
8. Privilege Self-Interest (do unto others before they do unto you)

The compounding effects of the negative entreatments are so horrifying as to make them almost impossible to consciously enact. We are caught frozen with the fear of their impact. One of the difficulties in seeing the effects of generative loops for enhanced strewardship is that they are 'adnormal' and so being beyond a normalized state that seems to enable us to (briefly) survive, we wonder if the effort is worth it.

I think in taking a moment to imagine the opposite, which is the present, I am now convinced more than ever, the effort is worth it, 

 ... and we had better believe it. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Waiting for White

I completed an art piece today. I cannot remember the time when I actually took the day off from other duties to simply make art. I might say that I am not an artist. Yet, in a way everyone is. We create a meal, a mood, a moment, a motion, a monologue. What I realized is that it is the craft that is the practicing artist's distinguishing feature. Everything is in the execution.

This piece was originally simply going to be ten indiscernible shades of white. I have many whites left from various household renovations and so liked the idea of a canvas that simply took light or angle or concentration to reveal itself. With the large blank wall that I have to fill, the effect would have been even more pronounced. Of course, in the crafting of the piece something else happened ...

I began to recall my favourite beach of over twenty years. Discernment of difference led to eight divisions ... as beach, shore, breakers, waves, froth, mist, ether, spirit ~ began evoking the textures of each. Colours on canvas reflect different lights and paint has a will of its own. My abstract art becomes a realist interpretation. The cosmos has a little laugh at me and my intentions.

We are all waiting for white, the formlessness of form, the union with Union, the one with Oneness, ... and it simply will not manifest in less. Instead, simply more intimacy with the ever-increasing evolutionary beauty appears. Eight shades of white on a white canvas and what appears - ... the all of everything.

And .. that, I suppose is the conclusion. We expect that we draw from inspiration neutrally. The place that it comes from is without presupposition. Yet, if even for a moment, we believe our entire somatic and energetic memory does not influence all we see and imagine, beginning at the point in time immediately after the pure invocation of conception in projection ... all we have to do is look to find ourselves in the most whitest and blankest of forms,

... and there we are.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Psychological Panarchy

Perplexed by the inadequacy of visualising trichotomy dynamics in two dimensional graphs, I have begun modeling some of the adaptive cycles for psychosystems as 3D models. Yes, warning science content and nerd alert, ... yet in essence this seeing in many ways affects us all.

In examining the feeling of vertigo from following the contours of the spatial dynamics of the phases of conservation, release, reorganisation and exploitation in the adaptive cycle, I had a deep feeling of deja vu. Where had I seen the 3D adaptive cycle previously?

Then it occurred to me. In the writings of psychologist Clare Graves he describes the four phase cycle of psychological development, not of individuals, but of populations when looked at through a system ecologists eyes. Speaking in 1977 he describes the adaptive cycle of psychological growth in human society as follows:

"Overall, psychological development can be seen as a complex wave like phenomenon. But development does not occur in the smooth flowing manner suggested by Exhibit VIII. It is more a spurt-like, plateau-like, more a progressive, steady state, regressive movement in which certain demarcation points can be identified in the flowing process. As systems of personality and culture come and go with changes in psychological time and alterations in psychological space, four demarcation points can easily be distinguished. This progressive, steady state, regressive development and the four demarcation points are shown in Exhibit IX." (Graves, C. 2005, p. 178)

He goes on to describe how 'anxiety and rigid functioning' accompany the crisis that occurs following a period of adequate coping with the problems of existence [conservation], with regression in using older ways for newer problems then leading to 'fixation and pathology' [release], creating dissonance and new insights which have to overcome existing conditions in the existential space [reorganization], before the removal of those barriers leads to rapid movement and a quantum leap to the next steady state [exploitation].

Here is psychological panarchy described thirty years prior to its naming. To see a description of psychological multi-state resilience, in a systemic population model, in four phases, as a hierarchical open system of complexity, preceding the publication of Buzz Holling's pioneering work in ecological systems by some years, affirms the significance of this early and innovative research work.

Who would think that this understanding might have been lost to us, or that were it not for the 35 years of ongoing inspirational research work by the resilience theorists, we might not have even understood its profound significance for our own emergence.

All we can do at this point is marvel at what they together saw and continue to ask, now that the cyclical nature of natural systems (including human thought) are disclosed, what is it we must do ...?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Something From Bees

Something is up in the human hive. If we think about evolutionary intelligences, the metaphor of the human hive discloses something about ourselves, not just at the city level, but at the humanity level.

While we can't know these things clearly (being mere drones within the system of emergent patterns), I suspect until this point the metaphor of the hive did not really apply to humanity, only to the colonies of our parts. Our cities and organising structures (i.e. trade cartels, workforce corporate identities, professional designations, and even generational patterns of consumption) have been our isolated hives, which together accumulate as the patterns of mankind and its effects on many landscapes (physical, sociological and psychological).

Yet looking to the clues within these meta-patterns, the divided hives are now becoming connected autonomous functions within a larger collective organisation. Something new is newly happening in the human hive.

While its simply misleading to take and stretch a metaphor too far, or to apply observations of one phenomenon that exists only in the eyes of the observer and apply them to other systems without new observations, what might the amateur apithological apiarist see happening right now in the human buzz?

One event is the launch of the connected and universal 'Like This' voting in the ever expanding and interlinking social network space. This will communicate collective information in new ways and prioritize information to awareness, both for astute use and in collective delusion (and perhaps manipulation) exponentially in feedback loops outside the governance of our previous close trust relationships. Another is the expansion of the virtual-teleconference experience where networks of people previously unconnected are now simultaneously connected into discourses previously outside of their reach. We have new content and new communication. The big two in apithological integration.

The theory says that the third element in the apithology trichotomy will then arise. A new clarification of Intention. This is the finding of a direction for humanity that is causing so much cacophony. According to Karl von Frisch (1967) in The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees:

"Departure only occurs when all the scouts are pointing to the same goal. Accordingly, the moment when the swarm will dissolve can be foretold, and from the dances of the victorious group that is advertising it can be deduced with certainty in what direction and to what distance the swarm will fly." (p. 271)

We are seeing the lead up to the decision of direction in Intention in fractal forums where ever the question is being asked at a sufficient level of complexity to reflect the question with integrity. Like the human hive, bees in the period prior to swarming have patterns of confusion which move eventually to resolution. There is, however, firstly a period of incoherency before a quorum in the decision making arises. The piping tune, heralds triumphantly the new direction found through the 'checking-out' of places recommended in a complex multi-criteria process of collective site rating and selection. The similarities with Web 2.0 are easy to formulate.

In making this comparison we should distinguish between the swarming of bees that occurs with the hive 'propagating', splitting in situations of abundance - and the alternative of the hive 'migrating' in scarcity when the environment begins to appear unviable and new territory is required. The dynamics are apparently similar in external behaviors to the casual observer. Yet, just like in the patterns in the transitions in levels of consciousness, they are very different in their motivation, form and effect when motivated by sufficiency or deficiency. Possibly one leads to a new location armed in hope with confidence, the other in cautiousness and defensiveness with all lacking in a sense of abundance.

According to Michener (1974) in 'The Social Behavior of the Bees: A comparative study', the capacity for complex communication in eusocial bees is what enables the evolutionary advantage of migration in pleisiomorphism. How the mysterious formation of an intention to leave for a new nesting location in response to unsuitable environmental conditions is formed, is unclear. He notes: "... a sharp difference exists and no intermediate conditions are known, so that understanding of the origin of Apis swarming is not so easy." If the existing colonies of humanity are our thought communities located around single ideas (our metaphorical queens of memetic reporduction) it is the capacity of our networks for communication that will enable the evolutionary leap to a single unified location. The new 'nesting location' for humanity is its common intention as a single eusocial entity. It is worth noting that the queens are pushed from the hive. They do not lead the swarm. No one existing idea will lead the way.

In the usual pattern of propagation of the hive in situations of abundance, food collection declines as storer-workers increasingly refuse to accept food from foragers, with foraging activity becoming a search for new nesting locations, the role of foragers moving to scouts. In migration (known as absconding) different triggers may need to occur. What we do know is for both patterns the trigger to actually swarm is the 'buzzing run' where pheromones and vibrational signals are rapidly spread communicating the moment of decision and the signal to depart. It is this I am listening for.

What is also interesting is how the bee life-stage progression from cell cleaner, to nurse, to food storer, to forager is both developmental and yet highly diverse in its sub-roles, and how transitions in population cycles probably create overall mitigating responses to fluxing role-needs as the fortunes of the hive change (see Seeley, T. (1995) The Wisdom of the Hive: The social physiology of honey bee colonies). If we think about the changing population in the spread of generations, differing roles in global production and developmental levels in the human hive, perhaps the 'fifth' life-stage role we are about to see is the 'migration monitorers' who trigger the relocation of the hive in an environment of decline where food and foraging conditions have created the consternation of confusion. Who will be these guides to a new location in thought when propagation of separate hives is no longer the hive's primary question?

Perhaps from the world of the bee in its adaptiveness and evolution, we might find the key to humanity's own evolutionary next stage. As the bees produce honey, so we daily produce thought, described in the poetic words of Maurice Maeterlinck in the translated classic The Life of the Bee (1901):

"I know of no other creature that has thus been fashioned to produce this strange fluid, which we call thought, intelligence, understanding, reason, soul, spirit, cerebral power, virtue, goodness, justice, knowledge; for it has a thousand names, though only one essence. ...
A time will then come when all things will turn so naturally to good in a spirit that has given itself to the loyal desire of this simple, human duty, that the very suspicion of the possible aimlessness of its exhausting effort will only render the duty the clearer; will only add more purity, power, disinterestedness, and freedom to the ardour with which it still seeks. (p. 349-350)

Buzzzz .....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Purity of Thought

I was following a line of inquiry today in response to working with the Landlearn , Creating Sustainable Futures cards in the Oblique Inspiration series by Natalie McDonagh. The inquiry prompt from one card reads:

"What is the map engraved in your heart?"

For if we pause for a second, we each have our own map of our homeland, coastlines and own fields held in our hearts. These are not just the mental perceptions and assumptions we have of the world, those that reveal themselves in the structures and formations of society. It is the map engraved in our hearts that decides the routes and pathways we feel into.

At this mid-way point in my thesis research, having just returned from presenting overseas on thought and health, I get the indulgence of asking where is my work in the world and what does that look like for the future. It is not hard to see two themes of recurrence in the work and play that has captured my attention. Several years of working in water sustainability, examining the flows and currents within the obstacles to growth and development of organisations, the quality of thought and strategic thinking in all aspects of civil society, and my chosen sports of surfing, kayaking and scuba diving in hundreds of remote locations. Even my forest ecology project has as its focus the brook that runs through it as a life-stream providing habitats of diversity. There is a David Bohm quote that has stayed with me constantly since its first reading. It poses an evocative thought picture:

“Imagine a stream which is being polluted near the source. The people downstream don’t know about that, so they start removing bits of pollution, trying to purify their water, but perhaps introducing more pollution of another kind as they do so. What has to be done, therefore is to see this whole stream, and to get to the source of it. Somewhere, at the source of thought, it is being polluted – that is the suggestion. Pollution is being diverted into the stream, and this is happening all the time. You could say, in one sense, the wrong step was when people first started pouring it in. But the fact that we have kept on pouring it in is the main point – it’s pouring in all the time. Therefore, the source is not in time – not back in ancient times, when it may have started – but rather the source is always now. That’s what we have to look into.” ~ David Bohm

Source: Bohm, D. (1996) On Dialogue. London: Routledge. (p 57)

This it seems is the role and metaphor that is writ upon my heart. The themes of the quality of consciousness as being like water, as the body that surrounds and sustains us. The old metaphorical inquiry of asking does a fish know what water is, is made out daily for me when talking about the structures of consciousness and seeing the astounding revelation people experience when they hear about psychosystem dynamics for the first time. We may recognise and acknowledge that we are in a sea of thought. What is of distance to us conceptually is how the quality of that ocean is profoundly different in a localised way, in its currents, surges and particulates ~ and in another way is of a single purest and unchanging quality. In an allusion to Rumi's poetry, we are not one drop in a mighty ocean, but a mighty ocean's drop and 'what could be luckier than to have the ocean come to court the drop?'

As other people turn to the conservation of the marine and terrestrial aquatic environments that are the fundamental basis and last remaining bastion of our most essential ecoservices for health, I turn once more to the conservation of our psychological environments that are the fundamental basis and first contributor to the quality of our essential psychoservices for humanity's health

It may be many decades before the respect for the generative dynamics of the psychological environment catches up with the recent confirmation of how our perceptual world and our response to it potentially has an epigenetic intergenerational effect that is presently, as we think, having an impact on the future capacities of human thought. Yet, these aspects of care need to begin in one place, to immediately show up in many.

Yet for now at least ... I am going to continue to ask, not the question: "How does a fish know what water is?" ... but explore the implication of the answer, which is to understand that they already know "by the finely tuned sensitivity to the quality of what is all around, in continuously co-evolved forms, so as to have an intimate and present, if unconscious effect, on the awareness of self".

Where that takes us .. we will just have to wait and see.


Friday, June 18, 2010


I released last month my second album, AfterWords, on a^ musics. It contains twelve tracks in a modern jazz style in my own genre of mind-numbingly boring inspirational jazz. This album continues a theme in my work of expressing in music that which cannot easily be explained in words. Hence the title and the story behind this project.

Because my research work is heavily focused on the formation of conceptions of mind, I have become intrigued at the dynamics that entrain and constrain these forms. One of the most fundamental human concepts that enable and constrain us is our concept of time. My favourite author on time is the esteemed J.T. Fraser, and his Of Time, Passion and Knowledge is a cherished exploration of the complexities of this topic.

Rather than go to the macro-history of human and evolutionary time, AfterWords is an exploration of how time is formed for us by the asynchronous rhythms of the human body. While chronobiology concerns many external influences of the rhythms that govern our movements and moods (i.e. diurnal light, tidal, seasonal etc.), our circadian clocks are self-sustained by our own body's oscillating functions independent of daylight. The 23.5 hour body clock, doesn't just run out, it also runs up, as a nested set of interlinked rhythms.

The music on this new album explores the 'sounds' of those rhythms and their relationship to each other. The proposition is that they are interdependent and together create the framework of human stability. The human form, and the formation of consciousness and identity reliant on that form, are configured as a panarchy of entrained systems. From micro-movements of the eye in microseconds to replacement of the cellular and skeletal form over years or decades, our bodies repeat in cycles of recurrence.

The AfterWords album contains music that takes a central tone and provides improvised variations in lyrical lines and rhythms which are slightly asynchronous to the governing theme. If you listen carefully, these songlines will vary within a range and return to resolution at completion. The effect of listening to all tracks is an awareness (and depending on the listener) and alignment of all of these rhythms. It is a process of listening to the self-concept of time by attention to its patterns of formation within.

The album tracks in turn explore: mood (endocrinal), balance (vestibular), reproduction (ovulation-gestation), food (gastroenterological), blood (cardiovascular circulatory), sleep (somnolistic), breath (respiratory), chi (subtle-energetic), virals (lymphatic), sight (microsaccadic), cell (mitosistic) and thought (neurosynaptic). What was interesting in researching and forming these particular distinctions was how medicine has names for separate body functions (e.g. digestion, skin functions) yet not for whole systems and their linkages.

It seems ... we are not yet ready to see fully the panarchy of our own anatomy, and so the understanding of the dependent cycles of our collective conceptual ecology, remains a project in formation.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Artifracts of the Divine

We had a storm here recently. A big storm, or perhaps simply an unusual one. While the storm clouds rushed down the coast and hail fell, stripping trees and flooding streets - the insurers moaned at the superficial damage to vehicles too pockmarked to repair. A fifty year or never-year event to end the drought, it recalled for me the opening sequences of director Peter Wier's The Last Wave.

In the afterstorm I walked my familiar beach where the floodwaters had disgorged their flotsam into the ocean, and in reflexive reflux the ocean offered it back to the high water mark. Collecting these artifacts in pollution I pondered what message they had compared to the many 'more natural' forms the sea offers up.

I realized then, as passers-by nodded to me in agreement at my collection of the detritus that they had walked past, that in the plastic toys and candy wrappers, the fishing floats and collapsed birthday balloons, the lollipop sticks and beer pack holders that here was the artifacts of life, joy and living from human society. The moments of fishing, the sunset drinks, the happy birthdays and playful games of the end of a summer loved so well.

In contrast, my privileging of the natural then fell away and I saw the precious shells, colourful bits of weed, mysterious cuttlefish skeletons and intriguing urchin shells as the remnants of the dead. This which I usually cherish as the natural, the beautiful and the living, was nothing compared to the human colour of our creation in wanton discarding. The living sea offers up to us the remnants of its life ... and had returned back to us ours.

Both then are placed here in contrast, collected from the same beach, in an artifact of the divine. It is, however, more than this, because in this small snapshot is a microcosm of human and marine living taken from the transition zone of their sharing. This fractal picture is of two worlds converging in the arti-fract of our, tenuous co-existing, love of life.

... what a gift this day of a novel seeing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Triversing Uni-Verses

At a recent meeting of the Evolutionary Leadership Initiative hosted within the Syntony Quest we reflected on the learning that occurs when we pause to look at the possibilities occurring within a process. Even sophisticated models for dialogue, that operate more as a dance than as a march, lend themselves to this process of meta-reflection. So I offer our precious Learning II moment as it appeared.

Because I walk and swim the beach (and the ocean of thought) each morning, I have the habit of mind to often spot these gifts, to pause, stop and bend to look at them when they appear in an inquiry of delight. The ocean always offers up new treasures, even after decades of walking the same section of shore, disclosing the unfamiliar newly seen, on every morn. So I paused this day to ask: ‘What was this strange creature?’

Bateson (1972) describes Learning II, deutero-learning, set learning, learning to learn, transfer learning as: “Learning II is a change in the process of Learning I, e.g. a corrective change in the set of alternatives from which choice is made, or it is a change in how the sequence of experience is punctuated.” (p.264) This is … ‘a change in the manner in which the stream of action and experience is segmented or punctuated into contexts together with changes in the use of context markers’.

Far too abstract to have meaning?… perhaps, but this is because Bateson is talking about the flow of time that is above the time-pressures of the doing in the now. Simply, it is our agenda for our agenda. It is watching the flow while in the flow. Its surface technique is the meditation bell, its skill is in what occurs for mind within its ringing. It is what occurs after the bell has rung. It asks: How in doing do we want to be in being, in this which we are about to do? It is the practice of the cognitive pause.

The learning for us is simple. In seeing segments of an agenda, are we able to see them as separate contexts, or are they just one flow of content? If we can see no difference between timetabling and appreciation, between content updating and deep purpose presencing, between clearing the plates and clearing out of the place, then there is none – and none will be made. Yet if we see in each carefully chosen segment the need for different contexts, then there will be a difference. Different results, will then result.

In discussing this openly, we surfaced the skill of traversing the tensions that exist from within this terrain, the expressed feeling of time pressures, task outcomes and dealing with the present, while mistakenly releasing of the time for being present. These are not tensions that are resolved at their level of creation. They are the precious basis for the more profound question that arises from their generation.

Our answer to these tensions … as Learning II, is rather than traverse this difficult ground, with difficulty, we as evolutionary leaders, when engaging in that unique and special role (which is not always) must learn to Triverse. How are we to define this new word?

~ to Triverse : v. to speak in three temporal realms at the same time, three universes of meaning as one flow, in three times, as one meaning set.

These three temporal universes of meaning are:

Forward-verse: the need to take a question from the past and our totality of experience held and move this forward into the future to generate the new.

Neutral-verse: the centering to hold a question in the present moment, without content of the past, or projections into expectations, vulnerable in the indefiniteness, to generate the now.

Within-Reverse: to discern how we are going to become and to decide to experiment with how it will be ‘to be’ that in the now, for that is the only way of truly knowing.

For in a verse is found words, communication, meaning and most importantly … song. In a Tri-verse is contained for us three temporal worlds, three uni-verses that as evolutionary leaders we must learn to sing, in one time, at the same time. They are:

Our world of our past ~ which has served us well.
Our world of the now ~ which is all we have to be well.
Our worlds of the futures ~ which is where we fare well.

This is a song in verse used to sing a world of worlds into being. It is an old skill. Older than all of us. Shown to us again with the high tide of our thoughts. How then will we learn this new-old skill of the Triverse? How do we learn what no-one knows? Where is our teacher? Who of us knows its words?

If this idea of Triversing is a principle that resonates, one that finds a place in certain moments, those moments when our former ways of knowing will not fully serve our necessary ways of being in the completion of our doing in moments of unknowing … we will go find it’s tune. If not, we won’t.

For there is no need for trial and error, to try and err in error, in the invitation to try and learn … in playfulness. There is only the expectation … of play. Perhaps we simply need to play with this, and each other - with the presence to uncover all, within a wider (Learning III) principle of discovering together?

Come play,
within this,
within us,
with this
in celebration
of our discovering together
once more this joyous day.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I haven't posted recently about art and music. This is not for lack of joyous experiences as the local international arts festival has just completed. Perhaps in the post-concert chats I had exhausted my commentary ~ in opinion, observation, criticism and critique (the four dimensions of integral commentary).

Astounding was the performance of Simeon ten Holt's Canto Ostinato for five pianos, the Hilliard Ensemble (with an honoring Consort) performed Arvo Part's Passio passionately, the Australian Brass Quintet exhibited virtuosity, fused arranged with ambition dramatically and the Branford Marsalis Quartet challenged impeccably. Yet it was a familiar piece I want to reflect on.

My beloved WASO (who have given me thirty years of listening pleasure, and my mother thirty before this and my grandmother thirty before her) chose the sea to behold for their 2010 opening concert, including the world premiere of Andrew Ford's evocative commissioning, A Dream of Dreaming evoking the breath of life into Tim Winton's dream. On the program was also Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony, which I last saw performed by WASO in 1994, recalled as if it was yesterday. Yet, last night I heard the libretto inspired by Walt Whitman with new ears.

The second movement On the Beach at Night, Alone extracted from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass opened up vistas of the 'similitude' this night. Here are the words again, as used by Vaughan Williams and performed by the colossus (in voice) Teddy Tahu Rhodes:

"On the beach at night alone, As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song, As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future. A vast similitude interlocks all, All distances of [space] however wide, All distances of time, All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, All nations, all identities that have existed or may exist, All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them."

May art in nature, prose and music's muse, make us reflect in smallness, on many a wondrous day.

What holds the universe, the universal all held?

The 'similitude' ... in the guise of the all, as it appears to us mere passengers, within a farther sailing Soul.

Behold, each day, the sea.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Disclosing Apithology

We have been doing some theoretical modelling on the dynamics of psychological panarchy. This involves creating 4D models using a math algorithm to reflect apithological growth structures. It means we can walk around in the psychotemporal space of enfolded conceptions. I suppose we would call this the science of the apithography of thought-ecologies.

What does that all mean? Simply, we are asking the question what does generative health 'look like' in a psychosystem - and how can we see it? If we can disclose this at the simplest levels, and find how this is different to what occurs in reality (which we are more familiar with) - we might just be able to one day see ourselves as a 'thinking' society. It's really a model of what could be, that we can then compare with what actually is, so as to meet the real more fully. This is what good models are useful for - meeting our world innocently with expectancy (rather than trying to make reality fit our model, egoically).

We are some years away from doing this with real data for large scale psychosystems, and even though the conceptual problems are working themselves out, the methodological problems will take a thesis or two. What I am seeing already though, is that small variations in the initial parameters, create very different effects on the character of 'conceptions' - being the potential thought-space that results.

Simplifying the concepts greatly in metaphor, here are the effects of the loss of dynamic balance in traits of exploration, integration, orientation and coherence in very small timeframes for the initial cycle.

What is interesting is if we balance these psycho-parameters with generativity and take them to the limits of the scale, expanding health in time infinitely, what we get ... is the beauty of nature ...

View the apithograph (Link)

Ain't the universe a grand place ...

with we just as children in it, exploring continuously in ignorance and wonder.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Karmic Distortion

I have been playing around with a theory for a while of the effects of the translation of ideas. It relates to one of the nuances of meme theory and the myths of how social learning increases knowing. We believe the wisdom of the crowd captures and transmits useful information. This neglects the subtle ways in which sense is made of unfamiliar knowledge and the reasons for this. The effect is particularly acute across levels of consciousness. The process noticed is cyclic and self-defeating, and usually looks something like this:

Scenario: A genuine insight is generated. It is communicated with care. Where the concept is new, difficult, hard to grasp - a different version of it is generated by the new listeners. They (unknowingly) remove or distort the new truth, so that it makes clear sense to them in the way things are already known. The changed and simplified insight is then promulgated to like-minds with that question. The satisfaction of removing the tension of the question generates its own momentum. The distorted truth is then self-affirming. The insight itself, becomes the cause of the reason for its origination. The problem solved is reflected back as the problem's own response to the answer offered, affirming the problem, while hiding it further. The work created, self defeats. What we then discover is consciousness has, the consciousness it has. What we find, is we don't know enough, about how it is we come to knowing.

If I had to name this phenomenon, I'd call it the 'Karmic Loop of the Creative Originator'. There are many of examples of this. The provocative anti-culture artist who's work becomes fashionable in the group that it satirises. The innovative researcher who publishes early, only to have their work discredited, using the methodology they are trying to change. The politician making new policy, who finds its easier to agree with the people's hearing of the need, ends up getting a policy opposite to its originating intention. We see this in the media daily, catching ourselves in the act. Good truths are distorted in their communication and promulgation. The 100th Monkey research re-frame, the IPCC glacial retreat error, the comprehensive selectivity in Integral Theory, are all great examples ... the list goes on.

I remember reading a reflection by education researcher, Howard Gardner, explaining that he spent the first ten years of his work getting the idea of multiple intelligences into the education community, and the next ten trying to remove the distortions of the idea from that same community (1999, p.79). So the question is: Is that ten years wasted, twenty years or all of the preceding years of work? Or perhaps ... this is all good - and humanity is simply doing what it does with thought. Distorting it while finding its own clarity.

In recent teachings on Karma, (the Buddhist law of cause and effect) the complexity of the states and processes of mind involved was partially disclosed to me. I won't attempt to recite the principles seen with my limited understanding. To do so would only evidence the law proposed. That fault is waiting. This, after all, is a compassionate depiction of the entire system of all human (and non-human) thought across all times. It is stated, however, that there are different (future) environmental effects of each of the Ten Non-Virtuous Actions. For false speech, including claiming a knowledge one does not have experience of, one may find oneself living in environments of deception, where cooperation in work fails and there is no-one to trust.

And perhaps that is the simple learning ....

In the moment of promulgation of a partial truth (as I have just done), even with good intention, of something we don't quite understand, we may be diminishing the capacity of our community of knowing, to forever know.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Dialogues and Desires

I have been a student of Bohmian Dialogue for a number of years now and have been fascinated at its dynamics, its effectiveness and its utility in practice. Having established various forums that use this skill I know it is valid, possible and immensely rewarding for the participants in ways that are (literally) beyond words.

What is much more interesting is how little-used this profound technology is and in a recent call with colleagues we asked the mysterious reason for why this is. When you consider David Bohm's biography, the nature of his inquiry into the phenomenon of mind and the profound perspective offered, we have so much to learn in discovering where he went. To see thought as a system is to be in and to see thought at the same time. An essential skill for aspiring consciousness evolutionaries. Yet as Bohm describes, thought doesn't want to know what it is doing and struggles against knowing this too.

What becomes more apparent is how we are individually fascinated with the journey (rather than the outcome). The narrative of our lives is a journey we want to witness unfolding and experience fully. One thing we do not welcome is the plot spoiler, no matter how well the paths we travel, have already been trod. We enjoy the thinking about our problems with the mind we presently have. The conflict is our entertainment. In the words of David Bohm:

"Thought is constantly creating problems that way and then trying to solve them. But as it tries to solve them it makes it worse because it doesn't notice that it's creating them, and the more it thinks, the more problems it creates. ... We havent really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process."

I for one always succumb to this. I would much rather go back and work on something from first principles, read the source work, and walk that path, step by step, than get someone's summary version. I do so because I am not sure that what others have seen, is always what there was to see. By this process you also get to recognize true guides along the way, those seeing beneath the personal content and self-affirming interpretations. Signposts and stage guides are always welcomed, as bystanders. They are there to serve us. They inquire of us - 'Where was it did we think we wanted to go to and how do we want to experience that journey along the way?' They don't take us on their journey, they inspire us to continue ours. This acceptance, is often within our thinking, not for our thought, and so is acceptable. What is unacceptable to us, is the presumption of the mind of unknowing. I think this is where Dialogue comes in. It allows 'thought to see itself', and to experience itself, in that rare moment of unknowing.

My reflective observation about the global sustainability and leadership initiatives I am involved in is that, other than our most enlightened collectives, we are (at present) at the early stages of playing the games of holding and revealing individual perspectives. This feels to me much like a combination of the children's card games of snap and concentration. Each time a perspective is revealed or offered, another is immediately placed over it in a game of recognition and automatic supremacy, in an equality of partiality, until face cards appear. At the same time, we turn over these cards repeatedly, learning about them, seeing their position, forgetting about them and then remembering them anew. Only to then forget them again. This mixing of games satisfies a feeling of utility and yet is so vast, we get lost in its complexity.

While there is some progress in the aggregation of these perspectives, mostly what we are doing in our global understanding is enjoying the puzzle and the game. The objects of our interest is other people's suffering. Resolution is promised. The play continues.

About eight years ago, in realising the complexity of Bohmian Dialogue did not lend itself to easy explanation, I wrote a description of the stages of the process in metaphor. This was to assist in making the practice, and its practicing, more intentional and less accidental. It also helps with understanding how evoking the process itself, makes us vulnerable. As a contrast to how our global collective actions seem to be doing above, I have dug it out, to offer this as an alternative to our familiar processes of collective seeing, using that which is already there, discovered once more. A different approach to the game is proposed, perhaps only for those who are ready to play:

"A number of people are playing a game of cards. Each person lays their cards on the table one at a time. Each new card is placed so as to obscure the one underneath. As soon as a card is recognized the next player rushes to play their card. When two cards are seen to be alike – snap – the fastest to notice wins conclusively. That winner then lays claim to holding all the cards already played.

However, while winning that passage of play, they notice the full deck has not yet been played. So the process repeats until all the cards have been seen. While many of the cards played are similar, the players notice that the cards are also distinctly different. Because the aim is to have cards that are identical, no-one is seen as a clear winner. Even the player holding most of the cards. An impasse results. The cards are shuffled and the game repeats.

Upon becoming frustrated at this, the players then try to sort the cards consciously and collectively, immediately noticing similarities in both face value and suit. When all the cards are spread on the table, face up before all players, it is recognized that while there is some obvious pattern and way of ordering, no two cards are precisely the same – none are truly identical. No player can find a match. For any one card, or for all.

The players then choose to change the game and combine all the cards together. They begin to collectively, and carefully, lay the cards out to form a pattern. Only when all the cards are arranged on the table face up, and the players stand back, can they see that the pattern of similarity they are looking for has been completed in a beautiful mandala they have unconsciously created, which perhaps was already there.

With all the cards in place the whole pattern unseeable, beyond the cards, is now able to be seen. It is only at this point that they realize that if all the cards are again turned over, that the pattern on the reverse face of each card is identical. The underlying truth discovered is that all the cards are, and always have been, all the same.
" (Varey, 2002)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Zen and Samu

I finished my Zen garden today. There have been many chores to do over my break and one appeared to require action above the others. The horizontal rocks came to this house four and a half years ago and had been placed waiting for the garden to appear around it. In the end this all occurred in two days.

The result was blessed in the Shinto tradition last night purifying the space and self, generating the seeds of generativity and welcoming flow, sanctuary and potential.

In the end this little stone garden (kare sansui) contained the many elements of a traditional design in a modern confluence. The tsukabi (water basin) is found adjacent to the ishidaro (stone lantern) which sits behind the hindo seki (prostrate rock triad) as framed by the sode gaki (bamboo screen fence) led to by tobi ishi (stepping stones) from the chiriana (refuse hole) at the entrance (with apologies for Western translation that loses the wider meaning of these terms).

Overall there is a feeling of a safe haven 'resting place' in an archipelago that winds through islands in a vast ocean. The smallness of the place summons the elements of a world lived elsewhere. Inspiration came from visits to Halong Bay in Vietnam and the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco.

What surprised me most in this practice was the engagement with sitting contemplation (zazen) prior to execution in meditative action (samu), where what was envisaged after inquiring into the form of the space in relation to the surrounds of the house was enacted simply by following the steps.

Rock was split, earthed moved, kilograms of stones carried, bamboo transported, piping laid, screens built and sand spread. The work was the practice with the main effort being in the effortlessness in the selection, orientation and placement of each feature stone (ishi-otateru).

The place is a space for contemplation to return to when creativity and sanctuary escape me.

shujo muhen seigan do
bonno mujinseigan dan
homon muryo seigan gaku
butsudo mujo seigan jo

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all,
The passions are inexhaustible, I vow to cut them off,
The Dharma is unfathomable, I vow to master it,
The Buddha’s way is supreme, I vow to attain it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Forest Blue Moon

I celebrated New Years Eve watching the moonrise. This was a blue moon, which heralds nothing more than an attribution of special meaning to a natural world that does not fit into the 29.5 day configurations of the man made calendar.

Apparently, this common definition of a blue moon, being where two full moons occur in a calendar month, is not accurate. In the modern world of the wiki the popular mythos becomes the new reality. The more real truth is the one closest in popularity, rather than that more distant in history. This transforming of meaning is part of how post-modern subjective knowledge becomes structuralist in its teleology. Our evolving social reality will soon gain this perspective of seeing knowledge transforming in its own trajectory. It was a night of significance never-the-less. If nothing else this heralding of the new year was a spectacular sight.

My vantage point for this moment was Hester Brook Retreat, the integral ecology land conservation project in SW Australia. The stars and constellations appeared resplendent before being chased from the ever brightening sky. The forest was alive that night. A celebration of a different kind.

The reason for the post is I looked at my photos today and in the dark I had mistakenly changed exposure settings on one photo of the moonrise. The photo that resulted (below) made me recall the Howard Taylor Retrospective Exhibition Phenomena which I saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney some years ago shortly after his death.

His was a remarkable body of work, inspired by similar surrounds, immersed in the Northcliffe forest of equal grandeur, not more than 100 km away. Striking in its simplicity and the execution of form, light, colour in their essentialness. A quest over 50 years.

That particular reversed light image of Taylor's has stayed with me for years. In seeing it reflected in my own photo, the understanding of the ongoing engagement with that landscape, the simple inquiry into quite ordinary phenomena, reoccurred for me. Fifty years is such a short period of time to get something right.

If a blue moon occurs once every 19 months on average, I wonder how often it is we stop to take stock and see what is simply around us with a different lens, or a different setting (for that lens). Probably not more often than 'once in a blue moon'.

In the words attributed to Marcel Proust in the (again) popular (but inaccurate) re-quote "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes", which reads in translation (surprisingly also on an Icarus theme):

"... A pair of wings, a different mode of breathing, which would enable us to traverse infinite space, would in no way help us, for, if we visited Mars or Venus keeping the same senses, they would clothe in the same aspect as the things of the earth everything that we should be capable of seeing. The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star.*

Perhaps with pause we, occasionally, may behold the universes others behold,

... to see the familiar with other eyes.

*(Source: The captive. In C. K. S. Moncrieff, R. Kilmartin, & A. Mayor (Trans.), Remembrance of things past (Vol. 3) )