Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"When God was about to create Adam. the ministering angels split into contending groups. ... Mercy said, 'Let him be created, because he will do merciful deeds. Truth said, 'Let him not be created, for he will be full of falsehoods'. Righteousness said, 'Let him be created, for he will do righteous deeds.' Peace said, 'Let him not be created, for he will never cease quarrelling'. What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He took truth and threw it to the ground. The angels said, 'Sovereign of the universe, why do You do thus to Your own seal, truth? Let truth arise from the ground. Thus it is written, 'Let truth spring from the earth." (Psalm 85:12)
Reflecting on the interpretation offered by Rabbi Sacks it is suggested that God recognized that Man is not capable of the perfect truth that exists in heaven and to hold the pretense of such truth in human knowing will only create conflict, not peace. The proposal is that Man must live by 'a different standard of truth, one that is conscious of its limitations'. It is by these attempts at limited truths that heaven's own Truth is re-created 'from the earth'.
Perhaps that is where we find ourselves in the post-postmodern discourse, where an abundance of truths each reflect the universals of Man's existence and the diversity of our own interpretations. We each make truths to live by in a world of infinite things to know. Like sacks of valued gems each contributes to the others principally by the appreciation of their preciousness. Regardless of their accuracy by another's yardstick of worth, they also reveal something to us that is much more precious ...
... that each truth is the expression of humanity in understanding its own becoming.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
On yet another reading I was reminded how one risk in creating any description of a dynamic process is how immediately the discourse begins to discuss it as an object formed. The descriptor ceases to be a shorthand in the community of shared understanding of the complexity and gains a life of its own as a thing to be discovered.
Thompson discusses natural selection and its interesting how Darwin's description of that process gained existence as a mythic force. When we go looking for the existence of the mythic beast, it is discoverable only by the parts glimpsed in its fleeting escape between the trees of the forest of our own inquiry. The process is not a thing in and of itself. It does not explain existence, but describes its process. As Thompson says:
This view of organism-environment co-determination (being a 'both/and' approach) is central to our understanding of how the dynamic processes of life exhibit emergence. We enact meaning in the context of the conjunction of our 'own dynamics and those of the environments to which they are structurally coupled'. We are not a stationary thing. We are part of a process of life. In holding both concepts together we understand how "enactive evolution is the laying down of a path while walking" (p. 218).
An earlier example of this proposition is the central (and sometimes overlooked) tenet in Graves' (2005) levels of existence theory, in which he describes human consciousness as the resultant of the 'organismic' equipment and 'environmental' conditions which combine to generate 'momentary operants' (p. 162). He describes the elements as the conditions of existence and the conditions for existence, being the existential problems of living and the existential means for living, which combine as coherent forms of coping. We are neurophenomenological beings. We find coherence in the context of human existence. We are remarkable for doing this.
What if we were to accept our identity as 'momentary operants' as a reflection of the process of life in occurrence? Would we struggle to hold on to our temporary coherence of self so strongly? How does one let go into the void when there is nothing to step out to? How does one find a path forward where there appears to be none?
In knowing that we are laying down a path while walking, essentially creating our environment as we enact meaning and create ourselves, this raises for us also a moral responsibility. As members of humanity the parts and the whole co-emerge and mutually specify each other in a process of dynamic co-emergence (Thompson, 2007, p. 431). Each of us in a way is providing content in the self-definition of our collective path.
Where then are we guiding ourselves to ...
I was in Paris a few years ago at the same time as the opening of a retrospective of his entire life's work at the Hotel de Ville. A few of these photographs are featured in the Seconds Snatched from Eternity collection. His images feature many subjects, from Coco Chanel models to the kitchens of Parisian worker's apartments. All contain candid humour and great lightness. The commonality of essence within the diversity of subjects fascinated me.
It was only on finding one photo towards the end of the exhibition that I understood the craft and art of this photographer. It was a portrait of the artist himself (1949, at Jules Ferry). Doisneau would use an older style camera with a top sighting viewfinder. Hanging this at his waist he would set up the shot, but rather than being separated by the machine and the lens, would engage and be present to the moment around him. This is what enabled the magic of the engaged voyeur.
This made me think about my own inquiry practice. I will consciously seek, less to apply the mechanical lens and filters to capture an image of a mental projection on the photographic plate of understanding, and more to be open and involved while simply being aware to what is happening as an occurrence, rather than what just happened as evidence. The engagement, not the capture, is inherent in my epistemological bias.
The artifacts of such work then are nothing, except seconds snatched from eternity.
"I put all my trust in intuition, which contributes so much more than rational thought. This is a commendable approach, because you need courage to be stupid - it's so rare these days when there are so many intelligent people all over the place who've stopped looking because they're so knowledgeable." ~ Robert Doisneau
Saturday, January 24, 2009
The fashion of the day eventually led to innovation in glazing techniques being adopted in the regions of the Six Ancient Kilns, which sought to copy higher quality aesthetics from China of the same period (Kidder, 1981). It is ironic that the simplicity of these practical vessels created their later attractiveness.
In this we find the beauty of poverty, where the simple and naturally flawed holds a nostalgia of exquisiteness for us. We each probably have an object of beauty that holds an attraction for us, even though its aesthetic appeal is lacking to other tastes. The beauty is in the meaning, not the contents, these objects skilfully hold.
Perhaps it is the new muddy footprint on the floor of the most perfect architect designed family home that gives the clean space its 'now it is truly finished' appeal.
In the myth of Icarus, his father Daedelus who designed the labyrinth of King Minos, loses the king's favour and they were both imprisoned in a tower above the sea. Daedelus gradually collects feathers and one by one builds the wings with wax that carry them to their escape.
We know Icarus' fate, but his father survives and later becomes the mentor to his nephew, Perdix, who becomes the great inventor's apprentice. The apprentice begins to outshine the master. Daedelus becomes so envious of Perdix's precociousness that he takes a momentary opportunity to push Perdix from a high tower. The goddess Minerva, protector of the inventive, saves Perdix by turning him into a bird, now called the partridge which nests in hedgerows rather than lofty heights, mindful of that fateful fall.
The hubris of excitement felled Daedelus' son. The envy of his successor's successes, which outshone his own, disclosed the master's true nature. In ingenuity there is to be won great praise, but in its service to humanity, there is also great caution and humility required.
The reality is we never complete the knowledge we create, only provide stepping stones to those who will follow. If we are not working for the knowledge to be held by humanity that comes after ours, who is it we are really serving?
Recently while preparing a course in macro-sustainability strategies I was putting together all the data for the changes in the holarchy of humanity. Hours of looking at the statistics on oil depletion, water scarcity, deforestation, species transmigration, human population explosion, political instability, child literacy, wealth inequality, social dislocation and individual depression filled my awareness, recalling all I have read in these fields. When I finished there was a sense of 'sustainability groundrush' - that feeling of freefall overwhelm when the ground of reality rushes in to meet you.
When we look into the biosphychosocial system dynamics of humanity in emergence this is a common occurrence. The overwhelm factor becomes too great for us to hold the content. The trick is to learn how to hover - and take it all in. To hold this with equanimity. While sitting with this experience for a while there came a desire to map the dynamics of this in the sustainability spheres I use to explain this field. This is what resulted (in an apithology matrix):
Lithosphere. Exhaustability. Utility
Atmosphere. Variability. Stability
Hydrosphere. Uncertainty. Certainty
Biosphere. Vulnerability. Integrity
Sociosphere. Insufficiency. Security
Technosphere. Inefficiency. Efficiency
Econosphere. Reactivity. Reality
Ethosphere. Autonomy. Responsibility
Theosphere. Incapacity. Self-Efficacy
He holds an open question as to the causation of evolution and appears to posit that there is a counterpart principle in life to that of entropy in matter ~ yet sees no need to prematurely define it (or manufacture it). Koestler remarks on entropy and its relationship to information:
"Our perceptions, then, become 'negative noises', knowledge becomes negative ignorance, amusement the absence of boredom and cosmos the absence of chaos. But whatever the terminology, the fact remains that living organisms have the power to build up ordered, coherent perceptions and complex systems of knowledge out of the chaos of sensations impinging on them: life sucks information from the environment as it feeds on its substances and synthesises its energies." (p. 199)
The hatchling slowly grew in size and strength leading up to the moments of its first flight. This momentous event I watched for two hours intently. A rare opportunity. The dove gradually stood, shuffled to the edge of the structure to stretch its wings and practiced launching. After a hour of stretch and pause a trial hop was attempted, just a couple of feet between footholds. Then the mother reappeared on a nearby tree and cooed loudly. With a great flapping of wings and nervousness the fledgling leapt into space and clumsily joined its mother. The next flight was to the empty field next to my house, where eight more new doves were feeding on seeds. Then ... it was gone.
It made me think, what makes us leave the nest? It is not the shock of denial and negation. The strength and encouragement of love is a much greater force. The dove did all things necessary to prepare for the flight and eventually leapt with the encouragement of its parent. This combination of preparation and encouragement seems so logical, yet how often do we overly protect and 'do for' others, and in doing so fail to do what is needed to enable them to survive. I think often about the responsibilities that will befall Generation Y in their heroic quests we have left them. Have we prepared them for the flight, or just kept them safe, nurturing in protection of predators? Will they learn to fly, and at the same time , not too high?
I can hear them cooing now ...
The presumption of a diversity of values must now be accepted. Analysis of the belief structures operating and their identification is essential if any public discourse is to be intelligible (or productive). To see the tensions between conceptions we need first to see those conceptions. Making the coherences of meaning visible is one means by which we find a way to our common future. That is the main reason for this research.
Friday, January 23, 2009
In any inquiry into flights of fancy we must soar somewhere between the sea and the sun. If we fly too close to either we will drift from safety, yet the whole purpose is to fly.
The icarus myth is a continuous reminder to hold within oneself a premise of knowledge humility, lest we become bedazzled by the illusion of actual knowing in the unfolding world of one's own understanding.
May these fragments of reflections serve as breadcrumbs for those making similar inquiries and following parallel paths.
In openness ...