WayFinding in a world of Evolving Strange Attractors

Unpredictable Evolution of Complexity

Complexity concept for the day: In a low dimensional system there are only a few possible deterministic behaviors: Static, constant change, convergence, divergence, oscillation/cycling, convergent and divergent oscillation, chaos. In high dimensional systems they can coexist.

Tweet – Yaneer Bar-Yam – New England  Complex Systems Institute

I keep wanting to start from some sort of ‘beginning’ and lay out an argument over a series of posts – but somehow the line of thinking and reasoning that is engaging me – has it’s own ideas about how to proceed. Rather than fight against the stream (that seems to want to be written) – I will embrace the attractor that is shaping my pre-occupations.

Recently, I was part of a small group, that developed a workshop (three hours) to the Canadian Association of the Club of Rome. The aim of the workshop was intended to support a project related to Climate Change by providing comments and opportunity to engage in a group conversation centered on values. The workshop was named - Pathways to Critical Reasoning and Workshop on Mobilizing Values to Advance Flourishing Pathways.

My part involved a brief presentation on the theme “Are we ready for Ecological Being? And Being Ecological?”. This topic was inspired by my reading of Timothy Morton’s books – “Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence” and “Being Ecological” Both these book (among many others) have contributed to my own research related to the future of identity.

The essence of the insights I gained from ‘Dark Ecology’ and deepened in ‘Being Ecological’ was related to the process of awakening to one’s sense of self as an ecology. In the process of awakening to the profoundly social ground of our sense of self as an individual – becoming ecological can evoke a sense of loss, even some emotions of depression. In awakening to the social ecology that is the ground of our sense of self we are confronted with the fact that we are deeply entangled – with others, with our technologies, with the biosphere.

We now know that the role of our microbial profile (for example, there are more non-human cells in our bodies than there are human cells) makes our individuality a bio-ecology. We know the vital role of ‘mirror neurons’ in our capacity to learn from others. In fact an argument can be made that because of mirror neurons – our perceptions of ‘Other’ enacts ‘Other’ within our self. We are the only species that as a blush reflex as an evolutionary advantage – making us entangled in the moral frameworks of our tribes, clans and networks.

The story I want to share is my recent experience in selling my childhood home. I left this house in 1970 – but my mother remained until her death in 1991. I then moved in with my family and have lived there until last year, when I sold it. We briefly lived in a rental situation until finally moving into my new permanent home in mid-December.

Once I was functional in the new house, I became aware of a pervasive sense of dislocation, of being unsettled. And then I realized that like a fish who has never been out of water that fish doesn’t really know what water is. Gregory Bateson noted that if something is always there we generally can’t ‘see’ it, only when that something is NOT there (even for a brief time) can we become conscious of it.

My childhood home had been like water to the fish. Even though I had moved out when I was 19 – it had remained as part of my psyche – my sense of rootedness – a sense that it was always there for me should life present me challenges that required me to retreat to the haven of the parental home. In selling this home and moving to another, I became aware of roots that I never knew were there – like the water to the fish.

Simultaneously – I realize how exceptional that is for must urban dwellers – this lack of rootedness in a family home. Most people live in a more mobile experience. Later, I was sharing this insight-experience with a young man who had spent all of his adult life living in many countries (he was a professional football-soccer athlete which had enabled him to travel and live around the world). In reply he noted that his sense of ‘home’ or rootedness arose when he connected with people and teams.

I am retired (since 2014). What has become clear to me is that my rootedness has much more to do with finding my ‘tribe’, my communities of spirit, my networks of interest. That my individuality flourishes as I become more connected.

This brief anecdote of my personal experience has helped ground my thinking about the future of identity as a shift from the narrative of the Cartesian- Home-Economicus of the industrial age toward a new narrative of the social self. The evolution of individuation to interdependence to Entanglement.

My future posts will continue to follow this attractor of the evolving self whose pattern is grounded on the paradox that individuation can only arise through our entanglement – that the attractor of our sense of self inevitably involves self-as-other and other-as-self.