Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Newton can get us to the moon, but can't make a world

Look around you, find something to focus on for a moment and come back to the page... when you did this, did you notice your eye balls? We usually don't. Notice the reading your doing right now, does the activity feel like its transpiring at your eye sockets or further back in your head? So let me ask you, we normally associate seeing with eyeballs, but in your experience, are you seeing with your eyes, or are you seeing by way of your thinking?

It was about fifteen years ago now when I came across a thinker whom I've grown fond of named James Hillman. Though rooted in the Jungian school of psychology, he's quite critical of his profession when ever it seeks to turn one's making of "psyche" -Greek for "soul"- into an administrative task rather than a living one. (No wonder I like him!) But anyway, I was reading him one evening and he said this: "we don't see with our eyes, we see with our ideas." Reading that line opened my eyes! "But wait a minute- your eyes were already opened. You can't read with your eyes closed!" I know- thats what I'm trying to get at. Hillman gave me a new idea about ideas and seeing; and I've looked at the world differently ever since!

Enter Newton- and why I'm writing under the matrix of complexity.

The ideas we see through, feel private to us. But in fact, they are part and parcel with the ideas that we develop publicly: we call this culture. And just as you didn't notice your eyeballs as you scanned about the room, you rarely notice the cultural ideas (your "eyes") as you make sense of the reality bubbling about us. In this case, I would offer that one of our foundational cultural ideas through which we expect reality to conform to, is the long held scientific idea that all things in the universe can explained by Newton's three laws of motion: the physics bound in the game of billiards- simple balls; simple bumps; simple geometry.

Scientists have been leaving the world of Newton for awhile as they recognize that the world is much more complex than a moon shot- even at the cellular level and below. In fact a growing branch of science refers to itself as the science of Complexity and was born from realizing things like the "butterfly effect", which point to patterns of cause and effect that can't be simply traced: it's a realization that reality is requiring us to see it differently.

The thing is, individuals are nimble, cultures are not. Changing our sense of culture based reality is hard work. But cultures aren't monoliths that happen as mountains do, they emerge from individuals -you and me and all of us- bunching up with ideas through which to see and make a world together.

Some fundamental questions we have to ask ourselves are, what is it that we want to see? what are we looking for? and what can we see? "We Are The World" is more than a title of a song to raise funds for places suffering destitution: it's a complex idea of human reality.

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