The art of working with complexity of human dynamics - the dynamics
of life, society, and environment - requires mastering our capacity to
- experience the wholeness of existence as it unfolds through our lives;
- sense and deal with spontaneously emerging phenomena;
- understand and ride the self-organizing urge of nature.
1. Experiencing the Wholeness of Existential Dynamics
In the paradigm of complexity, the existence is seen as an unbreakable wholeness (Whole) of dynamics manifesting at different scales. Human dynamics unfold at specific scales imbedded in the macrostructure of the universal dynamics. While a gigantic supernova occurs at the gross scale of the universe, a creative insight (or joy, love, fear, anger, etc.) of an individual ‘explodes’ at a much more subtle scale – the scale where the swarm of human thoughts and feelings constantly moves. Same all-embracing existential dynamics, different scales of their manifestations!
Although we all live in the whole of the existential dynamics, there are individuals among us who are aware about the whole living in them and seeking expression through their lives. These individuals are capable to integrate their genuine experience of the existential whole – the experience of its rhythm and harmony, its infinity in space and time, and its urge to create and transform - into their individual consciousness. Moreover, they are able to express this holistic consciousness in their daily life and to transpire its inspirational power to the others through
- their ability to identify themselves with the whole, with the universal, with the eternal;
- the strength of their experience-rooted awareness that the human species are exponents of something much greater and worthier than a bunch of chaotic individual drives, subconscious urges, animalistic desires, and selfish endeavours;
- their joyous sense of being inseparable part of an all-pervading mysterious Whole, in which the flowing movement from one experiential event to another happens effortlessly;
- their search for the timeless Centre of the all-pervading web of existential dynamics (forces, energies, substances, forms) and the umbilical cord that has the power to connect those who discover it (within the depths of their innermost selves) with the timeless Centre ( Dimitrov and Hodge , 2002).
2. Sensing and Dealing with Emergent Phenomena
Every phenomenon and process in organisations and society arises out of dynamic interactions of many interdependent and complexly interwoven agents (individuals, factors, forces, influences). The emergent phenomena and processes obey two simple ‘laws’:
- Only emergence in potentiality - in a ‘state of implosion’ - can transform into emergence in actuality - in a ‘state of explosion’ ( Dimitrov , 2002);
- Any act of emergence is inevitably preceded by manifestations of subtle and yet perceivable dynamics ( Dimitrov , 1998).
These laws show how important is for us to explore and understand the interactions we are involved in; it is in the whirling dynamics of these interactions where the emergent phenomena become activated, that is, transformed from a state of emergence-in-potentiality into a state of actual manifestation. The major factor for this transformation is the nature of our interactions - the degree of activation of our web of relationships, the strength of our connectedness with and dependency on the other participants in this web, the degree of complementarity between our values, stances, and actions and those of the others, the levels of development of our capacity to think and intuit, our willingness to pursue mutual understanding and collaboration with one another, etc. The environment, both natural and artificial (human-made), where the interactions take place, can stimulate, sustain or impede the processes of emergence.
2.1 Formation of Experiential Patterns
However complex and unpredictable the dynamic interactions in a group (organisation, society) may appear, their projections onto the experiential space of each individual ( Dimitrov and Ebsary , 1997) - the space of one’s thoughts and feelings: ideas and emotions, beliefs and dreams, longings and aspirations, hopes and expectations - tend to form dynamically stable patters corresponding to the meanings which one assigns to different aspects of the interactions. We call these patterns “strange attractors of meaning” ( Dimitrov , 2000a) emphasising the strange (enigmatic) nature of their formation in one’s experiential space.
Examples of such ‘strange attractors’ are the meanings which an individual associates with the overall climate in the group, the characters, skills and ambitions of the people working in the group, people’s relationships to one another, the processes of decision-making and handling conflicts in the group, the impact of various external agents and conditions on the activity of the group, etc.
While exploring the spectrum of the experiential patterns revealing the meanings one construct about the dynamic interactions, as well as about:
- the forces which shape and sustain these patterns,
- the factors which make these patterns change and combine, expand and shrink, dissipate and disappear,
- the ways in which these patterns evolve, interact and transform,
- the actions which these patterns evoke,
one deepens his/her living knowledge about the holistic nature of the dynamic interactions in the group.
If, in addition, the individual increases the weight of his/her own contribution in the dynamic interactions within the group, then s/he might develop ability to ‘sense’ (feel, intuit, foresee) phenomena which are about to emerge out of these interactions, and thus to recognise them before their actual manifestations.
2.2 Sensing Emergent Phenomena
There is a theorem in Fuzziology – the study of fuzziness inherent in human knowing ( Dimitrov and Hodge , 2002:39) – that says: we can understand only as much of the world as we have developed and realised within ourselves.
Our understanding of reality and ourselves grows from within; nobody can implant or poor into one’s brain a dose of understanding prepared outside of one’s own capacity to think and experience. The knowledge, which we ‘borrow’ from books and experts, must be internalised, that is, digested by our own intelligence, using our own mental and emotional efforts, in order to be understood and become a factor for the growth of our consciousness. When the consciousness expands, we are able to see more of the world around us, to develop and realise more of our unique inner potential to understand and experience. Phenomena, which we considered as spontaneously emergent - unpredictable and unexpected, - at some level of our capacity to think and know, are not qualified as ‘emergent’ any more at any higher level of developing of this capacity; their appearance is a result of clearly understood interplay of causes.
Example: When we understand that people’s health is inseparably connected with the health of their environment, there is nothing emergent – unpredictable and unexpected - in the explosion, however large in number and variety it might be, of people’s diseases and deaths due to a fatal increase of the pollution of the air (water, soil).
So, the key factor for developing our ability to sense emergent phenomena lays in the development of our consciousness. Of course, this is not an easy process. It has very little to do with accumulation of fragmented scientific knowledge or mere collection of facts information. Today’s stressful and competitive conditions of life, the illusory imperative towards material wealth and consumption, the constant fear of unemployment, crime, terror, war, lethal diseases, catastrophes, disasters, etc. – fear, which makes it easy for the handful of the richest in society to control the majority - make our minds neurotic. And with neurotic minds, to grow in consciousness is impossible.
In the practice of the ‘classical’ leadership, for example, it is assumed that the leader must put significant efforts to influence the thoughts and feelings of the others, to impose changes in the dynamic patterns of meanings formed in the experiential space of each individual, and to know how to manipulate, if necessary, their brains using charismatic speeches and persuasions. The paradigm of complexity reveals an entirely different way for leaders to influence the development of their organisations: not by trying to impose changes in people’s understanding, but through persistent efforts aimed at ‘cooling’ their own minds, harnessing their will, concentrating their attention, honing their awareness and thus expanding their consciousness. Sine qua non for this to happen is a genuine effort on behalf of the leaders
- to minimise their egoistic drives and thirst for selfish achievements, and
- to master their skills for creating possibilities for people to understand what impedes their realisations.
2.3 Dealing with Emergent Phenomena
As everyone is much ‘closer’ to his/her experiential space than to the experiential space of any other person, it is easier for an individual to explore and deal with the dynamic patterns of meanings, which are formed within his/her own experiential space than in the space of another person. Any change in these patterns appears as a change in the meanings which the individuals associates with specific signs of their reality and leads to changes in the ways they interpret and undertake actions in response to these signs. The actions inevitably ‘breathe’ emergent phenomena in the environment.
While exploring the links between the changes in the experiential patterns and the emergent phenomena following these changes, we can gain understanding about those changes, which bring forth emergent phenomena in harmony with the mission of the groups (organisations) we belong to.
Those who master their ability to instigate such kind of emergent phenomena may develop skill to create them, that is, not only to sense the emergent phenomena in their group, but also to manage them – make them appear and change in accordance with their vision.
Three are the leverages for mastering leaders’ capacity to sense and deal with emergent phenomena: reason, intuition and the power of will.
2.4 Synergy between Reason, Intuition and Will
According to Varela – one of the godfather of self-referential philosophy of the autopoietic (self-creating) nature of life (Maturana and Varela, 1980), - intuition is “a basic human ability which operates constantly in daily life” in tandem with our reasoning. “Intuition without reasoning is blind, but ideas without intuition are empty” (Depraz, Varela and Vermersch 1999). Not mental speculation about complex dynamics of life, but awareness of their unfolding is at the core of the modus operandi of intuition.
The higher the degree of one’s awareness, the greater is the chance for experiencing those precious moments of ‘convincing clarity’, which characterises every intuitive insight, every spark of human creativity.
Depraz, Varela and Vermersch indicate three dynamic phases of human awareness: suspension of one’s habitual thought and judgement followed by conversion of attention from ‘the exterior’ to ‘the interior’ (from the external manifestation of nature towards its internal manifestation in us) and ending with letting-go or maximal receptivity towards the living experience (Depraz, Varela and Vermersch, 1999).
Although deeply emotional experiential events may trigger spontaneously the initial phase of one’s awareness, this phase usually requires an intense use of individual will power (zeal, energy, determination, concentration). Without will power, the flow of habitual thoughts (and actions attached them) can hardly be broken. All kinds of traditions, customs, standards, and stereotypes keep the mind drifting along what is adopted (accepted, approved) by the common-sense majority in society.
If one succeeds in suspending the habitual thought, the attention then turns inwards, distancing itself for a while from the world outside; this is the second phase. Here the will power – the power of concentration – works together with the power of reasoning keeping the latter focused on understanding one’s own intellectual and emotional attitudes, motives, values, virtues.
In the third phase the duality between external and internal worlds seem to dissolve into a state of maximal openness and receptivity, ‘letting-go’ of any voluntary tension. In such state, the individual awareness, and thus the potential for emergence of intuitive insight reaches its climax.
The three phases of human awareness link tightly the will power and reasoning with intuition. This link is of vital importance for the ‘best practice’ in working with complex dynamics of life, society, and nature.
3. Riding Self-organisation
Self-organisation is a core concept in the Paradigm of Complexity used to describe the process of formation of orderly patterns out of apparently chaotic dynamics. Under specific conditions, the intensive interplay of chaotically directed forces and energies suddenly transforms into clearly distinguished consistent dynamic patterns. The patterns and the forces sustaining them form inseparable wholes: the forces sustain the patterns and, at the same time, the energy within these patterns feeds the forces.
The self-organised tandem ‘pattern-force’ is demonstrated in any holistic vortical structure (vortex). Examples of vortices in nature are: eddies, whirlpools, whirlwinds, tornadoes, maelstroms, hurricanes, etc. The forces, which emerge out of a vortex, can be of extremely great magnitudes.
Our galaxy represents a gigantic vortex in the form of a self-sustained unfolding spiral.
One can hardly imagine how incredibly great must be the magnitude of the overall self-organising impetus in the universe that serves to support all the levels of the existential dynamics, including human (social) dynamics. This drive must act as an omnipotent self-propelling engine (like the 'engine' sustaining a hypothetical tornado of limitless whirling power) able to feed with energy the whole universe with its astonishing variety of ever moving, evolving and transforming phenomena and processes. One can recognise the work of this engine in the blossom of a flower as well as in the waves of the ocean, in the pulsation of a simple cell as well as in the beats of human hearts, in the rhythm of our breathing as well as in the rhythm of the cycles of solar activity ( Dimitrov , 2000b; Dimitrov , 2000c).
While ignorant or unconscious about the processes of self-organisation constantly manifesting through our nature, we follow them automatically and dance like slaves under the tunes of all kinds spontaneously emergent ‘self-organised’ instinctive drives and desires.
While aware and conscious about the processes of self-organisation in us, we are on the way to master them. This is exactly what is required in order to be able to see and ride self-organisation (and thus to understand and master its unfolding) at different levels of manifestation in her/his own nature: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.
By understanding self-organisation as manifestation of our innermost nature, we become aware of the ways it works within us. While trying to integrate the experience of the wholeness and universality into our individual consciousness, we broaden the horizon of our experiencing and understanding of reality, and push further the boundaries of our consciousness. This helps us feel and understand the impetus for self-organisation as expressed in the others, and even recognise the obstacles, which impede its realisation. Once the obstacles are seen, one may facilitate emergence of conditions helping the others understand and deal with what impedes the unfolding of their potentials.
When helping the others, we need to abstain from judging them by our own standards of knowledge and truth. It is impossible to ‘fix’ or ‘improve’ one’s urge for self-fulfilment. The only ‘tool’ for help, which we can offer, are our own wholesome lives - the depth of our understanding of the life’s conundrums, and a sincere readiness to share this understanding.
The self-organisation in humans (as well as in all the living forms in nature) is a sacred process of unfolding of their inner potentials. No one can re-create this potential in one’s life span. No one can win when fighting with it either. Any external intervention aimed at modifying one’s self-organising ability tends to produce alien (to one’s nature) effects with unpredictable consequences.
The realisation of individual self-organisation can reach its creative apotheosis only with real, authentic dynamics; therefore any imitating or following other people’s behaviour, or borrowing other people’s knowledge and skill decreases the chance for finding one’s own way for self-realisation. While encouraging us to follow recipes offered by all kinds of experts and gurus, society weakens our individual capacities to genuinely experience and consciously develop the power of our creative self-organising nature.
Therefore, it is a challenge for us to master the art of working with the whirling complexity of our own self-organizing dynamics.
Depraz, N., Varela, F. and Vermersch, P. (1999) The Gesture of Awareness - An account of its structural dynamics. In Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness (Ed. Vermersch, P.). Amsterdam: Benjamin Publ.
Dimitrov, V. and Ebsary, R. (1997) Intrapersonal Auropoiesis, Internet paper: http://www.pnc.com.au/%7Elfell/vlad2.html
Dimitrov, V. (1998) Communication as Ineraction in Synergy with Uncertainty, Internet paper: http://www.pnc.com.au/%7Elfell/vladimir.html
Dimitrov, V. (2000a) Strenge Attractors of Meaning, Internet paper :
Dimitrov, V. (2000b) Self-Organisation nad Creativity, Internet paper:
Dimitrov, V. (2000c) Rhythm of Self-Organisation, Internet paper :
Dimitrov, V. (2002) Mystery of Vorticity of Human Dynamics as Reflected in the Law of Requisite Vorticity, Internet paper: http://www.uws.edu.au/vip/dimitrov/requisite-variety.htm
Dimitov, V. and Hodge, B. (2002) Social Fuzziology,
Heidelberg and New York: Physica Verlag
http://www.springer.de/cgi/svcat/search_book.pl?isbn=3-7908-1506-3 (Excerpts of this book are available at http://www.uws.edu.au/vip/dimitrov/Excerpts1.htm )
Maturana, H. and Varela, F. (1987) The Tree of Knowledge, Boston and London: Shambala
Copyright, 2003, V. Dimitrov
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