Feeling our Way, Intuition and Improvisation

From my journal:
3rd cup
. coffee.  Yesterday was a good day, despite things “going wrong” like a Zoom meeting for a play reading that got hacked, a walk with the dogs that was cut short by rain, etc.  

When I took Mocha out this morning, it was in the 40’s, bright sun, brisk wind.  Windchimes ringing, grass greening, trees budding.  I could almost hear singing “Life! Life! Life!”  But does that cry, does “Life,” contain spirit?  Or is it just, as Sartre claims, without pattern or direction?  I go back and forth.  Sometimes life seems to be purely material.  But then what animates it?  If what we call life has its source in a universal process that includes self-organizing, then “we were meant,” then there is intention, and the goal or direction of the process is shown/proved by the existence of the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Jesus, and the love I feel when I am able to allow myself to be free of what I “know” about myself.

[Stuart Kauffman talks about the process of self-organization and the autocatalytic set theory in Complexity, p321.  “Life is the natural expression of complex matter.  It’s a very deep property of chemistry and catalysis and being far from equilibrium. And that means that we’re at home in the universe. We’re to be expected. How welcoming that is! How far that is from the image of organisms as tinkered-together contraptions, where everything is bits of widgetry piled on top of bits of ad hocery, and it’s all blind chance. … we make the world we live in with one another. We’re participants in the story as it unfolds. We aren’t victims and we aren’t outsiders. We’re part of the universe, you and me, and the goldfish. We make our world with one another.”]

I’ve been reading Stephen Levine, Meetings at the Edge, and getting an enormous amount out of it. Working with a therapist who had a client wound his wife badly, kill someone, and then commit suicide, he says “If you are working on yourself to examine jealousy and fear and self-protection, then you are the best therapist for this fellow who is feeling these same confusions. It’s all just the braille method — until we each participate in our wholeness, we must just feel our way along moment to moment, practicing deeply the forgiveness and investigation that brings us closer to our true being. Speaking more and more from a sense of what is appropriate in the moment, letting go of attachment to ‘results,’ to that ‘appropriateness’ working. You just do what you do as work on yourself, deepening the compassion and love, letting go of the fear and knowing that keep us so isolated.”p52

Yes, “feeling our way,” using intuition and improvisation, is the totally appropriate way to work with a complex adaptive process. Which is what life is. Which is what the pandemic is. Which is why we are dealing with it so badly, coming from a culture addicted to prediction and control. What is truly amazing is that so many people are coming from a place of compassion and generosity. And that itself shows me that compassion and generosity are built into the “pattern” for the human. If “survival of the fittest” were really the foundation, there would be total chaos and violence.

“Complex Adaptive Systems are dynamic systems able to adapt in and evolve with a changing environment. It is important to realize that there is no separation between a system and its environment in the idea that a system always adapts to a changing environment. Rather, the concept to be examined is that of a system closely linked with all other related systems making up an ecosystem. Within such a context, change needs to be seen in terms of co-evolution with all other related systems, rather than as adaptation to a separate and distinct environment.”  From MIT papers.   The difficulty with them is that there are so many factors interacting that it’s not possible to predict what will happen in the future with any accuracy.  One common metaphor is “If a butterfly flaps its wings in China, it will change the weather in North America a few days later.”

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