Life often deals with complexity. Complexity means a state of the world which we do not understand. We partly understand why things happen and partially don’t. We first think that the achievement of our goals is ideal. And their failure is our failure.
But later we realise that the plans that work are in agreement with the larger pattern. And the ones that don’t work are not in accord with the larger scheme of things.
For instance, you may need to reach tennis practice at six am but there are no busses available. So the plan to catch a bus to play is not likely to work. But you decide to cycle the distance and there is no obstacle for that decision. One plan has external dependencies which are not in place and the other one does now. This is a problem if you are adamant about taking a bus. It is not a problem if you are flexible about how to travel and reach on time.
An individualistic view of the world is not realistic any more. We cannot imagine the universe arranged to serve our needs. We don’t matter that much. Statements about our being small in a big world are common, and they are correct. This truth dawns upon us each time our plans fall apart. There are two options when this happens — we can feel wronged, or we can feel humbled. We can accept that there are bigger things at play than what we immediately desired.
This argument is not the same as talk of destiny or pre-determination.
On Complex Systems
The concept of the universe as a complex system is a fact.
In a complex system, the processes happening at the macro level seem to take precedence over processes occurring at the micro-level. But there are dependencies and linkages across all the multiple scales. Micro scales and macro scales could be linked.
We could sometimes be aware of such connections. Or we could also be oblivious to them.
Subtle inter-connections might exist — such that they might not be evident at all. Working to uncover all such linkages between two scenarios requires close & sensitive reflection.
How can the macro and the micro be connected? Such scenarios are not distinct or complete in themselves. We only perceive them as packages. They are bundles of phenomena — disparate and fragmented. Our minds fabricate their coherence in the moment of narration. This coherence is a kind of shorthand, and it does not exist.
It allows us to speak of a fewer number of entities. By doing so, we still approximate the range of our discussions but do not detail them deeply enough. This shorthand keeps our casual conversations in the approximate and blurred space. This conversation style does not allow depth to become an active mode of engagement. We speak of all kind of things, and we keep talking of them in broad and general terms. If we speak about things as we experience them — it is perceived as rude. Socially, we either keep quiet or speak of things as they are broadly accepted to be.
Personal experience and opinion is considered unnecessary.
Evidence ought to be considered necessary in science communication. But in essays that are personally voiced and not claiming to be speaking of the empirical truth, why should evidence be required?
In this essay, why would you think I am ranting and not conveying my personal experience?
Being Coherent Slowly
I find the idea of coherence in everyday communication disturbing. Because it prevents us from getting down to talking about the fact of our experience, and instead go on engaging with social convenience. Being understood and being relevant is social convenience. We worry about making points (by talking of scenarios when none exist) and not whether these said points exist.
We should shift our concern from making sense immediately to making sense eventually.
Instead of talking of scenarios (that do not exist but make our speech easier to understand), we should speak about phenomena. The phenomena that are supposed to make up these scenarios.
Isn’t it very idealistic to imagine this will happen? We need to rethink our personal goals. Are you trying to understand what makes sense in life and why? Are you trying to decipher what events mean? It will make it much easier to follow this pursuit if the entities you try to connect are actual and not perceived.
For instance, the perception of groups of people is considered a scenario. Whereas, each individual in the group is the actual phenomena. Groups don’t exist; individuals do. Groups are projections; individuals are actors.
In many practices (like writing & music) such macro perceptions are useful in articulating one’s vision. But in the personal pursuit of meaning, these do not help. It leads to a blurring of our semantic intelligence. We become imprecise in identifying and naming things. And this is a significant loss.
A fabric of understanding of this world is best-woven thread by thread. We are pursuing meaning one detail by detail. The process of this pursuit is often meticulous and requires note-taking at a nitty-gritty level. Now, not all might perform this process consciously. Some might manage it spontaneously.
For instance, if we consider the prospect of getting to know each person distinctly.
Getting to know people and their attributes fast, requires a kind of tagging, a sharp memory and alertness. We have to associate a tendency with a person. Remember the association and what made us form it. And be alert to signs in someone else that demand the same association.
If we pay close attention, we can find co-relations between thought and events too. Thought and events both have directions and flavours. They represent temperaments. For the sensitive, thoughts are very transparent and can be read by following signs. They have flavours, and one can access them through one’s senses.
Each of our actions represents tangents, wavelengths and traditions. If followed through, these can help us form co-relations, understand trends and know the zeitgeist of the moment.
Once we do, we can tune our plans and synchronise them with the pattern so as not to feel opposed. Or feel rejected and clueless.
These ideas might seem close to the notion of destiny, but it is not the same. One, because it has something to do with personal practice. Two, it is variable and not absolute — depending on the sharpness of our practice, we are likely to have different results.
I have attempted to develop an idea here that an awareness of the events around us can lead us to understand what they signify. And then we can understand their trends and tendencies.
The self best performs this practice to distinguish it from soothsaying and forecasting. The signs, the trends and tendencies need some personal context and insight. In an individual, there are many narrative ways of understanding the repercussions of an event. All this information is not available to a third person attempting to read the patterns of circumstance.
When the self practises this process, also there are less questionable projections of propriety and common sense. Traditional astrology is full of such projections.
These processes are like what modern software does with analytics, machine learning and data mining. When we arrange our technological systems to perform such functions, why can’t we consider practising them ourselves? Humans and their brains are a kind of mystical, imperfect device. Our minds are clunky and unpredictable, but sometimes they perform as directed. At other times they get lost in their obsessions.
Learning to live in complex times means not to have an unyielding will or clear motivation.
“A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail” — Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
If our minds learn to live in complex times, they will only be happier.