Today you will see a lot of anger, revile, disgust, and the markers of pain and shame around you. I hope to offer you not soothing but complexity. There are no easy answers.
This is what I see and feel.
We are a world that exists without awareness. Our collective learning histories almost assure it. We raise children in front of televisions watching ‘real’ relationships that are not real. Gaining connection with people and stories that are not our own. Film and art are excellent steps towards depth in perspective taking – they are not substitutes.
We need each other. We are connected to the fiber of perception. Our words are not sticks and stones – they are sticky and powerful tools. Who you are, who you believe others to be, how you think the world works – this is a verbal construction.
At its best it is a multi-layered web that allows in the world and quick decision making. At it’s worst, it is a stiff blindfold that filters your awareness, connections, and actual experience of the world.
Here’s the thing. We naturally become more and more wrapped in our verbal world. You will feel and hear more and more about everything until you’re gone. This is our shared gift and pain.
In a world that leaves us connecting more through machines, through ticker tape, bumper stickers – we have only the verbal.
If you understand what this means – you may feel an urge to disconnect to reduce the power of the verbal. You may want to buy a yurt and move to a secluded beach. (I get it, me too.)
This reinforces the system. You do not change a system by leaving it.
Let go of the shame. Let go of the fear. Let go of the blame. It is our nature that got us here. The path through is not to deny our nature or wall it off as some symbol to be reviled.
It is ourselves we must understand, not some ‘enemy.’
If you pick up the fusion – take a breath – put it down. If you pick it up again – put it down again. How do we move forward?
We move forward in complexity.
We hold our values lightly.
Yes, you read that right.
A value, at its core, is a rule. A belief that signals and ties into your coherence models. A construction linked tightly to the “self”. When we hold too tightly to our values, our “self,” our “other,” our “world” cause us to be unaware. We believe that we, or someone else, or the world – is some way. We miss the important differences. We miss the very salve that would heal the tear in our coherence.
Notice what I am doing now. Do you feel the hovering of my verbal world just above the pain? Can you see that there is distance and purposeful dipping back to pain?
I know what it is to value so fully that you blind yourself.
Do not believe in the need for connection, love, peace, or anything so fully that you blind yourself to the path. Do not want such that you see only the symbol.
It is not simple – It is not easy – It is still worth it.
Do you see that we all know why this post is here- but I have not said it? Why? Aren’t we supposed to approach pain – to not avoid?
That is a rule.
Do not cling to rules without understanding. Even to very ‘good’ rules about not clinging to rules. Instead, step back to awareness.
Understand the rhythms of your mind, the connectedness of your social world, understand that even rigidity and avoidance are sometimes functional.
Understand the rules and your experience – use the verbal context
– it may be the only one you can control in the moment.
With that – I will show you one way in which I find complexity when the world seems too simple and painful.
It is our nature that most experiences start out as shallow symbols. Imagine yourself meeting a person for the first time. Your awareness will automatically click towards categorization.
Is this person like me? Unlike me? How should I act? How will they act?
Now imagine thinking of this person the next day. What is there?
Anything that has latched so quickly is a symbol. You hold onto that symbol through the ultimate shared coherence network – language.
You know nothing of this person’s depth, history, and complexity – and yet your mind says it does.
It’s alright. We wouldn’t walk into the world without the safety of these symbols to organize the unpredictability and variety we see around us.
Now, imagine that you meet this person again. You spend time with them. You let walls down. You become friends, or even lovers. Years go by – you laugh with them. You cry with them. You share dreams and pain.
Is this person now their name? Are they “in group” or “out group”?
They are neither.
They are more. This is complexity.
Now – this is not the end. With all complexity comes ups and downs. Happiness does not come without sadness. Safety does not come without knowing fear.
This is where we use awareness to pull us together.
Use the power of the symbolic -awareness of the function of rules – to pull you to the adaptive awareness.
Choose your symbols for complexity – or know what and how to evoke it to a symbol. Trust me here. (Remember the ACT – where are your keys exercise?) Symbols pull more than pain. Feel that wedding ring on your finger? Feel the cross on your neck?
If it is more than a symbol – if you have built rich memories around it.
Then it the symbol is simply an Sd for discriminating complexity tied to an object by a rule through coordination.
How do you choose a symbol? You probably already have them. Notice what reminds you of what matters. Then remember to richness of your experience with this symbol. Congrats- coordination. Classical conditioning of cued complexity.
This is one of my calls to complexity –
The Ensō is a Buddhist symbol for absolute enlightenment, the universe, strength, elegance, minimalism, and the void.
For me, Ensō is it the “I,” the “YOU,” and a symbol of complexity spanning out through temporal, interpersonal, and spatial relations.
It is created in a single stroke – symbolizing the moment at which mind and body come to center to create. It is a symbol of the beauty of imperfection in growth.
For totality. For center. For awareness of it all.
Your automatic reaction may be some coordination frame with superstition.
Complexity is nearly the opposite of superstition. Superstition is a rule built on chance association – that is then used to avoid or approach.
Superstition, raw emotion, or distance – is what symbols and rules become when they grow to far from their roots.
This is why the peace sign drives nothing in our generation. We did not create it out of pain and a need for unity. It is now hollow a symbol.
Complexity is the true opposite of fusion. Yet, complexity can be attached to symbol so that the power of fusion moves complexity, through coordination.
Complexity can then be the symbolic evoke of mindful awareness.
Notice: You cannot combat raw emotion or insensitive rule with the verbal. You are bound to increase fusion. We are stubborn and automatic creatures though. We expect to evoke through fight what can only be gained in experience.
Save your ‘fight’ for building complexity and understanding the contingencies that drive function and dysfunction.
Experience (i.e., complexity) is the seat of non-reactivity and non-attachment.
It is not by evoking the opposite (whether it be shame, fear, anger, joy, values, rules) we move anyone towards any path. It is the path of non-reactance and awareness. The path that allows us to skillfully help ourselves and others track.
Ask yourself -what did humans do when the world was not so complex and devoid of direct contingency contact?
Why did we teach arts and music? Why did we write poetry? Why did we dance and sing together? Why did we share resources? Why did natural selection so favor language (and the large skull needed for it) that we are born helpless and in need of care?
We are complexity.
We are more than verbal. We are touch. We are connection.
We are love, philosophy, science, dance, and art.
We are the shapers of a world – for better or worse.
Choose to connect to what is underneath.
If we are capable of this then how did we get here?
What do we see if we take Skinner’s “What’s wrong with the Western World?” and examine how we spend our lives? Why are we depressed? Disconnected? Anxious? Unsatisfied?
Why are the systems generations died to create left to ruin now?
We are still following and using rules – we rarely notice if they work.
We are built for connection. We lose connection and awareness through adaptive peaks created by the very things that allowed us to connect.
We construct our world through rules. We spend less time together. We spend less time experiencing and more time watching. We ‘learn’ from books alone. We under fund art, science, literature and we test for providing the preferred “answer.” We are teaching that the only answer is rigidity. We reward children because we want them to feel good about themselves – stop. Think. Do you want your child to feel rewarded in this moment or to know that they are above the ups and downs?
That they are more. Give them the gift of awareness.
We are surrounded by complex systems and we no longer understand how or why they were created.
Look at your fellow man today and when you see fear, rigidity, hate, sadness, egotism… pull yourself to awareness. Whether by symbol, interpersonal mindfulness, or layers of context sensitivity.
You will be moved to stop the pain, to fight the pain, to leave, to change, or revile against what has happened. Many of you will feel the desire to fight.
Notice what you are fighting for.
Are you fighting for connection? For safety? For freedom?
Is it important enough to treat this with awareness and openness?
Then find the tools to build bridges instead of walls, weapons, and raised voices.
Pull to that space just above the pain where complexity and awareness reside.
Allow yourself the space to take care of yourself and those you love.
When you are ready – Let’s build a bridge.