All systems fail, all organized interactions are vulnerable to entropy, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And at best, we are but stardust, a beautiful yet haunting explanation of our origins. Infused with light. Doomed to shadow. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, in the mortal physical realm, entropy is always interfering. The intellect often uses convenient conceptualizations to feel it is better understood or more secure, more real and lasting, than it is.
Remember: the only constant is change, so to oversimplify is to willfully strip ourselves of needed understanding, the power of intellect that can do the best work against entropy. To paint in broad strokes an entire universe of experience to exist only in dualities of black and white, up and down, matter and void, is to confuse simplicity with clarity, at our peril. While the best explanation is usually the simplest one, the truth is almost always more complex than we can perceive.
So, we are left to navigate a universe of traumas and disappointments we cannot just dismiss as signs of the wrong thing happening or the other side gaining temporary control over our otherwise pure and decent environs. Darkness and light are lies in that they are not so diametrically opposed as they pretend; there are better options for understanding what they mean. As R. Buckminster Fuller has written: “We have relationships, not space”.
Relativity posits that light and other cosmic forces or expressions of energy and mass are not constants, but exist in a relational continuum. Moving at the same speed as an object makes it appear not to move at all, as with the Earth that carries us through its orbit around the Sun, and our Sun’s orbit around the galaxy’s deep center. We also experience this when we are traveling inside an automobile or an airplane. Light and dark are both wave dynamics relative to perception, frequency, local electro-magnetic activity, even the refractive capabilities of gravity, distance and time.
Resilience in the face of complex pressures requires nothing less than complexity, at the root and at the growth point, in any system, a diverse barrage of tools and relations, the corresponding adaptability, instead of the all-or-nothing, hit-or-miss romantic balladry of monoculture, of uniform essence, of limited relatability. Resilience requires the ability to perceive and adapt to challenges that come from beyond the one-versus-other, either/or, bipolar mentality that informs phenomena like the Cold War, religious fundamentalism, or military rule.
So, what happens to matters of principle in the face of such prevaricating, precarious, uncertain socio-metaphysical structures? The dogmatic would say it cannot survive, that to acknowledge flux or atranscendence is to do away with principle and submit to the random indulgences of pure moral relativism. This is wrong, in every way. Our best option, and the one that brings us closest to the truth of things, is to first acknowledge the failings of dogma.
Dogma is a lie: it operates on the assumption that those who submit to its power will experience genuine terror at the very idea that the dogma be overturned or made irrelevant, and by way of that moral terror, they will be unable to see beyond the mandates of the dogma they follow. Dogma operates not by speaking the truth, but by ruling out what it cannot absorb.
Accepting that the prevailing narrative may need to evolve, not because truth is relative, but because we can only experience truth relationally, and our prevailing narratives can never be complete, is the best way to understand how principle survives the transition from one paradigm to another, how to find intellectual transcendence in the midst of general atranscendence or the entropy of a given system of thought and consequence.
We cannot give in to the temptation to oversimplify the landscape of human experience and human endeavor, then expect to have the tools necessary to address the compounded complexities from which the world that sustains us emerged. It should not be dogma that complexity is preferable, but it would be best for us to understand that excessive simplicity leads to dogmatic thinking, hostility to new approaches to understanding, and rivalries in the world of ideas that can limit our ability to find our way through the night of the unknown.
We need to bring as many factors of understanding, from as many diverse disciplines as we can, to the process of locating, illuminating and examining those aspects of our vast sensory and intellectual experience, as a species, that will point us to the next major opening up of new understanding, knowledge and innovation. And in the age of resilient complexity, or which seeks it, we need to be able to find the real values of hyper-specialization and of a renewed and intellectually curious, determined devotion to creative generalism.
- First published 30 January 2009 at TheHotSpring.com