Let’s be clear. Confusion is part of the message.
This fact has been elusive. One effect of confusion is that we struggle to find some simple way to untangle it. The real lesson of confusion is that it is a sign we are perceiving complexity as complication.
Linear thinking and the Machine Model lead us to want to eliminate complication, or at least manage it. In this mode we don’t even see complication for what it is: Complication is a condition of perception. It is not inherent in what we are looking at. When we see something as complicated we have misunderstood complexity.
It’s no wonder. Trapped in the Machine Model: considering everything we encounter as if it was organized in the same way as a machine, or an array of machines; our perception is blinded to complexity. All we see is confusion, “This does not compute!”
Even when we develop complicated machines, like computers, to unravel apparent complications in the world as it impinges on us; we strip-down an analogue reality into binary, digital input. This quantification removes the qualities of our interaction with complexity in hopes that this will make everything intelligible. Seeking to understand everything we rob our selves of the chance to relate to anything at a level of subtlety and with a responsiveness to Quality.
John Michael Greer has been looking at why civilizations cycle through collapse on a regular schedule, lasting about a thousand years. He noticed a distinction between the way so-called Primitive Peoples and the civilized perceive and interpret their realities. The non-civilized are immersed in their environment. They are confronted by the subtlety and complexity of the world at every turn. Civilization attempts to replace this immersion and engagement-with-everything with a built-environment that is filtered through human agency.
This filter shows us how our reaction to perceived complication works. A vicious cycle. Increasing unfamiliarity with subtlety and Quality breeds fear of what is now regarded as confusing and complicated. This reaction breeds further efforts to insulate and isolate us from what we see as an increasingly confusing and complicated world-in-opposition, leading to further attempts to wall us off. The more we succeed at hiding from complexity the more we come to believe that complexity is mere complication, something to be avoided. This process continues until its ultimate insanity can no longer be avoided. The only way the balance can be restored is for a civilization to collapse.
The reason for this necessity should be obvious; but it is equally invisible to us when we are hiding behind our wall. Inside our walled enclosures we have been busy. Civilizations are incubators for the illusion of Power.
Power is an illusion in that it is not true that it gives its believers what they think they want. Power is all too real in its actual effects which are to degrade and destroy life and the possibility for life. Power turns us into the undead. We proliferate and convert more and more of the fabric of a living world into barren day-coffins in which we hide from the light. At some point we erode the world’s capacity to resist our onslaught. This leads to a general collapse of over-all diversity and a loss of any capacity for abundant life to persist. At this point all we have striven to hide from rushes into our carefully tended fantasy-world. It all comes crashing down, taking so many of us with it.
When we find hints of this Fate leaking into our defended enclosures we tend to react in a binary fashion as well. We either up our commitment to ignore what we don’t want to hear or we imagine that everything will fall with us, “Apres moi? Le Deluge!” We have atrophied to the point at which even our imaginations fail us.
This is where we are. This is the world into which I was born and have found myself.
If there is some arc to what I’ve been working on all these years it has been an effort to discover the conditions that have made life so precarious – psychologically precarious. This is a very different thing from the fact that all life is transient and subject to alteration and loss at any point. This latter is the existence of misery. The former is the condition of suffering.
This distinction is a compelling example of what we have lost by conflating complexity with complication and seeking solutions to our predicament by treating it as a barrage of atomized problems. Every living creature deals with misery. The body is fragile and the awareness of pain cannot be avoided if any creature is to survive long. But, the condition of suffering; the mental construct that generates mental suffering and therefore proliferates and increases the misery already found in the world; is not given. It is assumed.
What if we could redevelop our imaginations? What if we could change our attitudes towards complexity? By-pass our tendencies to bounce off of the first little twinge of discomfort at the confusion brought on by our reactions?
We’ll never get there without passing through confusion. This fact brings clarity. Confusion is part of the message.