Tuesday, March 29, 2011

thinking emergently

Awareness of causes and conditions, the limiting nature of our constructions, and keeping our perspectives loose (letting things unfold) are alluded to in the passage below. David Brooks speaks about skillful thinking in dealing with some difficult contemporary issues.

"Public life would be vastly improved if people relied more on the concept of emergence...

We often try to understand problems by taking apart and studying their constituent parts. But emergent problems can’t be understood this way. Emergent systems are ones in which many different elements interact. The pattern of interaction then produces a new element that is greater than the sum of the parts, which then exercises a top-down influence on the constituent elements.

Culture is an emergent system. A group of people establishes a pattern of interaction. And once that culture exists, it influences how the individuals in it behave. An economy is an emergent system. So is political polarization, rising health care costs and a bad marriage.

Emergent systems are bottom-up and top-down simultaneously. They have to be studied differently, as wholes and as nested networks of relationships. We still try to address problems like poverty and Islamic extremism by trying to tease out individual causes. We might make more headway if we thought emergently."

What he is saying is very valuable. May he be heard!

I'd like to add only one thought - that we see all experience as emergent.

David Brooks in NY Times article, Tools for Thinking 2011/03/29
Link to original New York Times article

Saturday, March 5, 2011

internal freedom

"Mindfulness practice offers the restraint necessary to overcome the tug of desire upon the senses. As we notice the mind wandering off to explore a gratifying train of thought, or as we notice the body's urging to nudge ourselves into a more comfortable position, we gently abandon the impulse and return attention to the primary object of awareness. We do this again and again, until the mind becomes content with being fully present [with] what is manifesting here and now in the field of experience, rather than rushing off for some other form of stimulation. As the mind settles down it becomes considerably more powerful, and thus more empowered."

Please notice, "we gently abandon the impulse." Thoughts and sense desires will arise. But we don't try to get rid of them. We notice what is happening. In doing so there is clear seeing of what is arising, of what is present here and now.

"In this mode [mindfulness] the mind is said to be unlimited, and is capable of experiencing freedom through wisdom. Its freedom comes not from the license to broadly explore a shallow terrain, defined by its likes and dislikes, but rather from the ability to shake off the contraints of desire altogether and plunge deeply into investigating the field of experience as it is. It turns out that what one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, or thinks, is not as important as how one does this."

The quotations above are taken from an article by Andy Olendzki published in Tricycle (Summer 2007). The article is a commentary on The Parable of the Six Creatures S 35:247