When I wrote the May post, “Mental Organism”, I was visualizing my “Imaging Ideas” class as something like a soliton, an area of multiple, flowing motions organized into one form that maintains its shape. The eye of Jupiter is the best example, all swirling gases, maintaining a spiral form, an open system, always new, as the visible aspect flows through the organizing form. Hurricanes are such distinct dynamic forms that we give them names.
At the constructive end of the soliton spectrum are human groups organized around a purpose. Like currents in a stream pulled into a specific shape by the size and position of stones at the bottom, the beauty of the emerging form reflects the variety of sensibilities in the group. Every class has its own character, and my previous essay reflected on the dissolving of that unique group mind. Now my thoughts are turning on the emergence of a new class as its own mental form, multiple individual currents, pulled together and held in place for the lifetime of the semester by the external structure of the class, sharing different ways of seeing around the themes of the session.
Every new perspective enlarges my own, both in the physical structure of my brain and in my response to future events. Growth stimulates the reward system and the soliton of a class is new at every meeting, as people’s moods and recent interactions reflect the life experience flowing through each personal mind and into our group mind. It shimmers with the variety of lives reflected and propels my mind in new directions. I would never think some of the thoughts I get to think were it not for the stimulus of an unexpected observation from someone else.
Entirely focused on the unfolding dynamics of various situations and the best way to handle them, the I Ching uses visual images from the natural world to reflect the patterns of being. “Progress like a hamster”, not a good outlook, refers to the fear-led accumulations of hoarded stuff we can build like a dead shell around us. Shifting attention to the flow of life, rather than the symbols of life, is endlessly varied and fascinating. The pleasure of being part of the new class soliton is having so much new stimulation concentrated in one form, every individual a cosmos of their own.
Chaos theory observes that the same forms repeat at various scales. Thinking about all the different ways we participate in mental solitons within ourselves and in groups offers a different kind of image to consider our physical selves and particular lives as simply an external condition through which consciousness flows. This image helps me break free of the cultural idea of a person as an “isolated consciousness in a bag of skin” as Alan Watts put it. As a highly complex soliton, participating in other solitons, each situation gives rise to its own kinds of thoughts which require more minds than my own. I am actively connected to multiple unfolding processes, which then ripple on into situations I may never be aware of. A new class is a microcosm of how, through our interconnected thinking and doing, we participate in the growth of the universe.