Whether we acknowledge it or not, our knowledge is mapped in an inner model that’s responsible for how we see reality. The layout of what we know was constructed by what happened to us, things we did and experienced and where. We laid down particular patterns and aligned new experience where it matched known relationships. This recognition of similar relations between parts, the matching calculus of unfolding events, is what we experience as understanding. New knowledge is layered in where it best fits the underlying patterns we already understand. Complexity theory tells us that as a system becomes more complex, the organizing structure either collapses under the weight of too much information or undergoes an overall reorganization. The crises we see all around us reflect the collapse of the guiding inner model.
The prevailing image of an isolated self, standing outside of a separate world, can’t hold the volume of new knowledge growing rapidly with technology. Technology’s abundance of informative pictures needs a new overview, a model that integrates and clarifies a better way to see reality.
The body itself might be a good starting point. We are multiple entwined systems, a weave of nerves and veins, muscles and organs, on the complex armature of the skeleton. It doesn’t stop there. For our digestive system to do its job we have to feed it. This entwines us in vast systems for the production and delivery of food. In food and sheltering ourselves we are woven into a system of roads and jobs and conveyances, cars, buses, trains, planes, and depend upon all of them being in good working order. There is interdependence between these systems and ourselves. We can’t do without them and we have a part in keeping it working. As much as heart and lungs depend on each other the group of systems that we are depends on the larger group of systems within which we’re embedded.
Our ego based image of an independent self must be shed. It pretends we’re self-sufficient. The idea that we are separate from our environment is a dangerous illusion that disregards the many systems we need for our survival. Even possessed of the skills to live in a cave and hunt, if the water is polluted you die. In a mindset that piles up goods for oneself, taking up space and draining resources, the image looks like a cancer on the larger system, growing recklessly, sucking health from the surrounding areas.
The intersect and interweave of systems information exists on all levels. Homeostasis is the way living systems adapt and adjust to keep balance. It provides insight into harmonious functioning within the model of reality as a complex multivariable organism. We are not in control of the systems that support us so must be flexible to survive. The art of adjustment, the ability to move fluidly through ideas, adapting, filtering and restructuring as necessary is the life art of a living system.