Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Do our models get in the way? We've seen quite a few descriptions of an emerging paradigm known as the collaborative commons (CC). But a problem arises when we take another step by extrapolating from that data and then try to prescribe what we need to do in order to create a CC. I.e., we form a model of what the CC should be, and top down we try to implement it. Whereas the technology that enables the CC to grow organically has no apparent need of this top down imposition. To the contrary, it seems more of a capitalistic holdover instead of the middle out way the CC is naturally evolving.
Bonnita Roy has noted that "In a world as diverse in people and rich in meanings as ours, big change might come from small acts by everyone operating everywhere in the contexts that already present themselves in their ordinary lives." It is quite the contrast from the enlightened heroes figuring it all out from their complex ivory towers which supposedly and hopefully 'trickles down' to the rest of us. This seems much more how the CC works in practice. Political and social revolution arises from the external socioeconomic system, the mode of production. Development is accomplished not by having a 'higher' model to which one must conform, but by the actual practice of operating within the emerging socioeconomic system.
Jennifer Gidley noted a similar phenomenon in that there is a difference between research that identifies postformal operations from examples of those who enact those operations. And that much of the research identifying it has itself “been framed and presented from a formal, mental-rational mode.” Plus those enacting post formal operations don’t “necessarily conceptualize it as such.” So are those that identify postfomality via formal methodology really just a formal interpretation of what it might be? Especially since those enacting it disagree with some of the very premises of those identifying them?
The online discussions I engage with on meta-models is representative of this difference. It seems the abstract modeling of the development of the CC is what is operating to create it in a top-down manner. Not only that, what appears to be happening in all cases is that not only does each individual have their own thoughts and opinions on the topic, which is to be expected in diverse groups, we all end up justifying our own take over others. We all seem to be so attached to our own discoveries that we build an edifice and seek out and find supporting evidence to justify it. When confronted with different perspectives or evidence, our first inclination is to see how it fits into our own model or worldview, how we can twist and manipulate it to support our biases. What is there in common that holds us together if we are so closed to taking in new information from other perspectives, allowing them to sit in their own right, their own space, instead of trying to fit them into our own predispositions?
I’m reminded of what Said Dawlabani said, that the distributed network of the collaborative commons follows no ideologies. That it is open source, highly networked and depends on the wisdom of the crowd. I’m guessing that equally applies to our models on trying to create the CC, as we tend to idealize and attach to them. Is our ownership of our ideas more indicative of capitalism that the CC? It also seems that those who are enacting this new paradigm are doing so without need of any explicit theory or model about it. So is arguing about the correct theory even a necessary part of its enactment, as if like capitalism it too needs a top down elite model to implement it? Are our models just getting in the way and actually counter-productive to its natural evolution?
Layman Pascal commented on the FB IPS forum thread:
"Since there is no way to solve this knot by 'top down' inhibition of our use of models -- we need something else. Something, I think, that has two sources. The first is a deeper, experiential and embodied practice of learning things outside of conscious mapping and social conversation. As we gain indirect and experiential intelligence we also start to anticipate differently when it comes to the learning and spread of ideas. We expect ideas to come up, to come sideways, to emerge organically -- because we've seen that succeed in ourselves.
"The second thing is that there are philosophical insights that counterbalance the tendency of the intellect to get trapped in the model-application mode. Ideas relating to complexity, antifragility, heuristics, sense-making, nonlinearity, multi-lateral causation in social upheavals, etc. all go a long way toward balancing out the confidence that models seem to give. It may be that models become over-emphasized in a psyche that has a lot of structures on the modelling 'side' but not a lot of intelligent input and intellectual examples to balance it out on the 'counter-modelling' side. If a person, who already leans very far over to their left side, is handed a hefty weight on that side -- it is no surprise that we will find them listing or even toppling in that direction at some unspecified future moment."
Janine Rickard replied in the FB thread:
"What did Voltaire actually mean by 'we must cultivate our gardens' and does it apply here? One of the diseases of modernity, in fact I'd wager it is the central disease of the modern individual (in the West) is the literal preoccupation with thought and abstracted sensory information (screens) almost to the degree that only stopping the onslaught with meditation will reveal another mode of being, the direct experience of beingness. For myself I finally understood how to take the inner quiet outward by making myself wordlessly observe, I mean look at in detail, nature, just the plants and trees on my land, no commentary.
"It is in this space that the 'solutions' will pop up effortlessly and aptly to the circumstance, I think.
"While a critical mass of humanity has returned to doing this, by circumstance and/or design, I think we will see the tipping point in the collaborative commons. We need to flip the amount of time spent in each mode, rational-linguistic vs presencing 180 degrees and of course this will encourage us to cling less tightly to the products of thinking."
Models are useful as long as they don't get divorced from the concrete realities they represent. That's my concern in this diatribe. On the other hand, as I note below, models can be useful to understand a phenomenon and perhaps help it along, as long as they stay connected to the concrete reality. It's only when a model gets divorced from that reality, lost in its abstractions as if they were from on high, that it becomes a problem. 2nd gen cogsci helps us to understand that about how our own brains and minds work.
It's ok to make models based on what we know, but we have to be open to change them when what we know changes, and/or the environment we're modeling changes. It's especially insidious when we make assumptions about the reality we're modeling based on (particularly mathematical) a priori axioms taken as given (by God, Plato or Aristotle).
I'm also reminded of the 7 agreed upon principles of cooperatives. While the principles are consistent across cooperatives, there are differences in how those principles are enacted given different locations and contexts. There really is no "one size fits all" model across all domains.
"The Co-operative Principles and these Guidance Notes on their application are not a doctrine to be observed, nor are they a straightjacket on the entrepreneurial innovation of co-operatives seeking to meet their members’ economic, social, cultural, and environmental needs. Innovation to meet the needs of co-operative members has always been the mother and father of co-operative enterprise and will remain so. These Guidance Notes are exactly that: guidance for co-operatives operating in different legislative jurisdictions with differing regulatory requirements, serving many different communities and cultures. The Co-operative Principles are universal, but these Guidance Notes are not intended to be prescriptive. They seek to explore and encapsulate how the underlying principles of a co-operative enterprise are to be applied in vastly different conditions to those that existed when co-operatives were first established. They are guidelines that should be able to be interpreted by co-operatives."
The above has been consolidated into an Integral World essay here.
I'm also reminded of this Mascolo and Fischer paper. And yes, I know, this is also an example of using sources to support my own biases.
"Human development occurs in medias res– in the middle of everything. [...] We elaborate a model of human development that takes seriously the idea that the structures and processes of human action operate as dynamic processes that take diverse forms and trajectories as they develop in medias res."
"Human development is dynamic; it does not occur according to fixed plans whether those plans are regarded as genetic, psychological or cultural in origin. To understand the processes by which development occurs, we can no longer focus on individual forces, or even multiple forces acting independently; instead, it is necessary to analyze how biology, action and context interact within a relational developmental system."
Here's an interview with a couple of artists involved in the upcoming Metamodern Art Festival in Kiev. A common theme about the definition of metamodernism is a return to an overall meta-narrative, that is, a story that provides meaning to all aspects of life, that grounds our beliefs in something beyond our individual selves. They also note that in times of cultural stress we are more likely to see visions of helpers from some beyond, like angels and fairies in times past, and now in a more technological society UFOs. So I'm wondering if this attraction to metamodernism's own meta-narrative is exactly one of those beyonds to/for which we are seeking aid in this troubled time? It's almost as if the story of metamodernism is the next deus ex machina.
Whereas something else Alexandra said seems a more likely candidate for the next metanarrative, the collaborative commons, which has no need of a beyond to save us, for it comes from we the people saving ourselves. She said:
"Since the revolution in 2014 normal people have become politically active and don’t rely on the government like they did before. Instead of waiting for the Government to come and fix things they are doing what they need for themselves, cooperating and collaborating without any command. They have realised that they have the power to create their own country. Before, it was kind of detached because everything was in the power of oligarchs and criminals. Now the situation is changing and although people realise that it won’t happen overnight they think that maybe we can achieve a better social and economic situation if we work for it. People are starting to feel like they are part of this grand narrative, part of history."
Metanarratives yes. A command and control one that must define itself as the next one saving us all, maybe not so much.
Even the prefix 'meta' in the context of MM means above and beyond, like into the wild blue yonder. It's a subject that analyzes another subject from a higher, more abstract level, transcending it. It's another version of the transcend and include metaphor, subsuming its lower subject within its matrix, lording over it from above. It's very consistent with the notions above about a savior from on high.
Then there's the suffix 'ism' meaning a doctrine, theory or system. MM is a system that is beyond and above the modern system, including but transcending it. So I'm wondering if we are really to go to the metaphorical next level, so to speak, if we really need to step outside of these frames of doctrines that save us from above and beyond like the deus ex machina, itself a worldview holdover from both the religious and modern worldviews? Even the MM (and integral) buzzwords 'hierarchy' and 'complexity' mean rule from an abstract above and beyond.
It's one reason I prefer the prefix 'syn,' meaning with or together, and its corollary 'syntegral,' more akin with the collaborative commons. It shows how together we commoners enact a way of thinking, being and doing without need of metaisms. It too is a metanarrative in the sense of an overall, cohering story, but one that synscends, blends, braids its various elements, creating a different sort of part/whole inter(en)action, a new and hybrid flavor, one that comes from our shared commons instead of a savior elite above and beyond us. The era of the deus ex machina is over. It's time for new expressions compatible with the emerging story. The era of hier(an)archical synplexity has arrived. And it lives in the relational tensegrity between its twin stars Syn City and Multipli City.
Some excerpts from this essay on the topic follow consistent with this thread and an IPS more generally.
"Being merely ‘intellectual’ or ‘dark’ won’t work. One also has to also be deep. How to be deep instead of merely intellectual?"
"Mysticism and metaphysics are either fetishised by the new age or dismissed by the new atheist. Generally new atheists privilege the brain and new-agers the heart—the latter is largely contemptuous of reason, the former rejects spiritual phenomenology. Spiritual types are always telling us to ‘get out of our heads’— hard nosed rationalists tell us that only ‘faith’ in human reason can save us. However, these two views in isolation leave us dangerously lopsided. We need to find a middle way—which is actually not a path of compromise, but the difficult work of not falling into monological world views."
"Both science and soul, empiricism and deep intuition — the perspectives of the left and the right hemispheres of the brain — need to be honoured, as Iain McGilchrist has so eloquently written about in his book The Master and his Emissary. The beauty of the rational mind is the gift of articulation; however, it has a dark side. To ‘ration’ literally means to separate or divide. Without the deeper, intuitive mind, the rational mind gives us fragments instead of a living landscape. McGilchrist’s distinction between reason and rationality is helpful here. Reason has a holistic, integrative perspective, whereas rationality can be reductive."
"Discrimination, judgment, and thinking should not be reduced to mere conceptual games; in the same way, compassion and care, without discriminating wisdom and judgement fall into the worst kinds of errors—what the buddhist calls ‘idiot compassion’. The point is: we need to re-connect the intellect to those deep realms of feeling and embodied experience or risk becoming disembodied talking machines or hysterical drama queens."
"Today we have a reductionist view of the body and the brain: we are obsessed with the physical body but don’t understand what has been called the subtle or spiritual body. Actually meditation, yoga, and the various spiritual gymnastics are not merely techniques for acquiring a healthy body, nor are they particularly about developing ‘inner calm’ or psychological well-being. Spiritual practices were once adventurous and/or dangerous ways to cultivate the spirit and embody meaning (Yoga literally means to yoke oneself to the divine)."