I rarely write at night, I’ve worked to train myself to write during the day and leave the night for rejuvenation, back-processing. This piece came to me at night. I got up and wrote it down pretty-much as is. I’m calling it an Epiphany, for how it arrived and the way, as a piece, it stands apart.
It’s simple, it’s trust. It’s all about trust. We don’t need to invent another jargon to intrude between the truth and our unwillingness to face it.
Trust is like a column, a stone column. It is tremendously strong in compression. If you are willing to carefully place weight on top of it, it will support. This image is so clear. Why have temples, churches and banks all adopted the colonnade? One pillar is a strong individual, a row of pillars is a community. A circle, a square, or rectangle of pillars together hold up a society.
A column, a pillar has no tensile strength, no resistance to deflection. Pull on it, or push on it, and it will tumble and all that’s built upon its strength will crumble. The same is true of trust.
The opposite of trust is a violation. Shame is the emotion that embodies our realization of complicity in a violation. It’s not a violation when a known enemy does us violence, it is a violation when someone we trust does.
In front of enemies, we can adopt a defensive posture. With our trusted ally we are vulnerable precisely because we have placed ourselves as a pillar, a column, to accept our part of the common load. That load is contingency, it’s all the chaos and complexity of reality we must bear. Among allies there is a pact, that pact is that we defer defensiveness and lock together into a colonnade. This makes us strong, but only if those we bond with in this structure respect our vulnerability and share our common goal.
When a trusted ally turns on us we are violated. When this happens repeatedly, we are not only violated, but complicit in that violation. At that point we share in the shame. In our humiliation – at ourselves – we have abdicated not only our responsibilities to ourselves, but to the rest of our community, people who rely on our strength; we have weakened our pillar within the broader structure. A breach of trust spreads and weakens and soon topples the entire edifice.
In this simple analogy we can encompass all the complexity of the human condition. All of history, all of human triumph and misery is held within this image. Here is a touch-stone that can guide us through any contingency.
A simple schematic of thrust, weight and vectors – of a simple geometry of lines and arrows – this all comes to life in a self-identical fractal geometry. This simple structure repeats at every scale. Complexity gains form and a third-degree of order when seen this way.
We labor under a load as we confront tragic realities with our singular frailties. Within each of us we learn to counter this condition by aligning ourselves to bear that weight, we learn to temper our fears and insecurities so we can maintain our stability as we counter these shocks.
Between individuals, the same dynamic plays identically. Between and among potential communities there is the same, identical process. Put these all together and we have societies and cultures and ultimately the entire human enterprise. The same self-identity continues on throughout the dynamic systems that make all life possible. The simple structure repeats and is identical across all scales from the tiniest interaction between molecules within an organism to the earth within the solar system, our galactic arm, our galaxy, and on to an infinity of the universe – even to all the multi-verses that stage life – without which, perhaps, something might exist and know it, but that something would not be us.
The same self-identical mechanism plays out at all scales. The simple, baseline geometry always identical. Align yourself to face contingency squarely, in compression, and resist; create a climate in which life is possible; or succumb to angles, schemes, short-circuits – in short – distrust, and the whole thing tumbles down.
The truest wonder of this is that we know it. We don’t need to learn it, we know it. Our very being is alive to it, aware of its health, its presence, and its lack. A sense of well-being – Jen – permeates us when we focus on it, when we feel its strength in us, among us. A sense of anxiety, fear, dread and shame overcomes us when we feel its loss, or threats against it, or worse yet, our complicity in its destruction.
This structure exists in a stream of change at every level. It is robust, but there are many shocks that keep its expression in flux. This is not regrettable, it’s just the way it is. This flux admits disturbances into the structure. Again this just is. As a result, the structure itself is in a constant state of dynamic creation and destruction. This is history, self-identical at every scale. Evolution.
As individuals, we are born into this flux with whatever imperfections our expression of the underlying order happen to be. Our lives, our histories, are the record of how we interact with these givens, and whether we integrate more or less with the potential available to us, or abdicate our responsibilities – to ourselves, to our family, our friends, community, society, to the entire project of life.
This process of adaptation or accommodation, relative success or failure, all inhabit the same self-identical fractal structure repeating at all scales.
Chaos exists. Complexity exists. Structure exists too, but structure always carries the weight of complexity and must survive the buffeting of chaos. This dynamic is self-identical and repeats at every scale.
Structures exist, but our awareness of them must be discovered, and this occurs self-identically and repeating at every scale.
The column is a robust structure, so long as no one pulls or pushes from an unexpected – out of column – direction. So long as the structure, at a given scale, is aligned with external forces, and if not violated by a breach of trust from a trusted member, it will stand.
A member is a unit within a structure. A member violates the trust of other members by failing to maintain integrity within the structure.
All this is self-identical and repeating at every scale.