We look at a “map” of our relationships as a static Venn Diagram like an old molecular model with its balls and sticks. This is an example of a new concept trapped within an old mode of visualization tricked out as an innovation. When we examine the forces at work in our closest relationships we can begin to see that we are in complex mutual entanglements with each other. Our individual perspectives, intentions, and blind-spots affect how we exert a momentum on our partners and vice versa. The resulting motions require an infinite Calculus to describe. Our comings together and tearings apart shift our individual trajectories profoundly changing the course of our lives. Our observations, of ourselves and the other, change the way we behave. It’s as though we had settled our potentials into a specific quantum state of decision, only to later have them collapse again so that we go through this process over and over.
What we can surmise from our most intimate relationships must also be occurring throughout the constellations of our friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Each of them going through the same myriad of influences and adjustments all affecting the way each of us proceeds.
Our diagram begins to appear dangerously oversimplified. It hardly captures any of what is actually happening and creates a false impression of static nodes spaced along lines of “attraction” or “repulsion.” These false impressions do more harm than our model’s inability to show us an actual dynamic as it is. It is to our social ecology what a room full of mounted stuffed-heads is to the world ecology of large terrestrial fauna. It reveals the greatest danger of relying on models to map out where we are and show us what is happening. We begin to believe that these images have some tangible validity that leads us to a certainty that can never exist.
I believe that the interleaving ecology of our relationships is one of the mechanisms driving what Jung alludes to in his statement about Fate. The compounding of illusions and denials distorts our relationships; our own, and our partner’s. Each of these brings forth a corresponding error from the other in a cascade of self-fulfilling projections that take us further and further from our intentions and bring us seemingly inexorably towards the outcome we fear most.
With this infinitely complex view of the dynamics at work, the whole notion of blame melts away as a gross oversimplification. Along with the belief that we can “know” enough and be certain enough to act willfully without being randomly destructive. No outcome is the result of a single player’s actions, even when that outcome is the result of a violent and seemingly one-sided action. The concept of Fate was an attempt to show us this interlocking quality that only missed the mark by ascribing its actions to an external motive force. Just as the gravity we feel is the sum total of all the gravitational and inertial forces we are subjected to; so, a generalized “Fate” is the result of this complex interweaving of perspectives, intentions, and blind-spots. Just as with gravity, to blame our stumble on the earth’s gravitational attraction would be pointless, so it is with relationships. To try to separate out any particular force because of its proximity to the result does not do justice to the complexity that drives our existence.
We are caught-up by this physics of relationships from the level of our synapses, to our cells, to our organism, our family, our population, our species, our planet, solar system, and beyond. Realizing this does not “remove” our “freedom” or limit our responsibilities. Many of our “reactions” are pushed off into toxic directions because we misunderstand the cause and lash out inappropriately. Imagine driving a car with a steering mechanism that we didn’t understand. While we thought we were controlling our progress we would in fact be setting-off all sorts of unintended results from out of our confusion compounded by our misapplied corrections.
Does this sound familiar?
We’re enchanted by the thought of Quantum Effects at the sub-atomic level, but we are loathe to accept that socially we don’t live in a “Newtonian” world. When we do ascribe Quantum Effects to our visible world we tend to make loose and faux-mystical declarations that we withdraw at the first sign of skepticism. There may be another way. Remember that just as scientific “explanations” are attempts to wrestle with what is beyond our subjective ability to grasp, they are also human constructs. Cosmologies are always Myth. Not in a pejorative sense, but in the deepest sense of the oldest way in which we have always tried to make sense of our existence. Their reality is a cultural and social reality whether they remain at the edge of what is verifiable, or have been superseded by another. Each cosmology is the basis of a way of approaching life’s questions before it is an explanation, whether we agree with it or not. We have a need to posit a base, a ground on which to stand within existence. The “Poetics” revealed within a shift from Newtonian to Quantum frameworks is as significant as any other aspect of these stories we’ve told ourselves.
Take indeterminacy: the way a particle is held in a state of potential until pushed into a “choice” through the act of observation. In our intimate relationships engagement and divorce are two cases where it is dramatically apparent. The focus of attention upon an indeterminate relationship humming along in a state of potentiality locks down into a definitive choice. The parties involved are also unable to chose independently, they are as if chained together and their decisions will fall one way or another within the bounds of relation. A moment’s observation will have changed the courses of the lives of all the parties involved. Again, this – while most obvious in tight close relationships – also obtains in all other cases. Unions, confederations, civil wars, world wars, revolutions; all show us similar moments of observation leading to decisions being taken by individuals who are chained together by circumstances that lead to a particular result.
The terminally clever will try to deduce some “Atomic Bomb” from these insights. In fact, the proof that all attempts at control are always destructive lies within these equations. When a reality is constructed of such an interwoven nesting of forces any attempt to force the result is guaranteed to bring on unintended and toxic consequences. The only way to proceed that isn’t likely to cause more harm than good is one in which we put our trust in the whole and work at adjusting our misperceptions so as to minimize the destructive “fates” we unleash through what we avoid facing.
Science is a stage. It has taken us from an instinctive childhood equilibrium through a tumultuous adolescence in which the focus has been on achieving certainty and control. Besides unleashing many terrors it has also led to a body of thought and experience that can be used to forge an adult wisdom. This won’t happen without our letting go of our adolescent drives. This wisdom will not achieve alchemy’s goals of handing us power over creation. – Not creation as a thing found made, but the ongoing foment of existence continually coming into being. – This wisdom may deepen our understanding, but it will also reveal our vulnerabilities and show us that we can only go-on by loosening our will-to-control and learning acceptance.
We can each look back at some perfect moment in our childhood when the terrors of the unknown had receded and we’d established a contingent sense of balance and harmony before adolescence began to tear apart our confidence. This was not a willful act of destruction but a necessary break out of an insufficient stage of preliminary equilibrium. The resultant wreckage has left us all sorry for what was lost or irretrievably damaged, but the proper response is neither to wish for a return to childhood’s naiveté, nor for a continued hyper-adolescence. By reaching a maturity that places us in the way of the possible, wisdom is the only compensation and restoration we can achieve. We step out onto a diminished stage with our illusions broken and our confidence and will cut down to size. This is not the point to despair. We have finally arrived at a stage – however brief and tragically truncated it might be – that gives us our opportunity to finally Be, to partake in Existence as it is, to be witness to what was and its passing, to experience the Plenitude of Being and to eventually return to the foment from which we came having achieved an awareness of the totality of which we are a part.