This phrase just popped into my head after reading Alex Fradera’s post on an event he led at Atlantic College recently. To be clear, and fair to Alex, it’s not directed at him! I’m not even quite sure what it means, that’s what sitting down to write this is for. It just seemed a nice play on the old Clintonian Neo-Liberal dodge about the economy….
I love the the term holographic used in the way he’s used it here. He refers to its original definition, that something is transparently itself. As in a handwritten signature. Both the name and the writing speak of the fact that it was made by and refers to the person who wrote it. This relates to the Holographic Principle in physics, that the information provided on a surface can give us all that need be known about what is inside of its bounded volume. In this way again referring to a form of transparency. In a big way, it is all holographic! If we can read anything clearly we find the ways in which it is transparent, the way its parts hold its entirety, its surface depicting what we could discern if we dissected its interior. Of course the trick is in being able to shift perspectives and sidestep one’s illusions and projections so as to be able to read what is there. In the end, it can become yet another ideal that requires us to transcend our fallibility to meet its unreasonable expectations.
Still, it is an antidote to all the whining about how difficult everything is. Difficult in the sense that it is so hard to decipher what is really going on. That reality doesn’t meet expectations. That we can be nothing but confused unless our reality is subjected to a thorough scrubbing of oversimplification and predigested interpretation. So many times all we need to do is calm down and let the clarity within our situation bubble up and just show through. Insight as transparency, as finding the right trick of the light so as to have its holographic sense shine through.
Isn’t this what he went through on realizing that instead of forcing – in this case a democratizing principle – it would show through even more clearly if he just let it come out? This illustrates a key element of intended holography. What we want to be transparent will actually be more genuinely transparent if we don’t attempt to force it!
In the end this connects with the principle of action without intention. It connects to the basic trust underlying how we let go of intention and allow what will happen to happen. In these cases, we are acknowledging that transparency is already there. That our efforts to force the issue only cloud the issue. It’s like a chance meeting in a doorway with everyone going all polite on each other, “You first! No, You first!” Bowing and scraping, and hesitating and false-stepping, and stepping back again and getting all embarrassed! What could have been handled well on an instinctive level as a smooth and transparent transaction has been rendered sclerotic!
We tend to think of letting go of intention as a passive response. It is supremely active! Especially in this sense that we need to actively cultivate a trust in what will be. And a reflecting trust that we will be able, much better able, to meet what emerges if we are not trapped in the tangles of intention and its metabolites.
I run into this frequently with the way people respond to the imperfections of a social situation and the way it has been handled. Say an event is held. Its organizers have done what they could to make it open and inviting. They have stated they wish for participants to feel welcomed and their input will be valued. Then the whole thing, or usually some aspect of the thing doesn’t go in the way we’ve expected. It’s now a case of our having been wronged! Defenses go up, righteousness raises its mighty sword, and we’ve found a new betrayal! This can be anything from a lunch date gone sour to a Constitutional Congress.
Our failure to see the holographic truth is in our selective vision and our willingness to get caught up in a cascade of intention, both actual and ascribed. Stepping back and gaining insight into its true holographic nature would allow us all to sidestep this descent into psychodrama and actually get something done. Like a belligerent drunk, we still have to be led away, throwing snarls and curses back over our shoulders!
Another aspect of reality’s holographic nature is played out in the managerial impulse that has infested the last say one-hundred-and-fifty years. Whenever something appeared to be understood we immediately proceeded to attempt to manage how it would manifest. The underlying assumption being that in so doing we would be able to control that aspect of reality. That we would know what to do, that our manipulation would be beneficial was taken as a given. Of course we knew what was best! If only – fill in the blank – didn’t interfere! Our plan was perfect!
Alex’s brave self-criticism shows how far this has penetrated our psyches. As with so much of what passes as System Theory attests, even when all the evidence we unearth points to the fallacy behind these attempts at control, we find it almost impossible to let it go! We just fold it all into an ongoing managerial project. Our blind-spot is just too big, and our misunderstanding fits its shape perfectly.
This brings us to the limits of consensus. I’ve written on dissensus before. It is the opposite of consensus. But unless we can see it as more than just an opposition, the other pole shining there in a mirror, the reflection of our original position, we haven’t seen what it offers us.
The key is in the difference in the way consensus and dissensus deal with certainty and our urge to manage. Consensus in the ideal is a commingling of opinions that lead to an arrived at single-mindedness. What could go wrong?
In reality consensus is a stage-managed series of power plays in which all sorts of subterfuge is used to create the appearance of unanimity. There is no underlying belief or trust left that real agreement can be found. After all, I have all the answers! You are wrong! This leaves us to struggle and strive, to crave after the power to overwhelm resistance and manage our way into a controlling position. Then we can accomplish all the good we know is in our hearts. No tyrant ever sees himself as evil, only wronged.
Dissensus is a very different response to a situation. I cannot know enough, nor can I know myself well enough, to be able to handle a position of unbalanced power. Control is an illusion. Power strips us of the strength to face reality and sends us spiraling into ever deeper delusion. Macbeth anyone?
Striving for consensus validates single-mindedness however it might be achieved or simulated. In either case it mistakes agreement with truth. It places a social construct, an alignment of wills, above an alignment with what is.
Dissensus rejects this bargain. It accepts the messiness of our view of what is and the slope of truth that maintains what is as primal over what we assume it to be. It asks us to look harder at whatever might be blocking a transparent view; that the fault is in us, and not in our situation, or in the way others perceive it, and act on it. It accepts our responsibility to resist the urge to become righteous. We are as likely to be wrong as anyone else on the face of it.
It does not wash away our responsibilities to act as we see fit, it just removes the artificial props of self-justification. It pushes us to admit that any Utopia we might imagine will inevitably lead to horror just as every other such fantasy has done in the past. We are led to hold back on the urge to manage, to seek out bargains after chimerical powers that only erode our strength.
I’m reminded of the lack of fanaticism in the animal world. The way a predator is always ready to accept that an attack might just be a bad idea right now and slink away. We tend to see this as the “Heroic Lion” showing feet of clay. When what it does point to is a creature firmly certain of the limits of her own certainty and always ready to modify her behavior, to accept a check on her will. She may not like it, but she does back away, and live to eat another day. She does not confuse her strength with Power.
This is where dissensus keeps our awareness of the holographic nature of reality from descending into another ideal that we follow off the cliff of apparent control. Realizing that we can only be slightly more or less insightful, depending on how well we can let go and trust that what is will show us glimpses of its transparency; we align our trust with something beyond our subjectivity and its pitfalls. In so doing we are not only more effective at seeing more clearly, but we may be able to discover inputs that we can offer that while they will not meet the desire for perfection and utopian idealism, they will also not be merely self-serving “pragmatic” power-plays.
My hunch is that a few cycles of that sort of dynamic will put us in alignment with the sort of evolutionary drives that appear to actually be the way things work when we drop our blinders and let go of attempting to force our control. On one side we have a way of acting that leads inexorably to “unintended consequences” that in hindsight always seem to be holographically transparent in their failure. On the other is the possibility of replacing the strength sapping effects of an addiction to power and control, an insistence that we own the truth, with a way of being that brings us clarity and strength to face what is with our faculties unblocked and our eyes open.