Coherent Action, from unintended consequences to catalytic response.

We struggle with unintended consequences. In frustration we turn to chasing after power to force our will to prevail. We enter a spiral of increasing suffering and greater dislocation as the violence this process unleashes destroys every remaining scrap of coherent life. Blinded to our delusion by delusion, we increase our efforts. We twist and turn wanting change but seeking it always in the same manner. Change, we insist, must bring us what we want.

Coherence is not another desire. Coherence is a state of Being. Energy lies at the heart of everything. Movement is energy in play. In any given situation we are moving towards greater coherence or incoherence within nested systems that are themselves on trajectories of greater or lesser coherence.

Coherence provides clarity. Incoherence is part of coherence. Since coherence is limitless it includes its nominal opposite. We can see this to be true. We gain clarity when a level of incoherence has become obvious to us. An awareness of incoherence brings us to greater coherence, bringing us access to the wellsprings of tacit knowing.

Coherence is not an ideal state. A gradient. Not smooth. It includes spikes and inconsistencies, reversals and stretches of apparent sameness.

It is far from,

“the entire concept of ‘laws of nature’ … a medieval Christian religious metaphor with the serial numbers filed off, …the notion of God as a feudal monarch promulgating laws for all his subjects to follow.”

John Michael Greer

What we have deduced and then labelled as Laws are no more than the habits of nature. And of these, mostly unknowable, we concentrate on just the few that have made themselves partially visible to a habit of mind that takes a radically reductive perspective as the only path to truth.

This is a belief, hiding behind purported facts.

Facts that are no more than fragments broken from their contexts and laid out to view in a manner that is blind to the violence inherent in this process. A view fetishizing a single mental attribute and attempting to elevate it into an ethos. Resulting in,

“ages of unreason: eras in which all collective action is based on some set of universally accepted, mutually supporting, logically arranged beliefs about the cosmos that somehow fail to make room for the most crucial issues of the time.”

John Michael Greer

This is where we find our selves.

We wallow in frustration as willful action results in unintended consequences in an escalating spiral taking us, and all of life on Earth, into a morass with no end in sight save deep and long lasting collapse.

This should be enough to galvanize us into action. Instead we spend our time either denying what is plain to see or following some academic exercise to predict how deep and how long lasting our fall. Either path is incoherent. Both deflecting attention from what-is, and what can be done, onto a meaningless distraction.

The incoherence surrounding us and inside us demands action.

Now, there’s the rub!

Our incoherent view of thought contaminates how we perceive and distinguish action.

It’s not that we don’t act. We are immersed in the consequences of actions of all kinds. They just happen to be incoherent. Therefore violent. Therefore counterproductive to any possibility of increasing coherence.

Central to our misunderstanding is how we consider violence. When done to us, it’s often clear enough. But, when we find our path obstructed and our will frustrated we eagerly turn to violence to get what we want.

The debate over non-violence shows how we miss the point. Advocates and their erstwhile “realist” opponents both take this question to be a moral one. They accept the assumption that it would be nice, or good, to be non-violent. They even seem to agree that non-violence may not get you what you want.

What’s missing is a recognition that violence will only get you unintended consequences and escalations of suffering.

To accept this understanding requires us to accept that “getting what we want” is the wrong intention. It can only lead to greater incoherence. No matter what our motives.

Violence does not work.

Chasing after will’s desire does not work.

These have been open to understanding for as long as people were capable of awareness. But they’ve been easy enough to ignore. The failures resulting from this incoherent approach have been constant, but piecemeal.

This is no longer the case. The clarity of the totality of our failures, the enormity we are immersed in, point out the complete futility of our habitual approach.

Clarity is illuminating, but it can be easily obscured. Unless we are clear about the effects of Ego-driven Will – The way our habitual conditioning rejects anything that shakes our conviction that its fictions are true. – we will confront clarity as a momentary confusion. Something to be rushed past. It makes us uncomfortable and that must not be allowed to continue.

The first glimmer we get of how we are held in this trap of Ego is alarming. The second…, the third…. Eventually, unless we accept the organic death of our vitality required to maintain Ego’s hold on us, we find ways to begin to get through it.

As soon as we do, we are rewarded by a new access to Joy. This is a surprise! Ego always insisting that it was protecting us from disillusion and nihilism. When what it was doing was keeping us deluded and sending us deeper into despair.

Ego loves to toy with these insights. So long as we think about what “it would be like” to change, we are not changing.

How do we recognize change?

It just happens. It is outside of the false expectations of striving and effort and will.

This can only be experienced. We cannot get there through persuasion, argument or negotiation; all tactics of the Ego used to defend its hegemony.

The universe is subtle. This startlingly simple-sounding statement is at the core of David Bohm’s insights.

Subtle is another word for ineffable. That which goes beyond understanding. It is a good working definition of the infinite. Of the eternal.

Ego resists all subtlety. Replacing it with sophistry at times in a bait & switch move. Hoping we can’t tell the difference.

Will is at bottom a rejection of subtlety. It claims its wishes are clear and it searches for methods that will guarantee results.

Every link in this chain of reasoning is false.

We can only see through this if we can distinguish clarity in relation to coherence from this false projection.

We confuse the single-mindedness of will for clarity.

Clarity holds within it an awareness of subtlety. That what is seen is only a small part of the whole even as it implies all of what is possible.

Willfulness is a violent act increasing incoherence as it demands to reduce the subtle to a single binary choice.

Without an insight into coherence we cannot navigate between the subtlety of what-is and the brutality of desire. We have no way of telling.

Confusion is another telling symptom of willfulness.

When we look at questions from within a search for coherence, instead of as a way to comfort our illusions, we are not confused. We may be mistaken. But, the opportunity for clarity is there in each failure. Our attitude towards failure and uncertainty changes from one of fear and avoidance at all costs – An avoidance that can only extend to masking an awareness of failure. A cost that is increasingly unaffordable, enormous. – to an eager recognition of an ally. One of the few we can have. Something that can show us ways to take subtle steps towards coherence.

This is available to us if we look at the difference between an attitude of confusion and an acceptance and celebration of complexity.

This point seems to be at the heart of the difference between the new form of the religious impulse and the old. A sea-change in how complexity is considered.

In the old attitude complexity only brings confusion. It must be suppressed at all costs. We must use Will to enforce single answers. We must refuse to be thwarted and continue on this quest no matter what. We will find our eternal reward, “In the future.” “In Heaven.”

We must be saved. Anything we care about must be saved. Those working in any way subtly different from our way are not in consensus with us and must be brought into compliance or resisted. Truth must be enforced!

The attitude of coherence expects that complexity unfolds at every scale and every level. Our awareness of complexity – partial and limited as it is – brings Joy. It illuminates our belonging.

Recognizing that confusion is a judgement misplaced we see how simplicity is a forced reduction of what-is, of what is possible, to an incoherent – and therefore violent – destruction of an existing level of coherence. Nothing “must be saved.” The notion of salvation is itself a confusion of how coherence functions.

An awareness of the incomplete nature of any understanding is a source of centering humility and not a reason for panic.

From this comes an awareness that action decoupled from willfulness provides the only approach to arriving at a coherent response to situations that are always beyond willful control. This changes our expectation of how others may be addressing complexity in ways that elude our ability to understand.

Just as our own actions are open to interpretations beyond our capacity to judge them. So are the actions of others. This leads to an active attitude of dissensus. An awareness that subtle complexity holds more than we can grasp and therefore the more various approaches can be maintained, the more likely we are to have some chance of survival.

This is tethered to an understanding of evolutionary movement. Life confronts complexity with its own complexity. Fecundity and diversity providing a multitude of paths through contingencies that cannot be predicted or prepared for in any consistently meaningful way. Life may struggle with life and with its surroundings, but it destroys neither.

Genocide, ecocide, the reduction of a subtle and complex array of potential actions to a narrow range of violent and destructive actions is an invention of Ego perpetrated by Will.

Recognizing these distinctions and responding with compassion – itself a form of recognition of coherence, not a fancy word for being “nice.” – we may respond instead of merely reacting to contingency.

Navigating this array of possibility requires catalytic action. Catalytic action recognizes subtlety. It is action taken with an awareness of the dangers of momentum.

We tend to see momentum as an ally. All of our ideological movements are constructed to increase momentum. We seek glory and find nihilistic fury in finding that we are swept-up in some cause.

Another fatal misunderstanding of coherence.

Any momentum holds us on a course decided at a point of inception. As our situation continues to evolve we are hampered by momentum. It resists our ability to respond to changing conditions, adding another layer of confusion. Momentum is a great factor in generating unintended consequences. As our previous intention is based on out-of-date and necessarily incomplete and garbled perception, any momentum driving it forward will only compound the violent incoherence it will bring about. Momentum feels good. But this feeling is an expression of a nihilistic rush towards destruction.

Action without momentum allows for the greatest possible coordination between an evolving intention and changing circumstances.

Such action is decoupled from an expectation that bigger actions lead to better results. Big acts cannot lack momentum. Catalytic action does not achieve its effects through overt power. Catalytic acts trigger results incommensurate with their level of force. Such acts are pivotal. This is the very quality momentum resists. The ability to bring about creative change instead of wholesale destruction.

There is both Joy and vitality to be found in embracing these insights and entering a realm of creative action.

We can no longer say the way is clouded and confusing. Not without insisting our loyalty to Ego is greater than our reverence for life.

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Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

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