The Subtle Power of Networks

April 11, 2012 Leave a comment

“Life is irresistably organizing.  Life opens to more possibilities through new patterns of connection.”

 M. Wheatley & M. Kellner-Rogers, A Simpler Way


|Photo by Kelly B||

The late David Bohm pointed out the lost potential of quantum physics as he saw it being assimilated by a traditional and very mechanical mindset that wanted to make it another instrument of control, prediction, and quantification.  For him the power of the field was much more subtle, qualitative, and lay in the understanding that there is an “implicate order” to reality from which form emerges via our thoughts and efforts to make meaning.  From Bohm’s perspective, much of what ails us stems from disorganized thought that has us attaching to form, regurgitating and defending our prejudices, as opposed to thinking that embraces the more creative flow of life.  As he once expressed it, “Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally.”

I find this resonant and applicable to what I see happening in the conversation about networks.  There is a palpable difference between those initiatives that I perceive as bringing an old mindset to “net work,” essentially looking at networks as a new forms and structures to achieve pre-conceived ends, rather than being something more subtle and potentially powerful.  Net work is an invitation to look at how life actually happens and to align our thinking, being, and doing accordingly.  It invites us to see reality as playing out in interconnected wholes/systems that are greater than the sum of their parts, constantly evolving in self-organized ways, reaching new levels of order and complexity.  From an old school mindset, this might seem chaotic, threatening, and anxiety-provoking – “But how do you control it all?”  You don’t.  You can’t.  You participate in the unfolding of greater order and wholeness.  How?  For starters, we might try looking at the world with the understanding that:

  • There are no permanent forms or permanently right answers.
  • Experimentation does not use up opportunities, it creates them.
  • We do not experience and are not victims of “our environment.”  We are a part of and participants in the co-creation of our environments.
  • Healthy living systems evolve through openness – sharing information, ongoing adaptation.
  • Life opens to more possibilities through new patterns of connection among diverse elements.
  • Rigidity = death.

The invitation is to sit with all of this and see how it shifts our ways of being and doing.  Or as Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers ask  – “What would we accomplish if we stopped trying to structure the world into existence?”

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  • Gibrán says:

    Curtis this is phenomenally useful! I am finding great resonance with these observations. So much about networks really is about a way of being and seeing. It is so powerful to take reality into account – to work from what is rather than from an abstraction of what is.

    There is a well-established pattern in which a dominant but dying paradigm tries to take an emergent paradigm and turn it into a tool – a way to save itself. But living systems include death, and the necessary composting that happens as we let go of what we have been tied to in the past.

  • Carole Martin says:

    …and composting creates new life forms – the past informing the future, and so it goes with networks, if we trust things and allow them enough room to unfold.

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