Saturday, August 24, 2013

The wisdom to know the difference

Last night I was discussing positive thinking with a friend. The issue of "creating your own reality" came up, and whether everything that happens to us is because of our own choices. While I accept that we do create our own reality to a large extent that premise does not transfer to we create everything that happens to us, like being killed at random or being raped. Which of course reminded me of the old serenity prayer, as follows: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Being atheist I've adapted it without the metaphysics of God involved. I prefer the more postmetphysical explanation from dynamic systems science on this relationship between what I'm responsible for on the inside and what happens on the outside. From Cilliar's Complexity and Postmodernism:

"Another philosophically important aspect of self-organisation is that the process is somehow suspended between the active and passive modes. A self-organising system reacts to the state of affairs in the environment, but simultaneously transforms itself as a result of these affairs, often affecting the environment in turn. Processes in the system are therefore neither simply passive reflections of the outside, nor are they actively determined from the inside. The very distinction between active and passive, as well as that between
inside and outside, comes under pressure" (108).

While that strict distinction comes under pressure it is not erased. He said:

"When the closure of the inside is breached, we discover a different mimesis, one that is constituted by a reflexive process of mutual definition. The inside and the outside become intertwined" (83).


"The relevance of self-organisation becomes clear upon the adoption of a certain kind of systems thinking. [...] It is a kind of thinking that is not horrified by contradictions and opposites but rather turns them into the forces that vitalise the system. [...] in this dynamic tension."

Also see this prior post on dynamic tension from a more practical perspective.

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