11 September 2002 | Draft
My Reflecting Mirror World
making my World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002) worthwhile
- / -
This paper is a contribution to reflection on viable strategies
for sustainable development on the occasion of the
UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002)
Challenges to governance of my world
Problems of my world
Reframing my "overpopulation" problem
Organizing my world
My management failure
Rainmaking in Joburg: making my Rio+10 worthwhile
Mirrors of my world
Configuring the mirrors of my world
Governance through metaphor
'Sustainable development': configuring divergent understandings
Self-possession and governance
To what extent is the world around me merely a mirror of my very own successes
and failures in world governance -- in governing 'my world'? It may
indeed suit me to hold the world at arm's length -- as an object with its own
dynamics quite beyond any responsibility of mine. And there may be many ways
that this can be understood to be a useful, healthy, minimally presumptuous,
But there is some value in reflecting on the ways in which every thing I encounter
in 'the world' is engendered by me. This may be especially useful
with respect to the values I attach to phenomena of the world -- whether rain
is 'good' or 'bad', for example. But there are ways in which
it is also the case with respect to how I organize and group features of the
world -- whether those I perceive as part of 'my people' (tribe, ethnic
group, peer group, etc) or those most definitely not ('aliens', etc).
There are ways in which people with whom I regularly interact carry significance
which derives primarily from what I project onto them -- as the psychotherapeutic
professions spend much time in demonstrating. And of course, physicists delight
in pointing out how objects like a 'table' (which are particular configurations
of atoms) acquire the shape on which we agree through a very complex process.
Hence the interest in the social construction of reality.
The approach taken here assumes that the challenge of the times may be associated
more with how they are understood rather than what they are understood
to be -- more with how they condition, and are determined by, thinking and less
with the effects they appear individually to produce. This is my challenge in
making my experience of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg,
Challenges to governance of my world
Clearly I have to discover imaginative ways to deal with:
- some 200 countries and territories claiming different degrees of sovereignty
in my world -- what does such 'sovereignty' imply in relation to
me in functional terms?
- a multitude of intergovernmental and nongovernment institutions and networks
claiming some form of relatively unique functional competence in my world
-- what is this 'competence' in relation to my own?
- a significant number of multinational corporations and business networks,
and their national counterparts or agents, in my world -- what is this 'business'
that they are performing on my behalf?
- personalities and VIPs of varying degrees of charisma and power in my world
(eg Bush, Hitler, Mandela, Pol Pot, Mother Teresa, Berlusconi, Dalai Lama)
-- what is this 'charisma' and 'power' in relation to
- elite groups and networks supposedly operating behind the scenes in my world
(Club of Rome, Bilderberg, CIA, KKK, elite meetings) -- what does 'elite'
and 'secret' mean in in relation to me?
- several hundred religions claiming moral and ethical authority over the
values applicable in my world -- why have I engendered so many distinct 'religions'?
- a range of criminal networks and activities influencing decision-making
at every level of society -- what is 'crime' and what function is
it performing for my world?
- several hundred intellectual disciplines, deploying thousands of models,
through which I am strongly encouraged to view the phenomena of my world --
what are these 'disciplines' and who are the 'intelligent agents'
I have engendered to acquire knowledge through them?
- thousands of problems touching upon every aspect of my world -- what are
these 'problems' that are so so closely related to suffering in
- thousands of strategic plans of action and policies in response to the problems
of my world -- are these simply wish lists I have engendered to give me a
sense of engagement and to assuage my conscience?
All these phenomena play off against each other in ways that make coherent understanding
increasingly problematic for me.
Problems of my world
The following paragraphs are developed from an earlier paper
(Opportunity: reframing problems through metaphors)
My world as a whole is beset by a range of problems about which I repeatedly
express my incapacity to provide a response. I have effectively delegated responsibility
for such action to others to whom I have attributed greater power.
It is useful to challenge the thinking trap of "problem-solving". The approach
to problems may then be reframed by asking myself what a problem is "trying
to tell me" -- or, better still, is the problem as understood in effect a metaphor
for something I would prefer not to understand? From this perspective "institutionalized"
problems may in effect be a sort of metaphorical euphemism -- a package which
it is better not to unwrap. Problems are not only nasty in themselves, they
are also nasty in what they imply about myself -- however much I endeavour to
occupy the moral high ground as a disinterested change agent, victim or innocent
Consider the following prominent problems in my world:
- Poverty: I am exposed to a great deal of poverty in my world -- and
I consider myself relatively impoverished compared to many. My concern about
poverty tends to focus on objects that I do not have -- even when I do not
need those things to enable me to achieve a degree of well-being. Somehow
my well-being is intimately related to things that I do not have -- even when
I have most of the things that many in my world only dream of having. And
of course, once I obtain the things I feel I am lacking, I find that there
are other things that I lack which still define me as poor in my own eyes.
Is it possible that what I, and my world, really suffer from is some poorly
diagnosed chronic poverty of the spirit?
- Hunger (including malnutrition): I am constantly hearing that millions
of people in my world are threatened with death by starvation. I am able to
keep this challenge at a distance -- despite the pictures in the media --
but it is a constant drain on my spirit. All is definitely not well. Is this
problem signalling the existence of a subtler and more widespread form of
deprivation -- a malnutrition of my psyche and a spiritual hunger which I
am even less capable of addressing? This would be consistent with my concern
about the artificiality and superficiality of experience offered in the emerging
"information society" or "global village" -- and with the desperate attempts
to increase the level of "realism" by increasing the quantity and degrading
quality of violence portrayed in the media. Do I now need a 'murder-a-night
to feel alright'? What does this say about my sense of superiority towards
the public hangings in times gone by? To what extent is my imagination appropriately
nourished at this time -- despite the surfeit of imaginative material available?
What are the foodstuffs and vitamins of the spirit? What is the nourishment
for the spirit that I am unable to cultivate and harvest? Is this a skill
now lost to my world?
- Disease (and pain): There are many kinds of disease in my world
with many suffering chronic pain. Beyond the physical pain are the many forms
of mental illness, stress, neurosis and personality disorder -- especially
in the 'industrialized' parts of my world. Why am I so unhealthy?
The many types of disease are useful indicators of the different ways in which
I tend to fail to come to terms with my world -- and of the remedies that
I seek as appropriate. Why, for example, do I invest so much in supporting
the curiously dysfunctional dynamics of a pharmaceutical industry and a medical
profession that are so well-nourished by disease? The question is whether
such diseases are effectively diseases of my imagination and of my imaginal
deficiency. To what extent is the illness and pain in my world a consequence
of my inappropriate thinking and framing?
- Substance abuse (including drugs and alcohol): Surely the substance
abuse in which I engage is signalling a desperate need on my part for different
modes of thinking, feeling and experience than those encouraged by a society
I have created for myself -- now governed by antiquated thinking patterns
which have been only too effectively institutionalized in "acceptable" modes
of work and leisure? Again, since many that I have set up as role models in
key positions in such institutions also use drugs or alcohol "to relax", what
should I be learning from the level of stress -- and schizophrenia -- at which
the prevailing mode of thought is requiring them to function? Is my substance
abuse not effectively offering a remedy for the imaginal deficiency and mechanistic
patterning characteristic of "acceptable" individual and collective behaviour?
And consequently would not substance abuse become less necessary if my society
acknowledged more imaginative opportunities? What is the incidence of substance
abuse in the other cultures of my world whose languages make very extensive
use of metaphor? To what extent is it useful for me to perceive my relation
to the prevailing thinking pattern as a form of "addiction" -- a habit that
I do not know how to kick?
- Unemployment (including underemployment and absenteeism): Unemployment
is a major concern in my world. It is no longer fruitful to argue that a significant
proportion of unemployment is simply due to laziness, reluctance to learn
new skills, lack of initiative or lack of opportunities. Is it possible that
the prevailing mode of thinking, that I encourage, is inhibiting my peoples'
ability to imagine new forms of action of value to others, encouraging many
to perceive existing employment opportunities as worthless both to themselves
and to others, as well as impoverishing the manner in which they consider
what to do with their lives? Is unemployment telling me that much of the work
on offer in my society is not worth doing -- and that much which is done is
pointless? This would certainly be consistent with many criticisms of the
consumer society and of industrial exploitation of the environment. Perhaps
it is also saying that what I value doing, or am obliged to do, is not appropriately
valued (as "work") in an economic system that I have allowed to be governed
by an inadequate mode of thinking. This would certainly be consistent with
the debate about the economic value of housework. Contrasting employment with
recreation (as opposed to unemployment) is somewhat ironic in that unimaginative
leisure opportunities are increasingly incapable of offering "re-creation".
Is the level of unemployment also indicating that I really do not know to
what I could usefully and meaningfully devote my resources? Worse still, is
it indicating that I have dissociated the challenges to human society from
opportunities for "work" because of the way such challenges are perceived
within the pattern of thinking that I have allowed to prevail?
- Ignorance (including functional illiteracy): Is the level of ignorance,
even in my 'industrialized countries', telling me that much of the
knowledge on which that judgement is based is not worth learning? This concern
has certainly been expressed in debates about existing curricula. Is it suggesting
that for their psychic survival my people are educating themselves along pathways
that are not considered meaningful, or indicative of intelligence, within
the pattern of thinking that I have allowed to dominate? This is suggested
by the immense resources devoted to music and to "alternative" therapies and
belief systems. Is it suggesting that my people feel deprived of an imaginal
education, faced with the formal (even rote) learning so frequently considered
most appropriate (especially "to the needs of industry")? This is suggested
by the enthusiasm for graphics, cartoon books, science fiction, fantasy and
the archetypal portrayal of cult figures of the music industry. Is my concern
with the ignorance of many, including myself, concealing the fact that those
to whom I have attributed most expertise and power are really quite ignorant
about how to navigate through current and future crises -- an ignorance compounded
by my incompetence?
- Homelessness: Many people in my world lack adequate shelter. Is
the lack of appropriate shelter, even in my 'industrialized countries',
indicating that, with the current pattern of thinking that I have allowed
to prevail, I am ineffective in my ability to provide, construct, or acquire
cognitive and affective frameworks to shelter my people appropriately from
the turbulence of the times? This would be consistent with concerns about
alienation in modern society. It would also follow from the recognition that
many traditional frameworks and belief systems have been torn down or discredited.
Even where my people are well sheltered, it is often in houses or apartments
that reflect an impoverishment of architectural imagination -- as reinforced
by unimaginative building regulations and construction economics. Is my imaginal
life so impoverished by the media that I engender that the ability to provide
a hospitable "interior decoration" for my psyche has been degraded? Have I
lost the ability to understand how to create 'hearth' and 'home'?
- Wastage (including environmental degradation): Is my insensitivity
to the processes of wastage and pollution, for which I am personally responsible,
signalling the existence of an indifference to the "salubrity" and 'sanitation'
of my imaginative life? This would be consistent with the concern expressed
by some of my non-western cultures and constituencies at the indifference
to "spiritual purity". There is little consensus on what is or is not healthy
for the psyche -- just as I am no longer clear, with the increasing extent
of pollution, to what extent which foodstuffs are safe. The depletion of natural
resources associated with wastage calls for reflection on the possibility
that my western-inspired culture is depleting its psychic resources in ways
that I have yet to understand? Can the imaginative resources of a culture
be depleted to a point of "bankruptcy" and how can such resources be conserved
and "recycled"? Do empires fall through imaginative failure?
- Crime (including corruption): A major criticism of my development
aid process is that the resources are diverted away from those most in need,
despite agreements to prevent this. Various forms of bribery or "commission"
are a common feature, even in my 'industrialized countries'. In
any position (and notably in intergovernmental agencies), my appointees endeavour
to obtain perks and privileges for themselves, for relatives or for friends
-- whether this is limited to pilferage of office supplies, extended into
the imposition of a "socially acceptable taxation" (or "sweetener") on any
transactions which they control, or developed into a full-blown criminal activity.
What can I learn from this degree of self-interest and the associated rule-breaking
propensity? Is this an indication that my people cannot survive within the
mechanistic regulations which emerge from the current pattern of thinking
I have engendered -- or at least choose not to do so, and feel free not to
do so when possible? This would be consistent with the admiration for people
'who can get things done' despite the rules, because they are capable
of imagining more subtle opportunities. To what extent is corruption associated
with a more creative world view -- as reflected in the term "creative accounting"?
- Inequality and injustice: Inequality is a major feature of my world
and is a source of much protest. The few are privileged in relation to the
many. But this inequality seems indeed to be a reflection of my own attitudes,
for I do indeed treat some features of my environment as of greater significance
than others -- and would not know how to do otherwise. I am indeed partial
in my preferences, notably with respect to the attention that I accord to
one person rather than to another. This treatment may indeed be said to be
unjust. But how could I give attention equally to everyone, if only because
of my obvious handicap in being confronted more frequently by the few that
are near me -- in contrast to the many that are elsewhere, who might rightly
complain to be unjustly treated in consequence? Is there some more fruitful
way of responding to those who are apparently less significant to the dynamics
of my world -- and of responding less enthusiastically to those who seem to
make my world more meaningful?
- Immorality: There are many standards of ethics and morals in my world
-- and various efforts to form them into a universal standard. They are put
forward as guidelines for behaviour that would be minimally harmful. And yet
my various proponents of such different value systems continue to engage in
the bloodiest conflicts in defence of their respective frameworks of 'harmlessness'.
What are these competing frameworks that I engender? Why are the universal
frameworks so unmeaningful to those who identify with more specific frameworks?
Why is no universal framework that I have engendered an adequate vehicle for
the diverse individual and collective identities in my world? Why do such
frameworks somehow negate the diversity that I would claim to value?
- Unproductivity: A prime concern is with economic productivity and
the relatively unproductive nature of my 'developing' countries
and regions -- all according to monetary criteria. My 'countries'
are now traumatized by the need to increase productivity and 'market
share' in competition with each other. This is considered to be a healthy
characteristic of my world -- although clearly the hope that any country could
increase its market share, as more countries become productive, is clearly
illusory in the extreme. It is also curious that the more productive countries
need less productive countries in order to remain competitive. Given the extent
to which many in my world are having to become reconciled to being 'unemployed',
and therefore 'unproductive', it is unclear why I have to be so
convinced of the vital importance of productivity -- or why I have to tolerate
such a degree of frenetic activity in my world. Is it so impossible for me
to engender a more graceful way of sustaining the movement of energies within
- Insecurity (and violence): Concerns about personal and collective
security are a major feature of my world. Many have reason to fear violence
from others. Why is it that I entertain myself so frequently by exposure to
dramatized representations of such violence -- which are so characteristic
of the products of the cultures of my world, especially as reflected in the
media? Why is it that security is so closely associated with boredom and that
risk is so closely associated with feeling alive? Do I engender violence in
my world to inject a sense of life and risk -- whatever the price? Why is
it that I can tolerate the exposure of some to high levels of violence and
insecurity -- perhaps deploring it, but certainly without evoking any effort
to remedy the situation? Does the insecurity of others, and the violence exacted
upon them, obscure from my awareness my own profound sense of insecurity and
the violence that I so casually need to do to others, if only through my agents?
- Nuclear proliferation: Many have pointed to the degree of risk associated
with proliferating nuclear power stations and weaponry. A chain of accidents
could trigger complete disaster to life on my planet. Is this some form of
ultimate existential risk with which I choose to stimulate my world and my
sense of reality -- in order, paradoxically, to feel alive? Does the nature
of the risk carry learnings that would be of most value to a more insightful
mode of life?
- Degradation of the environment (including ecosystems and species):
There is widespread recognition that the environment of my world is being
severely degraded and may well be close to collapse. Ecosystems and species
that I have engendered are being annihilated by those whose livelihoods depend
upon them. Healthy ecosystems are being 'poisoned' by lethal pollutants,
genetically modified organisms, and introduced species -- that somehow I accept.
How is it that, despite lip service to the contrary, I am so tolerant of this
process? Is it that my ability to be conscious of the full richness of biodiversity
is highly constrained? Consequently is the loss of this or that ecosystem
(or species) essentially irrelevant to the dynamics of the reduced ecosystem
(with its minimal range of species) of which I am most directly aware? Is
this somehow a measure of my own impoverishment -- reflected in the concrete
jungles that are increasingly the habitat of my awareness? How is it that
I have lost any sense of the irony of importing exotic species (provided that
they behave) to populate artificial niches in such concrete habitats? Worse
still, how is it that my conceptual framework attaches no sense of the importance
to the dynamics of species in the wild, rather than to those restrained in
pots or cages -- or by enclosures or chains? What degree of self-mockery do
I celebrate with a dog kept on a leash?
- Over-exploitation of energy resources: A great deal of energy is
necessary to keep the industrialized parts of my world operating coherently.
Basically I unashamedly use any energy I can get -- and without regard to
whether there is enough for the neighbours and children that I have engendered.
I am extremely reluctant to impose any constraints on that lifestyle and the
sense of identity that is sustains. However I am dimply aware that there are
other parts of my world -- from which a significant proportion of my energy
is obtained -- and that they cannot possibly achieve the energy intensive
lifestyle on which the coherence of my daily life depends. I am also dimply
aware of the highly problematic situation I am creating for future generations.
Unfortunately I am effectively a vampire -- with an unrestrained tendency
- Disinformation and spin: My world is now almost entirely governed
through media spin. Any conceivable viewpoint can be solicited from the highest
authority -- appropriately rewarded -- including denial that there is any
spin. Whilst only a proportion of the 'evidence' is now obtained
through biased research, bribery or torture, I no longer engender any authority
to be trusted to distinguish 'truth' from 'lie' in my
world. Consequently all authoritative pronouncements I engender are now suspect.
Ironically those who benefit most from such spin now despair at the lack of
collective trust in their affirmations.
- Water shortage:
I can configure such problems into seats at a kind of shadowy 'roundtable'
that effectively underlies every meeting such as my Johannesburg summit. Each
such shadowy figure has its particular role to play out in my psychology [see
Reframing my "overpopulation" problem
The following paragraphs are developed from an earlier paper.
The previous section provides an integrative focus that is absent when these
problems of mine are projected away from me onto 'the world', where
mutually exclusive perspectives retain some measure of credibility. But, however
valuable, it is not sufficient for me just to see my problems in a new light.
The key question is whether they enable some new approach to them. The ultimate
test is the case of "overpopulation", which seems to be at the origin of many
of the problems outlined above.
Are there more fruitful ways of comprehending the issue of overpopulation --
given the range of ways I have engendered for minimizing this as a 'problem'
- Overpopulation as a non-problem
- Opposition to birthrate reduction
- Opposition to contraception
- Opposition to discussion of sexual relationships
- Political evasion of the issue
Because of all the above factors, my reflections about the "overpopulation"
issue take place through euphemism and indirection. Use of sexless, sanitized
categories like 'family planning' to refer to an extremely charged
issue makes it questionable whether my thinking has been inappropriately constrained
-- if I have any real intention to respond to the problem in a more innovative
manner. The sanitized terms, which are in effect euphemisms when they are not
deliberate avoidance mechanisms, can be viewed as a sort of "metaphorical dissociation"--
using metaphors to distort perception of the problem. Paradoxically, the sexless
quality of "family planning" impedes any imaginative response by me to the issues
involved -- especially to those aspects exacerbated by the media, given the
natural interest in sex. This sexless quality is rendered even more unrealistic
given the widespread use of sexual metaphors in informal discussion.
The question with which I am apparently unable to deal is how the tremendous
amount of psychic energy articulated (however inappropriately) by this metaphor
is related to the "fertility" issue. Is it that the use of this basic metaphor
for "doing" or "being done to" channels -- as a form of sublimation -- some
of the energy that would otherwise go into sexual intercourse? The contexts
in which the metaphor is used must certainly feedback onto the perception of
The challenge of "family planning" and "contraception" is that these are essentially
processes of "not-doing" and as such do not excite imagination in my world --
except for those I have engendered who are inclined to philosophies of inaction
(and action through inaction). It is questionable whether the metaphors for
such processes are sufficiently meaningful in competition with the richer sexual
metaphors. It could be argued that the "contraception" issue involves only the
prevention of contraception, not the prevention of sexual intercourse, and therefore
does not detract from the energy of sexual relations. This brings into focus
the core issue of whether "contraception" calls for any modification in my attitude
to sexual relations in order to be successfully implemented by those gripped
by a variety of powerful metaphors of sexual relations. Specifically is there
a possibility of discovering metaphors that would enable those in my world to
articulate their attitudes to sexual relations in a manner consistent with the
objectives of "family planning"?
The social conditions of my world are widely characterized by turbulence, insecurity,
savage competition for resources, deprivation and the like. The privacy and
intimacy of sexual intercourse creates an environment in which those I have
engendered can experience a sense of security, caring and personal value, whilst
at the same time offering them opportunities for imaginative self-expression
and enjoyment away from the censure of wider society. It is a world in which
they have a real (if brief) opportunity to fulfil their desires, to experience
a sense of personal integrity and to repair the psychic damage suffered in daily
But, as a metaphor, this private "world" also encodes many of the problems
and dilemmas of the "sustainable development" of my wider society -- the macrocosm
mirrored in microcosm. It is a world in which one partner may seek to dominate
and subjugate the other, a world of resources which may be exploited until they
are depleted beyond any measures of conservation, and a world in which the frustrations
of wider society may be given a new, and often crueller, focus -- often without
any court of appeal. The shared intimacy may decay into alienation.
It is into this world that my "family planning" initiatives endeavour to insert
"contraception". But little is said concerning the implications for the psychic
life of those concerned. The matter tends to be discussed and described using
plumbing metaphors, in "practical, down-to-earth" terms. And undoubtedly this
may be totally appropriate for those of unimaginative temperament who believe
that problems can be "fixed" with an appropriate device -- or for those who
are so desperate that they will use anything provided it works in practice.
It is not clear that this approach is appropriate to others in my world, and
especially to those for whom contraception acquires some symbolic significance.
In this sense it is useful to consider how contraception can function as a metaphor.
The danger is that I encourage its use in ways that result in a form of 'conceptual
contraception'. Understanding its potential, and limitations, as a metaphor
may suggest other approaches:
(a) Preventing, or aborting, completion of a process: With the increasing
mechanization that I have brought to my understanding of society, and the
increasing fragmentation of fields of activity, there are few integrative
processes of which people I have engendered are personally aware. The processes
to which people are exposed in society are increasingly embedded in bureaucratic
procedures, manufacturing cycles or information systems. Most processes are
subject to "production deadlines" -- including academic research. There are
few opportunities for process completion, which it could be argued is vital
to the psychic integration of the individual. Even in manufacturing there
is increasing recognition of the merit of allowing people to personally complete
a process (eg assembly of a car). For those for whom the significance of the
sexual process is not limited to the act, but includes the socio-biological
consequence (and possibly religious implications), to what extent does contraception
become a metaphor for a restraint which is increasingly intolerable in an
How is contraceptive technology to be understood in the light of Heisenberg's
observation that the purpose of technology is to arrange the world so that
people do not have to experience it?
(b) Reproduction and impotence: Reproduction is a basic purpose of
sexual intercourse. But in how many ways are my people currently able to reproduce
themselves, and how many of these are increasingly frustrated in the modern
society I have allowed to emerge? People can, for example, feel that they
are reproducing themselves by impregnating an individual or group with a pattern
of ideas -- possibly to be passed on to future generations. To a lesser degree,
but with more immediate impact, my people "produce" themselves before an audience.
Indeed professional performers, especially before mass audiences, describe
this process in explicitly sexual terms -- even as 'better than sex'.
Similar arguments might be made for the plethora of documents so creatively
produced -- creating the 'document overpopulation' acknowledged
as information overload. Such forms of reproduction (harmonics to the sexual
process) are either increasingly unavailable to many or of decreasing significance
-- to the point that people experience a sense of impotence. To what extent
then does this place an unconstrainable burden on the physical process that
used to compensate for this inadequacy in some measure?
(c) Rechannelling sexual energy: Does contraception have no effect
on sexual energy and the way it is channelled in my world? It can easily be
argued that it is a liberator of sexual expression. It is less clear how it
affects the quality of that expression. It is possible that exploring the
limitations of the "channel" metaphor (see Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 on the
conduit metaphor), and that of contraception in relation to it, might suggest
a more appropriate approach. The use of such mechanistic metaphors inhibits
recognition of less polarized insights into the movement of sexual energy
(such as through diffusion or resonance processes, for example). The standard
argument that access to a television at home reduces fertility needs to be
reviewed in this light. What function is the television exploring and how
is it affecting the imaginative life in relation to the need to fulfil sexual
desires? Is the television an example of a wider class of opportunities for
the movement of sexual energy that obviates the need for sexual intercourse
in my world? What is the function of dance and partying in this respect? Do
these suggest the existence of processes which are metaphorically equivalent
to intercourse, but diffused beyond the confines of the switch metaphor (making-it,
(d) The "developer mentality" of family planning: The community of
international development agencies I have engendered seldom questions the
attention to the "developer's" view of development -- by which land, for example,
is "developed" when it is "cleared" of unproductive trees and wildlife, drained
of unnecessary surface water, and segmented by access roads permitting construction
of any required buildings. In arguing for greater literacy for women, UNICEF
indicates that four years of schooling enables women to plan smaller families,
to space the children for the better welfare of all, and to make use of preventive
health care. It is quite unclear what effect the rationality of such procedures
has on the imaginative life of those who accept them, and whether any resistance
to them arises from a repugnance analogous to that of "romantic" conservationists
towards the initiatives of developers. To what extent is psychoanalytical
expertise used in population programmes?
As with the other problems, discussed earlier, it might then be possible for
me to move on to the metaphoric implications of the global dimensions of "overpopulation"
in my world. Somehow the proliferation of the human species I have engendered
has become an absolute good. The action of any inhibitory feedback mechanism
has itself been inhibited. What an ironic confusion I have made of 'aid',
contraceptive 'aids' and the proliferation of AIDS. The same phenomenon
may be seen with the proliferation of information and products -- and any form
of creativity. I should be able to explore all such processes as metaphors of
a human attitude in which withholding or holding back is inhibited. This suggests
the need to discover attractive metaphors for "withholding".
Organizing my world
My basic difficulty is that, in responding to over-population and the other
problems above, I tend to be trapped into very particular perspectives. Essentially,
rather than finding ways of responding more closely to the reality of my world,
I tend to be persuaded by efforts to organize my world in ways that reflect
preferences for organizing my mind into rather simple sets of logical categories
-- and then populating those categories in ways unrelated to the reality and
dynamics of my world as I tend to experience it. As has often been remarked,
my world is not organized in a way that matches the organization of my university
faculties -- it is somewhat more complex, despite assumptions to the contrary.
Typically I have little resistance to the construction of more buildings --
irrespective of the land that is used in the process, or the ecosystems that
are degraded as a consequence. Buildings are simply reflections in concrete
of simple sets of categories in my mind. They stack (into housing units and
high rises) and nest neatly (in building complexes) -- and paths of communication
can easily be developed between them. The same is true for roadways and rail
links. It is especially true for the facility with which land and rivers can
be concreted over to avoid having to deal with the messy inconvenience of earth.
Such construction ensures that water flows in a controlled manner along logical
pathways according to my more simply defined needs. The fact that my logical
decisions may subsequently result in dangerous flooding because of the removal
of apparently unnecessary buffers can easily be set aside. And, given the increasing
shortage of surface land, why do I not give more attention to living below the
surface -- surely more practical than the attention given to creating space
habitats? My thinking seems to ber deeply flawed.
I tend to adopt a similar pattern of thinking in relation to the biological
diversity of the environment. There may well be several million species of plants
and animals in my world -- as some of my 'intelligent agents' report.
However I have great difficulty in distinguishing more than a handful in practice
-- although I can sometimes appreciate their differences in photographs and
documentaries. How they relate to each other within ecosystems and food webs
is not something about which I am particularly conscious. As a consequence,
I must confess that I find it extremely difficult to worry in practice about
the fate of most species of which I only have the faintest awareness -- although
I am willing to subscribe in principle to the value of their preservation. However
I do recognize that since I engendered these species, the current rate of loss
might well be understood as being like the dangerous loss to my body of nerve
endings and sensitivity -- of which I am barely aware. Essentially, and at a
great rate, I am losing sensitivity to my environment through the vast array
of sensors to which I saw fit to allocate a detection role in my environment.
At what stage this will dangerously affect my muscular coordination remains
to be discovered -- although I may by then be too disoriented to notice.
As with my simplistic concerns with the biological environment, I have taken
the same approach to the systems of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
In each case I focus on the immediate value to me of air, water and earth --
and how that can be enhanced. Typically I have used every possible means to
manipulate water courses and aquifers to my immediate advantage, whether damming
them, concreting their banks, polluting them, or simply destroying them completely
through diversion and over-exploitation. To the extent possible, I have done
the same with the air using weather modification techniques -- of which global
warming may well turn out to be the ultimate form. As to the earth, again I
have literally moved mountains, dug canals and cut tunnels. In all cases I have
engaged in these activities in response to what seemed logical in the short-term
and irrespective of the cautionary words of those sensitive to longer time cycles,
or of those who attach non-economic value to such natural features. Curiously
I have encouraged this instrumentalist attitude with respect to my peoples'
bodies -- with much piercing, cosmetic surgery, and other artificial 'enhancers'.
I have essentially bought into a process which ideally would remove the 'whether'
from 'weather' -- with a simplistic tendency to label rain as 'bad'
and sun as 'good', and little understanding of the pleas of farmers
on whose products my peoples depend. I have bought into processes that eliminate
undomesticated species as pests -- thus losing the songbirds (even though they
may be the canaries of my psychological mine) and birds whose value is now lost
to me (such as herons, owls and eagles) except in romanticized tales or as totemic
symbols of collective identity. I express surprise at the hidden proliferation
of rats to numbers rivalling the human population. I accept the organization
of space to preclude natural springs or waterfalls -- for which I engender unimaginative
artificial emulations, or encourage commercialization of those that remain elsewhere.
Strangely my efforts to eliminate species inimical to man (eg snakes, sharks,
vultures, wolves, rats, vampires, tigers, cockroaches, leaches, etc) have resulted
in their multiplication within human society as metaphors. This is also true
of sprecies denigrated by humans (eg worms, chickens, sheep). People now encounter
'snakes' and 'wolves' daily in their dealings with each
other -- to say nothing of 'vampires' widely celebrated in movies
(with other 'monsters' from prehistory such as 'dinosaurs').
Whilst the original physical carrier is on the point of disappearing, the dynamics
they embodied are flourishing and evolving -- now carried by human behaviours.
It is unfortunate that just as ecologists are learning about the systemic function
of even the most disparaged species, humanity's ability to engender their metaphoric
analogues has been restricted to those same disparaged species, whether predators
or scavengers. Is this how I am now foreseeing the management of psychic waste
and necessary culling?
My management failure
There are various ways in which I could describe my failure to manage my world
- Cooking: in these terms, I seem to have trapped myself in a rather
limited range of cooking styles -- using a limited range of ingredients --
and with little ability to appreciate alternatives. Furthermore, my preferences
are indeed for food products that depend on extensive use of fertilizers,
pesticides, herbicides and a variety of growth enhancers. I have of course
become skilled in distancing myself from any awareness of the processes by
which animals are slaughtered. I am indifferent to the environmental costs
of making exotic foodstuffs available to me year round.
- Gardening: in these terms, I seem to opt for stylized boring gardens
with little variety and a tendency to use of artifacts for enhancement. The
gardens tend to be decorative rather than functional. The need for co-planting
of different species for their mutual health is of quite secondary importance.
Animal species (with their less predictable and invasive dynamics) tend to
be very unwelcome and actively eliminated -- unless they have some function
in pollination. Exotic species may well be favoured over local species --
even if they are dependent on constant care for their survival.
- Team sports: in these terms, our team can not really be said to have
got its act together. I, for one, am continually 'dropping the ball'.
There is no real sense of what the different team members need to do to support
each other to achieve any collective goal I might envisage in collaboration
with others. Often team members act like isolated individuals in pursuit of
personal glory. Our collective goal may even be limited to trashing any opposition
-- rather than seeking to enhance the quality of our interaction. In fact
my world epitomizes multiple personality disorder.
- Parenting: in these terms, I cannot say that I have performed my
parental duties well. In fact my children might even be seen as having an
increasing tendency to delinquency in reaction to my simplistic frameworks
of values and order. To the extent that my world is a product of consorting
with another, here too I have handled such relationships with far less insight
than is appropriate to the challenge. There is indeed muich that I could learn
from 'family values' -- as my Confucians argued long ago.
- Dramaturge: in these terms, all I can say is that I have produced
a really bad play -- however instructive it may be for my future. The play
is so bad that it is not clear how to learn from it in order to improve my
skill. As with the traditional peasant response: 'If I wanted to get
there, I would not start from here'. My dramatic skills seem to rely
on cliches highlighted by violence and various forms of melodrama with little
ability to provide a vehicle for a subtler message -- which I would anyway
tend to find boring and of limited interest.
- Vehicle control: in these terms, as driver or pilot of some kind
of vehicle (automobile, horse, spaceship, hanglider, etc), again it is clear
that new skills are called for.
- Art creation...
- Military / combat...
- Computer program / network operation...
- Engine maintenance...
A basic question is why I should in any way be concerned about 'my world'?
Whether or not my management of it is poor, why should I even strive to improve
those parts of it beyond my immediate environment?
In these terms:
- What is the constant sense of 'need to' or 'should'
that I experience -- the 'still, small voice'? Where does the imperative
come from? Where does the sense of 'caring' come from?
- a sense of implication?
- a sense of future threat?
- a sense of responsibility?
- a sense of 'been there', and 'know what it is like'?
- To whom am I addressing my concerns and recommendations for action -- who
is the addressee? For whom am I engaging in this way -- on whose behalf? Who
do I think that I am representing? Who am I kidding in my exhortations?
- What is the accompanying sense of failure and disempowerment? Where does
the disempowerment come from? Do I need some analogue to Viagra to enhance
my capacity to respond to my world?
Where does the fragmented bittyiness come from? The Whole Earth Catalog
cover affirmed that: "We can't put it together; it is together". Why do I not
experience my world as together? Why do I buy into arguments, by personalities
that I engender, that reinforce my fragmented experience and fail to recognize
the ecosystem which sustains them and from which they emerge?
It could be argued that I am faced with two extreme challenges:
- Without: namely the problems of my world. These can so predominate
that they are all I have time for. As in Plato's cave, I am attentive only
to what appears on the screen and it is with that that I have to juggle constantly
-- my nose is pushed right up against it so that my sense of perspective is
lost ! This is the objective reality which is the preoccupation of most of
the groups, institutions and 'intelligent agents' that I have engendered
in my world.
- Within: namely reconciling the many pressures I experience within.
These can so predominate that again they are all I have time for. My outer
world loses any sense of reality. This is the problem of those I have engendered
that are increasingly seeking psychotherapeutic help
Much more intriguing is the interface between these two realities and how I
manage it. It is like working with two very different epistemological frameworks
between which I have to provide some form of existential bridge. I tend to live
on the bridge despite its instability and ambiguity. This interface zone is
like the battlefield of Dharma that is the theme of the Bhagavad Gita.
At this interface, there is constantly the question as to whether I am:
- 'in the world', in some way 'explicated' by it and an
actor anchored in its dynamics that define me, or
- a 'world-maker', in some way 'implicated' in its emergence
but anchored elsewhere (an 'alien' within it, but not of it)
The fundamental ambiguity of this bridge, and how I position myself on it,
is itself a kind of template for the degree to which I am impelled to 'build'
bridges between other categories and sectors that I am 'obliged' to
identify. The incommensurability of categories may be a major challenge to my
bridge-building capacities. However, it is such construction which integrates
the sectors that I engender -- for whatever reason. Indeed the 'incommensurability'
derives largely from my repeated efforts to comprehend subtlety at too low a
level of dimensionality (necessitating such apparent fragmentation). It precludes
recognition of the natural integration only apparent at higher dimensionality.
Being a 'flatlander' is always more convenient.
Such inter-sectoral gaps impel me to do other things . The relative solidity
of sectors tends to encourage a form of lability or liquidity between them --
experienced in practice as emotion which may well be vitally refreshing. I can
endeavour to channel such emotion in various ways -- canals, dams, etc. -- notably
to 'irrigate' and enliven the solid sectors.
**** [medit] *** PCB
Again this can be seen as two contrasting modes in an interactive dance:
- discovering and developing the environment 'without', through
'projects' that assume an established geography (engendered by me
through a more fundamental -- lst order? -- projection)
- being 'discovered' by the environment through the ways in which
it mirrors new facets of mine
These together emphasize the question of whether I am a source of instrumental
action on the environment or an object of environment pressures. Life, and my
sense of being alive, is at this risky interface. But my identity and sense
of being alive is easily 'masked'. The dynamic intimacy and sense
of deeper meaning is easily 'frozen' into a mask that can terrify
me, mocking my inability to recall how I relate to the coherent reality it represents
and from which it emerges.
The tragic ease with which any such sense of greater aliveness is 'quenched'
was a continuing early pursuit of the prolific author Colin
Wilson. The challenge is how I can reframe my sense of reality to enable
my identity in this heightened mode. This might be understood as the challenge
of configuring the separate sectors noted above. It is exemplified by the design
criteria of a 'magnetic bottle' to contain nuclear plasma without
it being 'quenched' by such a container. Only then can 'fusion'
take place [more;
more] . A gentler (but
isomorphic) image is the configuration of metaphors encoded by the circular
arrangement of the I Ching hexagrams [more;
more]. Here the preoccupation
is expressed in terms of containing ch'i.
The ongoing, reciprocal relationship with outer reality, however, remains essentially
untouched [more]. The hope
might be that I am so changed by the work on the 'world within' that
the "world without" is also transformed in sympathy -- or at least the relationship
between them. This image, fantasy, or expectation is a central one in Jungian
psychology and might be called "The Rainmaker Image.". It is based on the following
story, told by the sinologist, Richard Wilhelm (translator of the Chinese classic,
the Secret of the Golden Flower):
Richard Wilhelm was in a remote Chinese village which was suffering from
a most unusually prolonged drought. Everything had been done to put an end
to it, and every kind of prayer and charm had been used, but all to no avail.
So the elders of the village told Wilhelm that the only thing to do now was
to send for a rainmaker from a distance. This interested him enormously and
he was careful to be present when the rainmaker arrived.
He came in a covered car, a small wizened old man. He got out of the car,
sniffed the air in distaste, then asked for a cottage on the outskirts of
the village. He made the condition that no one should disturb him and that
his food should be put down outside the door. Nothing was heard of him for
three days, then everyone woke up to a downpour of rain. It even snowed, which
was unknown at that time of year.
Wilhelm was greatly impressed and sought out the rainmaker, who had now come
out of his seclusion. Wilhelm asked him in wonder: "So you can make rain?"
The old man scoffed at the very idea and said "of course" he could not. "But
there was the most persistent drought until you came," Wilhelm retorted, "and
then -- within three days -- it rains?"
"Oh," replied the old man, "that was something quite different. You see,
I come from a region where everything is in order, it rains when it should
and is fine when that is needed, and the people also are in order and in themselves.
But that was not the case with the people here, they were all out of Tao and
out of themselves. I was at once infected when I arrived, so I had to be quite
alone until I was once more in Tao and then naturally it rained!"
Rainmaking in Joburg: making my Rio+10 worthwhile
Where is the Joburg within? It is that place to which I can travel with some
effort (and at some cost) with which I associate significance. It is like going
on a pilgrimage to a place, shrine, or person that has a reputation as a place
of change and transformation. It may well be a place of paradoxical extremes
and contrasts. But, once there, the experiences, although extraordinary, leave
me wondering how to grok the secret of the transformational Holy Grail about
which others are so ecstatic. For it is also a place requiring fruitful interaction
with others -- who are sharing the journey. The 'quest' depends for
its fruition on the creative way in which I configure the significance embodied
in the companions that I engender on that journey. But I can easily suspect
a case of the 'Emperor's new clothes' -- because the dynamics there
may well involve much talk about change and transformation, leaving me with
the nasty, sneaky worry that I do not really feel significantly transformed
-- whatever I, or my 'others', claim. But it is true that I can console
myself with the symbolism of having been there ('I was at Rio in 1992')
and can be acknowledged as an 'agent of change'.
In seeking to 'make rain' in Joburg, I have to be really careful
not to get trapped in the process of making declarations and plans for others
to implement (moving on from Agenda 21 to Agenda 2002 -- from
twenty-one to twenty-two). In endeavouring to configure the significance of
my companions on this quest appropriately, I of course have to engage in networking
-- but I have to take care that this does not become a frenetic substitute for
grounding the awareness necessary to 'make rain'. What kind of networking
weaves the environment to bring the rain -- and what inhibits it? In what way do the conditions of my 'closed sessions' at Joburg resemble those
the old Taoist considered necessary in closetting himself in a separate hut
-- until the rain came? What did he do in the hut to get things into appropriate
A real challenge is what I bring to Joburg as 'my way' and the imperative
of that truth, and how alienating is it to my 'others' who come 'armed'
with their own truths -- and their own 'targets'? What is this 'my
way' imperative? How does this relate to the insight of the old Taoist
called to make rain for the village? How do I recognize that 'my way'
needs to be reframed in the light of the Taoist precept that 'The Way that
can be named is not the Way'? And how can I structure the dynamics of my
relationships with my 'others' engaged with me on this quest?
Whilst acknowledging the insight provided by Jungian psychology (and its successors)
to framing the individual quest, there seems to be little insight from
those sources on the collective quest as required in 'Joburg'
-- and on how my 'others' all mesh their respective Joburgs.
Joburg is of course the place where a balance is to be sought between my incommensurable
preoccupations with 'development' and 'environment'. Curiously
the focal crisis of 'global warming' may perhaps be best understood
in my world as resulting from the way in which the unbalanced initiatives that
I engender (my 'industrialization' and instrumentalism) result in
an exponential increase in knowledge in every field. This is a form of enlightenment
that is inadequately absorbed in practice and essentially makes me 'overheated'.
Ironically such inappropriate knowledge is indeed characterized by the kind
of 'hot air' that is produced in large quantities at any Joburg as
a form of collective flatulence -- the 'greenhouse gases' of my inner
world.. The other feature of my Joburg is the degree of denial associated with
such flatulence, especially when the biggest 'farter' I have engendered
in my world does not dare to be fully represented in Joburg.
The other feature of my Joburg is of course that in immediate proximity is
a place that exemplifies the consequences of the failure of rainmaking -- a
place suffering the tragic consequences of drought -- namely 'Zimbabwe'.
This is a place where I was never able to resolve the imbalance between the
skills and greed of the few and the needs and inadequacies of the many. The
result was that I transformed a 'liberator' into a 'dictator'
that took draconian measures in the name of unfulfilled principles and exacerbated
every other problem described earlier. Zimbabwe is the exemplar of what may
happen to most of my world if my quest to Joburg fails. Unknowingly, and even
irrationally perhaps, I may engender draconian measures in my world in the name
of selected principles -- without having discovered how to balance them appropriately
against other principles that I occasionally hold to be vital..
Mirrors of my world
The mirror is a common metaphor across cultures and centuries for reflecting
on the nature of mind in my world. For the critical tradition of literature,
M H Abrams (The Mirror and the Lamp; romantic theory and the critical tradition,
1953) focuses on 'two common and antithetical metaphors of mind, one comparing
the mind to a mirror-like reflector of external objects, the other to a radiant
projector which makes a contribution to the objects it perceives. The first
of these was characteristic of much of the thinking from Plato to the eighteenth
century; the second typifies the prevailing romantic conception of the poetic
In discussing the 'changing metaphors of mind', Abrams notes that
in any period, the theory of mind and the theory of art tend to be integrally
related and to turn upon similar analogues, explicit or submerged. According
to the mirror metaphor:
... the inventive process consisted in a rassembly of 'ideas' which
were literally images, or replicas of sensations, and the resulting art work
was itself comparable to a mirror presenting a selected and ordered image
of life. By substituting a projective and creative mind and, consonantly,
an expressive and creative theory of art, various romantic critics reversed
the basic orientation of all aesthetic philosophy... Colerisdge saw the mind
as growing into its precepts...and thus was enable to envision the product
of artistic genius as exhibiting the mode of development and the internal
relations of an organic whole.
The mirror is similarly an ancient symbol for the deepest functions of the
human mind in the Buddhist tradition that I have engendered. On an ordinary
level, a mirror is something used to see an object. When looking into a mirror,
it is not the object itself that is observed, but it is seen clearly. Use of
a mirror draws attention to how observation is being made rather than
what is being observed. There is less investment in the object. This
reduces the tendency to see things as fixed or solid and encourages other understandings.
Thus, the very simple metaphor of a mirror can propel us toward insight and
compassion more effectively than paradigms and theories.
As a Taoist, Chuang-tzu (ca 300 BC) made frequent use of the mirror metaphor
to illustrate the dispassionate nature of the sage who reacts to nature without
ever acting for his own advantage:
The perfect man uses his mind like a mirror: he neither accompanies things
nor goes before them; he responds to them without clining to them. This what
makes him capable of dealing with all things without being tainted by them...The
mind of the sage is quiet, it is the mirror of heaven and earth and reflects
the whole multiplicity of things.
In the Huai-nan-tzu (a collection of philosophical essays, ca 200 BC),
the Tao itself is compared to a perfectly clear mirror in which everything can
be clearly seen. In Indian tradition the Lankavatra-sutra (one of the
principal sources of inspiration for the Ch'an school of Buddhism) likens the
perceiving consciousness to a mirror reflecting images that it mistakes for
real objects. The mind reflects itself in objects that it has itself created,
like images in a mirror. Others compare the lack of cognitive clarity to a dusty
mirror unable to reflect clearly the face which gazes into it. Paul Demiéville
(The Mirror of the Mind, 1947) reviewed the range of ways the mirror
metaphor is used in Chinese, Indian and Christian thinking across the centuries.
To some, reflections in a mirror serve to illustrate the unreality of the
phenomenal world. to others, on the contrary, the clear mirror is like the
absolute, reflecting back to man his ideal image. Or again, the mirror's property
of faithfullty reflecting objects without being touched by them is compared
to the detachment of the sage, who apprehends reality in an impersonal immediate
manner. These are in short the two aspects of a mirror, the one active, the
Luis Gomez (Purifying gold: the metaphor of effort and intuition in Buddhist
thought and practice) comments on Demiéville's conclusion as follows:
...those who assume that the object of religious, aesthetic or intellectual
apprehension is somehow innate in the apprehending subject tend to assume
at the same time that the act of apprehension is direct, abrupt, effortless.
The most common metaphor employed by the advocates of this type of position...
is the mirror as symbol for the mind: both are innately pure, both
are able to know (or reflect) clearly, passively, and integrally.
The opposite view would then propose that the object of religious esthetic,
or intellectual apprehension is not innate, and that the act of apprehension
is indirect and gradual, the result of dedicated self-cultivation.
The centuries of dialogue between the 'sudden' and the 'gradualist'
approaches in Chinese thought was notably triggered by two very simple contrasting
poems based on a mirror -- by Shen-hsiu (606-706) and Hui-neng (638-713) in
the Platform Sutra [texts]
-- and whether it needed 'cleaning'.
In my world, as discussed above, there is an interplay between these different
understandings. I am indeed reflected in the phenomena and problems that I have
engendered to constitute my world, like images in a mirror -- I am mirrored
by the world. This is in sympathy with the Tibetan tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism,
in which a renowned female master of the eighth century (757-817), Yeshe Tsogyal,
approached enlightenment not as a matter of transformation, of ascent, or even
of final attainment. Rather her approach rested squarely on learning how to
fully inhabit the conviction that her awakened nature was continually reflected
(and thus findable) in all structures and phenomena, bar none. Thus her
path to enlightenment and her enlightenment merged inseparably in the theme
of living life as enlightenment [more;
more]. She is now a key
figure in articulating understanding woman and the female in Buddhism [more].
Configuring the mirrors of my world
Yeshe Wangmo and Anna Cox have developed a workshop methodology (The
Eight Mirrors) in the light of the memoirs of Yeshe
Tsogyal . For them, this understanding emerges through interaction with
a configuration of eight mirrors named: Source and Intention, Manifestation,
Outer World, Inner Journey, Oneness Awareness, Attainment, Integration, and
Completion. The function of eight mirrors is also described in the Shurangama
The tantric ritual of the great Bliss Queen, symbolizes -- in the form of a
nonverbal iconographic stance or gesture identified within an act of creative
imagination -- the already enlightened nature of the mind that is simultaneously
empty and filled with positive potential. The figure of Yeshe Tsogyal embodies
nondichotomous subjectivity; her ritual evokes an imaginative bridging of the
polarities: 'active/ passive', 'naturally full/empty of inherent
For much more mundane purposes, Edward de Bono has produced several management
methodologies as 'frameworks for thinking'. These stress the complementarity
of six totally contrasting perspectives: Six Thinking Hats (1987) and
Six Action Shoes (1991). These books deal with what he has called "operacy".
This is the skill of action, of getting things done and making things happen
-- which he equates with literacy and numeracy. They build on a well-publicized
series of his earlier books dealing with creative approaches to problem-solving,
notably in corporate policy-making environments. According to de Bono (1991),
the metaphoric framework of six thinking hats has been adopted by many major
corporations around the world. It is also used increasingly in education. As
de Bono points out: "The six hat method has been widely accepted because it
is simple, it is practical, and it works. It actually changes how thinking takes
place in meetings and elsewhere: instead of the usual to and fro arguments it
makes it possible for people to have constructive discussions." (1991, p. 4).
The six pairs of action shoes develop the action dimension of the thinking
associated with the six hats. The method in both cases is simple. Using the
hat metaphor, in a meeting there is an imaginary repertoire of six thinking
strategies associated with six hats of different colours. A discussant may choose
to put on one of the hats, or be challenged to take off a hat of a particular
colour. Alternatively all participants may agree to make use of a hat of a particular
colour to clarify a particular dimension response to the issue under discussion.
De Bono's hats involve participants in a discussion in a type of mental role
- White hat: An objective look at data and information.
- Red hat: Legitimizes feelings, hunches, and intuition.
- Black hat: Logical negative, judgement, and caution.
- Yellow hat: Logical positive, feasibility, and benefits.
- Green hat: New ideas and creative thinking.
- Blue hat: Control of the thinking process. (1987) [more;
It is regrettable that the relationship between the mutually antagonistic schools
of Tibetan Buddhism ('Black Hat'; 'Red Hat', Nyingma;
White Hat', bKa-rgyud; 'Yellow Hat', Gelug; etc)
is not presented as such a configuration to clarify the complementarity of their
insights and practices -- which could be so appropriately reflected in a mandala.
The same might however be said of vareties of Christianity or of the Catholic
It is curious that the astronomers of my world have now discovered the need
to develop complex configurations of mirrors to explore the depths of space
in order to understand the nature of the universe. One of the most modern even
uses 8 mirrors. The NASA space telescope, called the Chandra X-ray Observatory
(launched in 1999) allows scientists to obtain unprecedented X-ray images of
these and other exotic environments to help understand the structure and evolution
of my universe. At the heart of the telescope system is the High-Resolution
Mirror Assembly. Since high-energy X-rays would penetrate a normal mirror, special
cylindrical mirrors were created. The two sets of four nested mirrors resemble
tubes within tubes. Incoming X-rays graze off the highly polished mirror surfaces
and are funneled to the instrument section for detection and study. They are
the largest and smoothest mirrors ever created. [more;
A feature common to the mirrors of Buddhism and those of astronomy is the recognition
that only through an array or configuration of mirrors can faint subtle, or
faint, signals be detected and brought into meaningful focus. In both cases
the individual mirrors each have a distinct orientation. The optical requirements
of those of astronomy have been very extensively studied. The use of an array
of metaphorical mirrors of the mind, in the case of Buddhism, suggests an understanding
of the challenges of interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral understanding that
my western world has yet to recognize. The plethora of symbols favoured in their
rites by many schools of Buddhism (or other religions for that matter) might
also usefully be understood as potential mirrors.
Governance through metaphor
A useful way to understand a single mirror in a set is as a category or detector
of some kind -- clustering information in the light of its orientation. Those
of Buddhism are each associated with a particular subject matter, so that the
set is in some respects a comprehensive (or universal) classification system.
The set enables me to capture and focus the complete spectrum of insights to
allow me an integrated understanding.
This need for 8 mirrors articulated in my Buddhist thought can be compared
with the 8 'houses' into which the 64 I Ching hexagrams are
clustered. Traditionally these are represented in a circular configuration and
distinguished by the primary trigram by which they are named: Creative, Receptive,
Arousing, Keeping Still, Abysmal, Clinging Joyous, and Gentle. Within the I
Ching framework they therefore represent an 8-fold clustering of all patterns
of change and transformation.
Traditionally the I Ching was valued as a guide to the challenges of
governance, notably by the Emperor of China. There is therefore some merit in
considering its value in enabling me to order my world in response to the problems
I have engendered (see above). Of great interest in the case of the I Ching
is that it is not a 'mechanical' system evn though it uses a binary
notation. However some do endeavour to use it like a casino 'fruit'
machine. It embodies the fundamental challenge of understanding fundamental
categories, especially those set in paradoxical opposition to one another. Governance
of my world is beset by such strategic dilemmas -- of which the reconciliation
of the incommensurables 'development' / 'environment' is
a prime example in the case of Joburg.
The I Ching inhibits any facile comprehension by me of mechanically
defined categories and their relationships. It achieves this by 'defining'
such categories allusively through metaphor -- often metaphors relating to polarities
or dilemmas of governance -- although these metaphors may also prove to be traps
for the unwary. In fact the I Ching could be considered as a way of classifying
metaphors through which I might understand my world.
With apparently the utmost simplicity, the I Ching sets out to represent
dilemmas and polarities -- and their relationships -- using a binary coding
system. It therefore depends on the users involvement as to the meaning that
is proving to be a dilemma. This can be represented by the simplest binary distinction
('1 vs 0', or 'unbroken line vs broken-line'). At its most
basic, it offers metaphors through which to look at a simple polarity like development
/ environment. The metaphors might be: 'dark / light'; 'negative
/ positive'; 'inner / outer'; 'male / female'; 'down
/ up'; 'right / left'; 'elder / youth'; etc. At this
level these may be considered isomorphic.
Within Chinese culture great importance has been associated with the polarity
'sudden / gradual', for example. This is not without its signifiance
for approaches to 'sustainable development' (in terms of the need
for immediate radical change vs the possibility of gradual change) (see Peter
N Gregory. Sudden and Gradual: approaches to enlightenment in Chinese thought,
1987 ) [excerpts]
'Sustainable development': configuring divergent understandings
The art of the I Ching is that, although it offers metaphors for understanding
a polarity, it encourages movement of thought beyond the often fruitless confrontation
of seemingly intractable opposites. It therefore suggests ways of thinking in
terms of a 4-fold division, rather than a 2-fold division, by effectively offering
a way of classifying any 4-fold metaphors -- such as: 'father / mother
/ son / daughter'; 'spring / summer / autumn / winter'; 'earth
/ air / fire / water'; 'north / south / east / west'. In contrast
with the 2-fold metaphors, these may suggest a a healthier pattern of relationship
and transformation between the polarities implicit in each 4-fold set.
The 'sustainable development' of my Joburg could benefit from reframing
the relationships between 'development' and 'environment'
in this way (as is partially the case in some geopolitical distinctions between
'north' / 'south' / 'east' / 'west').
The 4-fold set would be represented by the binary coding system as 4 'digrams'
(combinations of 2 lines that may be unbroken or broken):
- development over development (a typical 'industrial' perspective)
- development over environment (development in support of the environment:
making financial profit from pro-environment perspective)
- environment over development (environment as a context for development:
green alternative perspective)
- environment over environment (a typical deep ecology perspective)
This approach has been extensively explored in a separate paper on Interrelationships
between 64 Complementary Approaches to Sustainable Development (https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/devching.php)
Any global concern in my world tends to become fragmented into contrasting
aspects, ideologies, belief systems, or contrasting schools of thought [Judge,
2001]. From any one perspective, there is necessarily very little recognition
of their complementarity and the need to explore their configuration to highlight
this. In the case of 'sustainable development', these perspectives
-- through their different representatives at my Joburg -- immediately undermine
any articulation of a global perspective that ensures effective implementation.
As a consequence, the very concept of sustainable development tends to become
It is intriguing that even amongst those who most aspire to a universal perspective,
little attention is given to why these mutually antagonistic facets develop,
or to how the complementarity of these facets is to be understood as the basis
for any emergent universal system. The tendency is for the proponents of each
distinct 'universal' system simply to declare other perspectives to
be 'wrong' or 'misguided' [more]
. It is a prime characteristic of schools of philosphy, in natural opposition
to each other in my world, to fail to embody any such opposition within their
respective systems. They only do so at the most primitive level (as with articulation
of a category of 'evil' in the case of religions, or 'rejectionists'
in the case of proponents of globalization).
The most interesting exception is the Brahmajala Sutta, the very first
text in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali canon and one of the important discourses
spoken by the Buddha. It is "the discourse on the all-embracing net of views".
The aim of this discourse is to elaborate on a "net" of all possible views
(opinions, beliefs, philosophical ideas, speculative thought). It encompasses
a net of sixty-two cases capturing all the speculative views on the self and
the world [more].
The discourse describes the situation out of which each view arises and shows
how the speculative views and philosophies hold man in bondage to the cycle
of birth and death-in misery and sorrow. (Bhikku Bodhi, The Discourse on
All-Embracing Net of Views: the Brahmajala Sutta and its Commentaries ,
Self-possession and governance
The art of governing a world that I engender -- and which engenders me -- may
well be to frame the situation in terms of a cycle of expiration and inspiration:
- expiration in which I engender the world through patterns I imagine, impose
- inspiration in which I reel in the threads of what I engendfered and the
learnings from their interplay
But there is more to it than just 'breathing'. For the process to
- the stages of the cycle must balance through a rhythm
- the rhythm needs to be neither too long nor too short
- both inspiration and expiration need to be sufficiently 'deep'
to encompass my world
The challenge of 'encompassing' my world is how to touch its every
aspect, whether in giving it form or drawing in that form -- a problem well-recognized
by democratic politicians in relating to their constituencies. Like biological
forms at evry stage of evolution, the art is to distribute 'oxygen'
to the cells in order to sustain their development. Constraints on this process
may force the emergence of new forms.
The art of governance, like that of breathing, may perhaps best be understood
in terms of a self-sustaining torus. Kenneth James Michael MacLean points to
speculative work, by Arthur Young and others, on the torus as a model of consciousness:
The geometric shape used to describe the self-reflexive nature of consciousness
is the torus. The torus allows a vortex of energy to form which bends back
along itself and re-enters itself. It 'inside-outs', continuously flowing
back into itself. Thus the energy of a torus is continually refreshing itself,
continually influencing itself. [more]
Like a smoke-ring, it maintains its form through the cyclic movement at each
point of its circumference. A torus thus offers an interesting metaphor of self-possession
-- with an empty, or virtual, centre [more].
Arthur Young's insights into this have been represented as a hypersphere [more].
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- Dysfunctional cycles and spirals: web resources on "breaking
the cycle". 2002 [text]
- Psychology of sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental
processes. 2002 [text]
- Navigating alternative conceptual realities: clues to the dynamics
of enacting new paradigms through movement. 2002 [text]
- Embodying the Sphere of Change: reframing metaphors of the I
Ching as a codification of the patterns of change. 2001 [text]
- Coherent patterns of schism formation, bifurcation and disagreement
and the associated bonding, encounters and agreements they evoke. 2001 [text]
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- Presenting the future: an alternative to dependence on human
sacrifice through global pyramid selling schemes. 2001 [text]
- Enhancing the quality of knowing: through integration of East-West
metaphors. 2000 [text]
- Evaluating synthesis initiatives and their sustaining dialogues
- Being the Universe: a metaphoric frontier: Co-existent Immanence of Evolutionary
Phases. 1999 [text]
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