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Beyond Childishness through Symbol-empowered Tensegrities

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Produced for a conference on the occasion of the UN Year of the Child (1979)


Over 2600 world problems are currently recognized by about 1800 intellectual disciplines and 10,000 international organizations. These figures are increasing rapidly. Any present response to such complexity can only be childish if it is not acknowledged to be simplistic. And indeed our progressively more specialized or superficial response to the information explosion can only result in more childish behavior, given our need to justify our ignorance of the web of relatedness within which we and our concerns are embedded. For childishness is precisely that, insensitivity to context and in this sense we are all children. And this is this UN Year of the Child, we should all realize that.

No individual or group has encompassed the variety of life, although many believe they possess the key insights and control levers. But nobody "up there" is getting it all together. There are just many sophisticated mutual pretence systems to match the more evident military defence systems. And the little boy's comments on the Emperor's lack of clothing are seldom to be heard. Ultimately, therefore the individual is thrown back on his own ability to choose and initiate He is either at the source of a "fountain of choice" in a condition of childlike spontaneity or else identified with the gears of a particular mind set in the grinding wheels of society in which the spirit of the child in him is crushed.

The immediate future will experience the backlash from the failure of the range of uni-modal initiatives, whether emphasizing love, revolution, organization, technology or other, wise. We are recognizing the ineffectual nature of our habitual efforts to put things together by a childish hierarchical manipulation of blocks, whether of : data, system elements, concepts, organizations, or species. But the present hopes for networking and community as alternatives will prove ill-founded as extremes with their own problems of "flabbiness" and dependence, resulting from the inability to use and balance energies arising from internal variety and challenge.

My present belief is in the androgynous outcome of the alchemical marriage of hierarchical system (yang) and network (yin). Such tensed networks are well-represented Buckminster Fuller's tensegrity (tensional integrities) of which the geodesic dome is a particular case. As has hierarchy and network in the past, tensegrity provides a wholely new basis for grasping, coding and representing external and internal realities. It is based on comprehensible patterns of connectedness which can be reflected in new form of organization whether social or conceptual.

This matches the desperate need for a means to interrelate variety in comprehensible configurations which can provide an organic focus for practical transformation. Such configurations can only acquire significance and power by becoming memorable in the face of the explosion of insignificant information. This will be achieved by the revitalization and interweaving of symbols and metaphors through which the child in us can grow. For in the child's mind there is nothing fragmentary (Coleridge). Through such symbol-empowered tensegrities, the children to be will renew the world. They will separate and move between levels of meaning currently crushed together. Rather than reinforcing them, they will use the very polar extremes and illusions, by which our society is fragmented and tortured,as the organic foundation for new tensegrities ensuring relationships and synergy where currently there is only hubris. They will evoke and sustain significance and energy cycles where we see none.

This new -found strength will enable them to recognize the nature of our planetary shadow (in the Jungian sense) whose aspects we only comprehend through the few world problems to which we each choose to be sensitive. Meeting that shadow collectively will be their challenge

Through that encounter, humanity will itself be renewed -- hopefully.

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