Beyond Childishness through Symbol-empowered Tensegrities
- / -
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.