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An interview with Anthony Judge by Saul Kuchinsky. Published in UniS Bridging Worlds Journal, 3 2, June / July 1991. Concerning the relevance of metaphors to business organization's policy, the green movement, the Japanese superiority in quality, and primary candidates, at this time, for transformative metaphors. Reference is made to the third edition of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential for which Anthony Judge was responsible.
UniS contextual comment: This third encyclopedia, only five years after its two predecessors (at ten year intervals), reflects the interrelationships of the human issues involved. The Encyclopedia provides an objective reference that encompasses human consciousness, spanning from traces of the past and setting a foundation for the unknowns of the future. There is no comparative works of this magnitude. Its two thousand pages focus and cross reference over 13,000 issues of world concern. Those fortunate enough to source its material may very well wonder how it was humanly possible to assemble its awesome contents in such convenient and comprehensive form.
The Union of International Associations has been functioning in the role of a clearing house for global concerns since 1909 and has been associated with the formation and development of the League of Nations. The Encyclopedia reflects their remarkable insight into the complex network of world problems and an appreciation of the vast number of human responses they, and their editors, have elicited.
A special emphasis of this third issue is an overview of some forty pages on the evolving role of Metaphors in the human struggle to advance sensitive understanding of how to communicate and cooperate more effectively in the face of conflicting needs and intentions. Like it's companions and catalysts of 'The information and computer age', what we can call "The Age of Metaphor" is also prone to misuse and abuse. But, as Anthony Judge points out, it provides potential far beyond textual words and other cultural artifacts, for humanity to advance their destiny rather than become victims of conditioned reaction.
Anthony Judge's qualifications, in addition to his key role in orchestrating the Encyclopedia, include a history of positive interaction with international organizations, connections with outstanding individuals, and widely distributed writings on current human problems and potential
Saul Kuchinsky: Your emphasis on the significance of "Metaphor" comes as somewhat of a surprise. You had given it some prominence in the 1986 Encyclopedia, but your new writings indicate you attach significantly more importance to its role in human affairs. Why is this?
Anthony Judge: About a year ago I was impressed listening to the director of an MBA program saying, "the only thing we teach here, to MBA students, is a new language". I thought that was really an intriguing perception. In something as concrete as business management, his perception was that a new language was the only thing they were teaching. Talk about 'bridging worlds', I think we all have to bridge our worlds.
SK: In the first issue of Bridging Worlds Tony Blake's Reading of Experience represents a breakthrough of some sort. Isn't the taste, the experience behind the metaphor what may be lost if you just talk in terms of new language?
AJ: I'm not knocking 'experience', but to me what is important about metaphor is the experiential aspect of the cognitive change - the change in subtle ways in which one is able to perceive by using an alternative metaphor. I think that is the part that the literary people have kind of disguised from us.
In the business world, particularly in the information context, there is a real need because there is no information system in this country which uses metaphors properly. Whereas I think that the only way to communicate across models, and between models, is through metaphors.
I would argue that in the Bennett framework (characteristics common to man and his world in Bennett's Systematics), the only way you can start talking about shifting from level one to level two to level three or whatever is through the use of metaphors. It is metaphors that enables you to grasp the more complex level.
SK: Tony Blake and Ted Matchett talk about making a connection to Primary Intelligence, that primary intelligence is something other than information. Are you getting at the same thing by the use of metaphors. The problem of communications, making a connection with ourselves, or connecting with others is that this is not an ordinary experience. The word 'experience' isn't adequate.
AJ: I don't think we disagree and I thank you for emphasizing that. Anything to do with a sort of cognitive new experience is very closely related to creativity. When you say there's a shift, when you say there's an innovation, the creative innovation is catalyzed by a metaphor. That's when you're in the space that you're talking about. For me the metaphor serves as a kind of conceptual prosthetic, or a piece of conceptual scaffolding.
SK: But is that metaphor the same for the people you're trying to communicate with?
AJ: I have no problems with that at all. It's not a question of somebody finding a fancy metaphor and saying to everybody, "this is a metaphor you need to use." It's more a question of empowering people to generate the metaphors that they consider appropriate. I would say that the whole notion of metaphor design is what is missing. How do we design metaphors if we are having a board meeting where we are trying to find a way of carrying some new conceptual managerial insight?
My fantasy goes this way, that within five or ten years corporations will consider the metaphor they use to guide their policy as more valuable than anything else in the way of assets and patents. In other words they will more consciously dedicate major judgments and resources to develop the complex metaphor they use to articulate and comprehend the way in which their policies are being undertaken.
SK: You're getting at something that is especially interesting and exciting, I wonder if you could expand on that. The idea that there are metaphors of insight that allows each unique person in each unique situation to get their own insight and still act as a team together.
AJ: Right, though I'm not so sure about the first part. I agree about the second part. Yes you can find and articulate metaphors for yourself to improve your own function; I think you can even do that all the time. Particularly if you're a research scientist There is the traditional story of the physicist out camping over the weekend and he's watching the stream of water bubble around the rocks, and he says, "Aha, that's what I'm trying to get at". Now that's fine for a research scientist.
What interests me more however is where you have a group of people around a board room table and they're trying to discover what's the next sort of managerial policy innovation in industry for their corporation to survive in a chaotic world. What's the next jump in complexity. The problem is that they try and carry that jump in complexity using some model. This is a traditional mode the econometricians use. It doesn't fly. Although those models may be very sophisticated mathematically, they don't carry the kind of complexity to which one can relate effectively and which is meaningfully communicable to people who are not mathematically oriented.
That's where the notion of metaphor can be very important because the metaphor can be much more complex in its inherent dynamics than the model. The model has all sorts of constraints - mathematical constraints. The metaphor can imply levels of complexity which the model lacks. Since the metaphor is usually readily comprehensible, this means that a corporation can fly at a higher level of complexity than by using models.
SK: I think you're right if you're talking about fixed or man- imposed models. But I have to point out at least one exception that I experience where the effect you are talking about was still achieved by having this diverse group of people look at a universal model that wasn't fixed at all (i.e. Systematics), and seeing how their situation fitted into that symbolic model which in itself has no inherent qualifications. They are using an open model which helps them discover each others intentions across knowledge and understanding barriers.
AJ: I know what you're saying. My response would be a quote of Harold Lasswell where he said to the effect "Why is it that politicians and policy makers become figure shy and tend to look for imagery and so forth." His answer was, "because these people need imagery, that's the way they think. The people at the highest policy level think in terms of imagery, they do not think in terms of figures."
With different people we may have very different mind sets. I am concerned by the percentage of people that are alienated by a model and any effort to be sophisticated. Can they be sort of captured, seduced if you like, by a metaphor?
In my view, any model seems to have a field of relevance, not relevance, a field which is perceived to be attractive and adequate. Although it may be adequate beyond that field, people find other models more attractive and adequate elsewhere. So you have this problem of competing models, however universal the model is.l
SK: Is the problem that people don't understand fundamental universals, seeing everything as being a universal?
AJ: Absolutely, but I think this is where we're at.
SK: Lets continue with the metaphor. Doesn't that mean that the metaphor also is not fixed, keeps changing.
AJ: Sure! I think if I was the head of a big corporation, I'd be heavily investing in refining the metaphor and developing new forms of metaphor. There is the commitment to R and D, and investing in R and D, the notion of investing in image. There is a heavy investment in image making and corporate culture.
I think there is going to be a shift to recognition that people need to invest in metaphors, because the notion of metaphor underlies all this talk about corporate culture.
SK:Is the beauty of the metaphor that it can change what is so difficult to change, the attitude towards people coming from different worlds.
AJ: Absolutely, you said it. Absolutely. Jacques Attali, who was the chief economic advisor to President Mitterrand in France, and is now the head of the new European Bank to assist Eastern European countries, argues that in these complex times, the truths that count are the truths that are seductive. That something is true for you if you are seduced by it. And that's what's intriguing about metaphors. If you can be seduced by a metaphor, then for the period during which you are seduced by that it seems to fit, it is effective. So the truth is not as absolute as one would assume under more logical conditions. The truth is more to do with whether it somehow attracts and correlates the elements that you need to see combined.
SK: That is what captivated me so much in your article on "Answers"! I could see immediately that you understood. And, I was hoping by reprinting that (UniS Journal Vol 1 No 1), the world which is changing so rapidly would become wary of fixed answers. I'm surprised it is happening in such a relatively short time.
AJ: Right. Mind you, there are going to be all sorts of extremes. Every time somebody has their own personal, spiritual transformation, they are going to come up with "the answer". And, they are going to try and get it out there and accepted with a great deal of enthusiasm.
What everybody needs to learn, in my view, is how to respond to other people's answers without knocking them - how to maneuver between them, how you recognize just one answer as well as other possible answers. Relativism is not enough. Somehow you have to configure the 'mind stuff' into a package for yourself that enables you to navigate between these answers.
SK: Have you changed your computer system to accommodate the design of metaphors?
AJ: Not changed, but sort of extended it to handle higher levels of complexity. So that it's now a very interesting tool for handling relationships, much better than it was in the past. We can take any conceptual entity and say this is related to that other entity and we can have as many kinds of relationships as we like. We can manage a network of conceptual entities. The focus here has been primarily on world problems, and secondarily on human development It's very intriguing what this does to the editorial operation to be able to actually edit networks.
SK: I have to ask you about that intriguing section on the I Ching, (Printed in the 1986 Encyclopedia of Human Potential and World Problems. Also, reprinted in the UniS Journal, Vol 1 No. 2, Summer 1987). That was an extraordinary up to date visualization of networking. And, talk about your use of metaphors - that networking concept could be a foundation for all your metaphors. Where did that come from and who did that work?
AJ: Well, it was done by me on holiday, in Florence. As you know, I'm very intrigued by the pattern of the I Ching, but for this edition of the Encyclopedia, we decided not to reprint the network version.
About ten years ago there was a meeting to discuss the nature and meaning of networks. At that time in the literature there was a comment to the effect that it is possible that the power of networks, networking, lay not in the actual articulation of the network, which is what one might have assumed, but rather in the metaphor.
So that the power, even at that time, was perceived to be in the metaphor of network and not in the actual articulation. If you look today, fifteen years down the track on that, you will see that very few networks have been mapped out as networks; although in theory they are quite mappable. We have even proposed to produce an Atlas of Networks. So this argues that even then the power of networking lay in the fact that it was a metaphor.
So, we took a different approach to the exercise this time, since one of the current burning issues at the international level is the notion of "sustainable development", the compromise to be found between development and environmental conservation. And, one of my arguments is the need to look at policy cycles and not single policies in isolation. Sustainable development being treated in isolation in my view is not adequate, we need to look at a sustainable development policy cycle.
What we did as an exercise, which does appear in the new encyclopedia, is simply to play with a word processor and replace "network" in the I Ching by "policy cycle". Because in principle the I Ching is about sustainability, but sustainability of patterns and relationships under change. And so what we have now I think is a very powerful statement which at least challenges one to say, "Is this meaningful or not?" So I would argue that the current version is more powerful than the earlier one where network was the specific focus.
SK: The earlier one encompassed much that an ordinary person could grasp or at least associate with. If and when we are sensitive enough it may bring us to the metaphors that you are talking about. Is it that it's too far ahead of our 'emotional' capability?
AJ: Maybe, but not that it's too far ahead. Remember where it came from! It came from the Imperial Court in China where it was being used as a policy tool! And I'm not talking about the oracular aspects of it, I'm talking about the pattern. The pattern of changes. And if the Emperor of China could see the relevance for policy making in this time then it's not difficult to assume that it might have some relevance to the policy issues which we're facing at this time.
And it's a beautiful way of attempting to bridge between cultures. Because it's saying maybe the Chinese had some other way of looking at management policies, which we may not necessarily find immediately meaningful, and maybe they had other dimensions to which they wished to pay attention.
But amainthing I would like to emphasize with respect to metaphors is that the Japanese in their management studies make a lot of use of the classic by Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and the famous book by Miyamoto Musashi (The Book of Five Rings) on the art of swordsmanship. Both are based on metaphor and both based to some degree on the Taoist perspective.
I would argue that one reason that the Japanese are so successful in business at this point in time is that they are using more sophisticated metaphors. Their metaphors are more subtle fluid and poetic, whereas ours tend to be much more simplistic and mechanistic.
SK: I think that is so. And yet we both have much to gain by bridging our approaches.
AJ: Right. But I think the Japanese are learning more from us than we are learning from the Japanese. We really need the frameworks with which to learn subtler conceptual insights from the Japanese.
SK: Their cultural attitudes toward work and each other have given them some advantages in this changing world. Their quality control is a significant factor. The leaders in the USA on total quality management will privately admit they don't know how to catch up with the Japanese in that field.
AJ: But they might usefully recognize that what the Japanese have so successfully concealed from us is not what they specifically do, but their attitude to what they do. And it's the sort of cultural context which is very special to Japan. In the Western context it's kind of vague and very wishy-washy.
The Japanese link together philosophy, art, strategy. These are held together within the Japanese cultural framework in a most elegant and sophisticated way which I don't think we sense at all, rather we consider it vaguely irrelevant We consider the art of flower arrangement irrelevant to policy making. They see in the principles underlying flower arrangement features which are directly relevant to the way policies are articulated.
SK: In a sense they have these built in metaphors, even conditioned if you like, and many of them are not aware of that except, possibly, a few at the top. They are aware.
AJ: In my experience, when you actually confront Japanese with this, trying to pin them down, there is evasion - to the point that one begins to suspect they indeed see the value of not allowing foreigners to be too understanding of what they are doing. I think this may be policy in Japan. They are not desperately keen that foreigners should learn Japanese. They are not desperately keen that others should come and live in Japan. They have something vital they want to protect. Like I was saying about corporations protecting their metaphors in the near future, I think Japan is a society where they are protecting their metaphors. At least to the point of denying they are doing that because they don't want us to appreciate their inherent importance to Japanese society.
SK: I wonder if much of that isn't like a fish in water, not being aware of the water. You give them credit, which I think they deserve as a nation, perhaps, but I'm not sure they deserve it as individuals.
AJ: I buy that. But I think that the canny people at the top who were defeated in the second world war are conscious of their revenge on the west, of the manner in which they are achieving that with a great deal of elegance.
SK: I have an old friend from Japan who was the head of a company with which we did much business and we respected each other. He is one who would understand what you say. I think his response would be that the Japanese couldn't even give that talent we are talking about to the Americans if they wanted too. And, he would be right, (laughter)
AJ: That's why I am intrigued by the current work of an International School of Philosophy in Holland. They are bringing over Mark Johnson from the Department of Philosophy (University of Illinois) and co- author of a book which is now a standard college text book, Metaphors We Live By.
The immediate relevance of this is that he is breaking out of his philosophical framework and addressing issues of the business world and presumably there are sufficient business people interested in what he has to say.
AJ: Your Newsletter introduces a nice feel for "Bridging Worlds."
SK: There is a computer disk and printout that is part of each issue to provide a far deeper view of the contents of the Newsletter briefs. We also are offering what we call an Insight Indicator, which interestingly enough, in a very real way, is trying to implement your metaphor concept At least that has just occurred to me.
The reader is challenged to meaningfully reduce the remarkable writings and insights of others to their own situation as to what is Primary Intelligence, God, the Universe or whatever you want to call it, trying to realize where meaning comes from for us, the combination of our intelligence with an infinitely greater intelligence outside ourselves.
AJ: This is where, with my current obsession, I'm fascinated by metaphors. The kind of example you're giving now. Some months ago Gorbachev in his long dialog with Yeltsin came up with compromised proposals for the Soviet Union. Yeltsin came back and said, "These compromise proposals are like the marriage between a hedgehog and a snake." All the efforts of Gorbachev's bright guys, articulated in hundreds of pages, were completely undermined by this one metaphor.
SK: But that was arranged by a committee, the hundred pages, not by an individual.
AJ: But what's intriguing is you can then continue to discuss the project in terms of the metaphor. What Yeltsin is getting at, that hedgehogs and snakes should marry, appears ridiculous. You can say that Yeltsin is distorting and manipulating the truth in a manipulative metaphor. Hedgehogs and snakes don't need to marry. They have never needed to marry. All they needed to be able to do is to share overlapping eco-systems!
Exposed in those terms, then the question is how can such a compromise be implemented through overlapping eco-systems. Then you are blocking off the manipulative counter attack and giving better and more fruitful space to Gorbachev. That is a very simple example of a way in which one can achieve a working understanding without wasting tremendous resources and energies on the inconsequential.
SK: That is beautiful, it is really leading to something because there is always a three-fold process in any fruitful relationship. After you've expanded your own intelligence, after you've contemplated possibilities of intelligence beyond the conflict of the moment, the third part is to see if that has opened up something of a higher meaning. We need to deepen the appreciation of insights involved in that third part, which is what it's all about, and the possibilities that metaphor may open up a 'bridge' to accomplish just that. But, isn't there always the danger of superficial metaphors that encourage beliefs that no longer serve a purpose?
AJ: There is a very important distinction that needs to be made. Metaphors at this point in time have a fairly bad press. Their study tends to be confined to the literary domain in the (English) literature departments, which have developed a monopoly on the use of metaphors as a way of explaining poetry and the like. But I make a distinction between the ephemeral use of metaphor for illustrative purposes. This can be a rather superficial metaphor and what is more interesting, namely what I would call an "extended" metaphor. Where you use a metaphor as a kind of language to articulate over a longer period time your relationship in some domain. One example of this is in the business world where frequent use is made of sporting and military metaphors; things like 'zapping the opposition', 'keeping the ball in play', 'targeting audiences' and the like. These are based on one kind of extended metaphor.
I would argue such a metaphoric language is of much greater significance. The question is, are the metaphors at that level much more complex, more rich, more effective in terms of the purpose we are talking about?
With respect to this whole argument there are about forty pages of notes in the Encyclopedia on such new uses of metaphor.
SK: What concerns me is that the work of the Encyclopedia doesn't reach the many people that could benefit from it, given its $400 price. AJ: This is a very careful pricing calculation on the part of the publisher. He is producing a high risk publication, calculating the possibility of selling a limited number of copies, without undertaking a costly marketing effort. But what the result is going to be is not clear.
I do sincerely believe that we are getting beyond the period where text is useful. As I was saying earlier about domains of influence, people only share text effectively amongst friends and peers. Beyond this extended family, complex text is really not read.
It is this which is pushing me onto metaphor. The next thing I would like to do will be much more focused on metaphor, will be much more succinct. Although I can articulate things in traditional text form till the cows come home, I don't think it serves any purpose other than clarifying my own ideas and those of colleagues with similar concerns.
SK: But, doesn't it help people who wish to make an effort beyond where they are.
AJ: But the people with the time to read are few and far between. I think one would be surprised. I read somewhere the average academic article is read by one person, other than the author and the proof reader.
SK: Horrors! But, Lets talk a bit about this world of the metaphor.
AJ: I have four candidates at this time for transformative metaphors.
One is that resonant hybrid which I attached your name to in the last edition (yhe book, Systematics- Search for Miraculous Management by Saul Kuchinsky, pp. 136 - 139 describe a resonant organization along non-classical organization lines). We could talk about that.
Another one is traffic. Traffic as a metaphor. Now why is traffic interesting. Because at the level of traffic. outside in the street, everybody knows about it. Everybody has a sort of neuromuscular response to traffic. You know within the rules of traffic, how to handle people coming from the opposite direction. How to handle people crossing over. We have stop lights, we have underpasses, overpasses, a whole familiar array.
To a very high degree, we've solved the problems of conflictual geometry. We've solved the problem of people (and streams of people) with different destination agendas and travel modes.
At the social level, we have in no way solved the problems of conflicting agendas. Someone coming from the opposite direction trying to cross over - we haven't a clue. Yet all of the clues are in traffic. We know the value of a stop light. You are going to stop here to let pass those with a different travel agenda. I may have to wait thirty seconds or three minutes; that depends on the kind of road I'm on, but I have the understanding that it is reasonably fair that I should wait two or three minutes while the others go by.
By contrast we don't have a clue at the social level. So I think there's an immense amount of wisdom built into our neuromuscular understanding of traffic rules which could be applied at the social level for handling of conflicting agendas.
SK: You've always expressed very well the limitations of the United Nations and how the Member States come with different agendas. It appears that what has just happened (in the Gulf War) is that there was an emergency, or metaphors made people realize there was an emergency.
All of a sudden the traffic was organized very effectively, very quickly, such as the world has never seen. And, without even people necessarily changing themselves that much. But will that lead to something substantially different?
AJ: I think the Gulf War is a whole other conversation. It is worth noting that George Lakoff, in December 1990, analyzed the Gulf crisis in terms of the metaphors in play. Notably he argues that "metaphors can kill". And they did.
SK: An obvious threat to survival?
AJ: Right. The interesting thing about the traffic metaphor is that it is infinitely complex. I mean just the number of highways and side roads, and things happening. At the social level there are major agendas corresponding to highways, and minor agendas corresponding to suburban traffic and the like.
In traffic, all this is articulated and woven together in a way that everybody finds quite acceptable. At the social level, we haven't a clue. The social level is a bit like the traffic rules in Egypt and India. Most of the people don't even need to know which side of the road to drive.
AJ: So that's the metaphor of traffic. The other one, a very nice one, is the ecological metaphor. This is the one which is naturally attractive to the green movement, specifically the green movement of Germany. These are the people who supposedly do understand, at a very profound level, the sophistications of ecosystems: interactive species within food chains, ecosystem integration- all of this.
And yet the green movement is savagely divided and broken up into factions which interact in a very primitive, almost mechanical way. And my argument is, why doesn't the green movement heal itself by using it's eco-systemic insights to recognize that its factions are rather like different species which have different needs and interact to a different degree under different conditions.
So they have the metaphoric tool to heal the wounds from which they suffer, but do not make any use of it.
SK: But do they really know enough? The only example I know of, approaching that, is Biosphere 2, where they are trying to set up an ecosystem that is self-sufficient.
AJ: But you see, the green movement is always focussing on the environment and they never use the sophistication of their focus to articulate in a richer way the manner in which they are organized. Their central interaction is very primitive, although their understanding of ecosystems is very sophisticated.
I was just talking with a someone in North Carolina, who produces a newsletter on environmental issues, about the green movement He said, "I wouldn't have anything to do with the movement. These guys are so idealistic and unrealistic, they spend too much time 'navel gazing' and are concerned with unrealistic concepts of democracy and consensus". I would argue that they are not using the insights they have.
SK: But it takes great understanding to use the insights of the biosphere. And people who are in that field haven't yet reached that understanding. I don't know whether Biosphere 2 is an example of something significant or not, but they are trying to, at least, reproduce that understanding of everything that is in there feeding on everything else.
AJ: But they are doing that with respect to the natural environment, not with respect to the social or psychological environment.
SK: Aha! Now you've made your point. Okay!
AJ: They could build on a rich understanding of what's happening in the natural environment It may not be complete. But they have that rich understanding.
SK: How do we translate that to the understanding of the social environment.
AJ: So, let us consider one faction of the greens over there which has established negative relationships with this faction over here and with this other faction over here. Doesn't it seem that these could be usefully viewed as different species?
SK: (laughing) That's right
AJ: What are these species saying to each other? What are the niches in which they need to function? What are the points in which these species compete? Where are the agreements in which there are symbiotic relations? This is a much, much richer way of approaching this.
SK: Are you excluding the oil companies (and their customers) from that social problem?
AJ: Yes, in the case of that particular example which I was treating as internal to the green movement But I would say that the greens should extend the metaphor, in fact that would be the most devious thing they could do. They could extend it to include the oil companies. Because then they would be renaming the whole issue in a totally different way. That was the focus of my article on, "Re- contextualizing Social Problems."
Then there is the fourth metaphor that I like, which I may have discussed with you before, it's the notion of 'crop rotation'. My argument on crop rotation is that, peasant fanners around the world recognize that it is extremely stupid to plant Crop 'A' in a field year after year after year. The soil rapidly deteriorates. The procedure is not viable.
So what they do after one or two years is to plant Crop 'B' in the same field. This remedies the soil condition. But Crop 'B' will not necessarily bring the field back to the initial condition. They may need to plant Crop 'C' after that. Then they have a cycle of crops in order to insure that the field maintains its productive capacity. This is very clear in an agricultural environment.
I would argue at the policy level, a similar approach is required. We tend to make the mistake of assuming one can implement a single policy in an organization until the end of time. We need to recognize that after, one or two years we are going to a need to shift to another policy which will remedy the defects of the first policy. And thereafter we may need a third policy to remedy the defects of the first two. And, thus you achieve a cycle which will assure the sustainable growth of the corporation or of the community or whatever.
We obviously have an understanding of this in the notion of a democratic process. In a one party system there is one set of policies with questionable sustainability. In a multiparty system, people eventually get tired of any one set of policies because they realize that they are not adequate. They switch to the policies of another party. But this is a very chaotic approach. There is no sense of why the transition takes place.
SK: That metaphor is almost too obvious for me, in the sense that many successful businesses have done that for years where they will favor the financial group, then the engineering group, then the manufacturing group and so on. But I wish I could see that in the context of their all effectively participating.
AJ: I wouldn't use the example that you've given. I would give the example rather of centralization. Periodically young tigers in corporations have this "brilliant" idea of decentralizing instead of centralizing. Decentralization then becomes a way of getting rid of old tigers identified with an earlier "brilliant" phase of centralization. The whole phase of centralization is recognized as creating as many problems as it is trying to solve. So the new brand of young 'tigers' come along and say, "We'd better decentralize". This then seems to be a major breakthrough.
My point is we don't need to keep waiting for young tigers, and all the catastrophes associated with that process. We need to plan on cycles of policies, to phase the centralization, to phase the decentralization.
SK: I may be making a little contact there. It seems that the world is going in a direction where you have to establish small groups to spontaneously become an organism in front of a specific (new) problem. Then you recognize the problem has changed, and you form another spontaneous group and it may even have different people and certainly face different situations. Now, that I can relate too. But, I don't think people have recognized that we have that capability of spontaneously becoming different organisms.
AJ: Right, right. What I'm trying to emphasize is the notion of interrelating seemingly contradictory policies: centralization vs decentralization. And the alternation between two modes. Each has strengths and weaknesses. My point would be that no policy is a good policy. Policies are just good for a certain period of time and they all have negative byproducts, which need to be corrected by a subsequent policy. So you need to think in terms of a cycle of policies to keep the institution or the community growing appropriately.
Sort of like 4-seasons weather. What does weather do to a garden?
SK: Somehow the real policy changes that are significant, that come about through great people, through great leaders, they have somehow had an insight or made a connection as Ted Matchett would say with something beyond themselves. Is there any where in your metaphor system for recognition of the fact that the human itself isn't the end of all things. For in the end that is from where the strength of the metaphor seems to come.
AJ: I have no problem with that. I think the last metaphor I was giving you is moving in that direction. It is showing that nothing is eternally appropriate. That all the forms that we can conceive are individually inappropriate and our only way to transcend that inappropriateness is to shift between different forais.
The question that intrigues me from a quality point of view is, how do we design policy cycles? What does that mean to design policy cycles? Normally all the effort goes into designing isolated "eternal" policies. Not into designing a policy cycle. A policy is designed because it's assumed to be perfect or is the best compromise. A policy cycle is a cycle of essentially "imperfect" phases which together define a form of "perfection".
SK: But you still don't wish to have a fixed policy change?
AJ: No, but you need to know that this policy we're implementing is going to mess up things in this particular way. So we're going to have to have a complementary policy to remedy that. When that should come into action is another matter.
So, those are the four groups of metaphor that currently intrigue me. There is the resonance hybrid, the traffic, the ecological one, and the crop rotation / policy cycle metaphor. These are articulated in the Encyclopedia.
Once your mind is triggered by metaphor, you see how metaphor is springing up spontaneously in every domain, whether the arts, the sciences, or philosophies. People are even including "metaphor" in the titles, sub-titles, chapters of books, and articles these days. My argument is that we are collectively realizing that metaphor offers a way to transcend the cognitive limitations we face.
SK: Hopefully "Bridging Worlds" is a metaphor (laughter)
AJ: Absolutely. And, very much so.
SK: Tell me a little about the Union of International Associations.
AJ: Basically the one line response is that it is a clearing house for information on international organiza- tions, whether from the UN, Amnesty, the Boy Scouts, Red Cross, philosophical, scientific or other bodies.
SK: Is it sponsored?
AJ: It's not sponsored. We're one of those organizations which stands strictly on its own feet, we're totally independent. It was created in 1910 and we survive by processing information. Our feet are solidly on the ground in terms of responding to the economics of the environment in which we function. We are in the information business as a non- profit organization. We're not in it to make money. We are in it to use our funds to push agendas which we consider appropriate. For example, the main thing generated is reference material on international organizations. But we use those funds to produce, for example, the Encyclopedia, which is not designed to make any money for us but to push an agenda.
SK: How big a staff do you have?
AJ: Depend on the projects, between about 15 to 20.
SK: Its amazing that you can turn that out with less than one hundred and fifty.
AJ: Well, it's a very high tech in one sense. The whole operation is woven together by computer systems.
SK: Are you sponsored by the United Nations or governments?
AJ: The rale of the game these days is that once a project becomes international there's very little money available. Once the project becomes inter-disciplinary there's very little money available. Once the project becomes multi-cultural there's very little money available, and once it crosses ideological lines there's very little money available. Now if its international, inter-ideological, intercultural and all the rest of it, there is zero money.
SK: (Laughing) There is no money at all! That's amazing, and yet you do have a product, and you almost don't want to make it more available, because you're so busy doing what you're doing. 1 always have felt that a commercial group could come out with several volumes that would be highly profitable by publishing sections of the Encyclopedia, i.e. those on the various facets of human wisdom described in ways not available elsewhere.
AJ: One response to that is our marketing is done through a regular commercial group, one of the biggest publishers of international reference works.
SK: They are publishing reference books.
AJ: Basically the kind of information we produce has a well-defined but narrow appeal in widely distributed areas. So it's very difficult to market. It doesn't lend itself to regular marketing techniques.
SK: I should understand that with the journals UniS has put out and even this program of "Bridging Worlds."
AJ: It's a very fair point and is one reason which pushes me into metaphor because I'm not convinced it's possible to market the kinds of material we're talking about even by successfully reaching the kinds of people who would like to read it. I have good friends who have three feet of documents on their desk that are waiting to be read. We're all in that situation.
SK: Which is why I limited the publication of the Newsletter to creative briefs and people have to make the extra effort to look at the computer disk or the computer printout to get their own meaning.
AJ: I thing that is wise. But my personal agenda at this point in time are the seductive metaphors which are so powerful, just like rumors, or good jokes, or even dirty jokes, that travel without marketing. They are sort of "auto-marketed".
SK: The late Bahgwan Rajneesh added humor and 'dirty' jokes, to his ability to challenge conditioned understanding, attracting hundreds of thousands of restless young seekers. It worked very well for him.
But, lets get into one other important area. This area of culture, especially in the United States where now anyone of us can access fifty TV programs of the most horrendous horror, sex things, cultural ideas that are coming from "Madonna" who does the most outrageous things imaginable, and other entertainers of sensationalism. This new area that has been labeled by philosophers as "Mêmes" that influences us as much as if they were alive, they become part of us. Now, can metaphors compete with that?
AJ: My whole point is, you're assuming that I'm trying to form something. What I'm saying however is the metaphors are already taking over. What you have just described, Madonna, is all about metaphors and the creation of meaning. And the problem is that we're not sensitive to exactly what's being done to us. So, we're being trapped by other people's metaphors, by the horror, and Madonna, the punk, and all that sort of thing.
But the particular kinds of metaphor by which we're entrapped all influence us. I think that canny people create metaphors. The punk approach is a very good example of this. They have designed metaphors to reconfigure their cognitive environment They have created an environment for themselves. It is very powerful, very successful, giving them a way to live in a wider environment from which they find themselves alienated.
SK: There's a parallel here with Tony Blake's work on, The Reading of Experience where he describes terrorism as people who haven't gone far enough in the reading of their experience. They see all of the terrible things they can justify being against, and they can't go deeper, so they just revert to violence.
AJ: One fantasy I have, which I put in a paper, is what I call "metaphoric revolution". I think that these days it's not necessary that a particular idea appeals to a wide audience. I would suggest that at the cognitive level, we're a bit like where we were in the sixties, where kids just put a back pack on and went off to India. I think we're at the point now where people are sort of putting conceptual back packs on themselves, and their off to distant realities - a kind of conceptual Diaspora. They just migrate, they're gone. Different groups are just migrating conceptually. And they feel no need to relate back to their home territory.
What's intriguing about that is the freedom to do so, should you so wish. You can cultivate a conceptual environment which allows you to make a leap. And, I think people are going to have to do this to survive.
SK: Is there some coming back though, in a different form?
AJ: There are various metaphors and traditions associated with 'the coming back.' The whole notion of Diaspora and whether a return is possible in any form is an intriguing one. Science fiction authors explore this notion of people leaving the planet earth and exploring the distant galaxies, eventually losing contact with any memory of where they come from.
SK: To me the powerful metaphor there would be the essential meaning that keeps changing. The difficulties of worshiping in any religion without disparaging other religions. Christians trying to guess how Christ would be for their time and what he would do now.
The worst thing is thinking we can and must act as in ways that may have been appropriate and possible at a previous time in a different environment of need--not being able to separate the eternal metaphors from the one's that turn out to be self-seeking and limiting.
AJ: A well known feminist theologian. Professor Sallie McFague of Vanderbilt University's Divinity School has a book out on Metaphorical Theology. Her argument is that we're trapped by the patriarchal metaphor and there is merit in exploring other metaphors through which to perceive the relationship to God: God the Mother, God the brother, God the Lover, God the friend, God the 'whatever'. A very insightful person.
SK: Yes, our most outspoken theologists are addressing how even the meaning of God is changing.
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