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20th December 2009 | Draft

Cognitive Cycles Vital to Sustainable Self-Governance

The Lord of the Rings as an emergent integrative dynamic

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Part 1: The Gaussian Copula, the Kaya Identity, and what else?
-- Introduction
-- Gaussian Copula: investment risk
-- Kaya Identity: emissions
-- Sustainability metric
-- Other fundamental "metrics"?
-- Secret formulae?
-- Metrics: a measure other than human?
Part 2: Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges
-- Metrics with a "human face"?
-- Neglected geometric "metrics"
-- Mythopoeic insights of relevance?
-- Cognitive drama of the disciplines
-- Human remedial capacity: a ninefold challenge?
Part 3: Cognitive Cycles Vital to Sustainable Self-Governance
-- Cognitive unsustainability
-- Embodiment: how "one" engages with reality
-- Interweaving singular metrics
-- Emergent integrity of a configuration of cognitive cycles -- a "Lord of the Rings"

Part 3 of Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics (2009)

Cognitive unsustainability

Cyclic irrelevance: It is precisely the subunderstanding associated with pursuit of a single way of knowing that transforms the "knower" into a cognitive "wraith" in Tolkien's terminology. Those in possession of such singular knowledge are "doomed to die" in the words of the poem above (in Part 2) -- effectively to lose the immortality conferred upon them by that knowledge.

As noted in framing the Integrative Knowledge Project, the inadequacy and natural limitations of specialized approaches are poorly recognized -- although is however increasingly recognized that it is both inefficient and inadequate to organize research or action programmes as though nature were organized into disciplinary sectors in the same way that universities are.

How, asks Russell Ackoff (1960), is a practitioner of any one discipline to know in a particular case whether another discipline is better equipped to handle the problem than is his? It would be rare indeed if a representative of one of the many disciplines in some way related to the problem in question did not feel that his particular approach to that problem would be very fruitful, if not the most fruitful.

This tendency is also institutionalized, as noted by Hasan Ozbekhan (1969): "This almost subconsciously motivated attempt, that of a sector to expand over the whole space of the system in its own particular terms and in accordance with its own particular outlooks and traditions, compounds the problem by further fragmenting the wholeness of the system. For sectors cannot become systems, they can only dominate them; and when they do they warp them."

On the same point, Ackoff notes (1960): "...few of the problems that arise can adequately be handled within any one discipline. Such systems are not fundamentally mechanical, chemical, biological, psychological, social, economic, political, or ethical. These are merely different ways of looking at such systems. Complete understanding of such systems requires an integration of these perspectives. By integration I do not mean a synthesis of results obtained by independently conducted undisciplinary studies, but rather results obtained from studies in the process of which disciplinary perspectives have been synthesized. The integration must come during, not after, the performance of the research." 

This predictable death in time constitutes a valuable reminder of the "cognitive unsustainability" of any particular mode of knowing -- of any single-factor explanation. Its apparent appropriateness to any given challenge must eventually fade. It effectively falls victim to a generic variant of the incompleteness theorems of Kurt Gödel. The emphasis of Edward de Bono, on the need to shift between modes of knowing, offers a contextual insight into the nature of transdisciplinary insight (Six Thinking Hats, 1985; Six Action Shoes, 1991). This dynamic has been explored elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002).

Intelligence and learning: However, as "ways of knowing", these might be understood as "intelligences" -- in the light of the theory of multiple intelligences, initially developed by Howard Gardner (Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, 1999). This set variously includes (or excludes): bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal, visual-spatial, musical, naturalistic, spiritual, existential, and moral intelligence. Each might be understood as a distinct form of "metric" -- a way of assessing the world and defining a worldview.

Another approach is to consider these modalities as patterns of learning which lend themselves to being "bound together" through a higher form of ordering, as explored separately (Towards a Periodic Table of Ways of Knowing -- in the light of metaphors of mathematics, 2009; Periodic Pattern of Human Life: the Periodic Table as a metaphor of lifelong learning, 2009; Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive: necessary complement to proliferation of hypermedia in hypersociety, 2005).

Psychosocial hazard: The drama of The Lord of the Rings emphasizes essential danger -- a significance typically drained from any single metric, no matter the indicator. As noted above, it is therefore fruitful to recognize the nature of psychosocial hazard undermining any fruitful assessment of risk (Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard: development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials, 2009)

Embodiment: how "one" engages with reality

The following discussion uses Tolkien's "rings" and "ring bearers" as metaphors in the light of the interaction between the following arguments:

Any pejorative judgements on the dramatis personae (above) are then to be understood as applied to projections and externalizations of the "one" -- as carried by those roles in society.

Cognitive "engagement rings": Tolkien's rings might be fruitfully understood as modes of quasi-sustainable cognitive engagement with reality. Their significance is most readily understood through the psychosocial significance associated with rings and circlets as discussed separately (Engaging with Globality through Cognitive Circlets: Learning/Action cycles, 2009; Designing Cultural Rosaries and Meaning Malas to Sustain Associations within the Pattern that Connects, 2000).

Related insights of potential relevance are associated with:

Tom Flanagan "makes the point" (private communication) that points are like "nouns" and holes like "verbs", with all nouns as idealized objects, leading to recognition that nouns are effectively contemporary myths, whereas verbs are more concrete: So ... if I look closely at any point, it becomes a hole.  Every noun becomes a verb.  It is only through a noun's capacity to evoke verb-ness that a noun enters the world for me.

In theological terms, such considerations "point" to the possibility of other metaphors through which to engage cognitively with "deity", as argued by Sallie McFague (Metaphorical Theology: models of God in religious language, 1982; Models of God: theology for an ecological, nuclear age, 1987). Imagining deity as a noun might even be seen as a fundamental trap to any meaningful interaction between science and spirituality, as implied from various perspectives (R. Buckminster Fuller, God is a Verb, Whole Earth Catalog, Fall 1968; David A. Cooper, God Is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism, 1998).

In response to Tom Flanagan, Peter Jones (private communication) draws attention to the ways in which nouns are "translated" into verbs in order to communicate across disciplinary boundaries, notably as developed by Brenda Dervin (Verbing Communication: mandate for disciplinary invention,  Journal of Communication, 43, 1993, 3, pp. 45-54) as part of a Sense-Making Methodology. Sensemaking across disciplines is understood as breaking down when people adhere to their interpretation of the meaning of nouns -- they objectify and factualize. Translate to "verbings" enables people to agree about what is being performed in an activity. An approach to "globality" through sense-making is a feature of the Global Sensemaking group dedicated to helping humanity address complex, interrelated global problems. With the myth of The Lord of the Rings, this might be said to be the polysensorial challenge of the Fellowship of the Ring (Strategic Challenge of Polysensorial Knowledge: bringing the "elephant" into "focus", 2008; Polysensorial pattern-breaking, 2009).

Understood dynamically, the metaphor of a cognitive "engagement ring" is especially relevant to reframing personal identity as a cyclic dynamic in its own right appropriate to the challenge of a turbulent environment (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007).

Ringwraiths, whirlwinds and twisters
Inherently, a whirlwind does not last through the morning.
A sudden storm does not last through the day.
What makes these? The cosmos.
If the cosmos cannot make even these winds endure,
How much more is it the case for human windiness?
(Laozi: Tao Te Ching on the Art of Harmony,
from chapter 23, Walking together in a Way,
as translated by Chad Hansen, 2009)

The strategic implications of the seeming coherence offered by "human windiness" are especially relevant at the time of writing in the preoccupation with global warming and the surprising collapse of the global financial system. In both cases meteorological metaphors have been used to frame the processes. Both are notable for the amount of "hot air" to which they have given rise -- suggesting the value of greater attention to their cognitive and strategic implications (Globallooning -- Strategic Inflation of Expectations and Inconsequential Drift, 2009; Conversion of Global Hot Air Emissions to Music: aesthetic transformation and instrumentalization of vaporware, 2009).

"Union" vs "Metrification": The argument above endeavours to highlight the challenges of "harmonization" through "metrification" -- as is typical of many approaches to governance in search of a "silver bullet". At the same time, the multiplicity of single metrics -- each aspiring to be a Theory of Everything -- stimulates the quest for the "One Ring to rule them all"

The challenge of the "union" offered by the "One Ring" would appear to lie in the manner whereby it transcends and reframes such an enterprise -- calling for insight that is both "out of the ring" and "out of the box" (Dynamic Reframing of "Union": implications for the coherence of knowledge, social organization and personal identity, 2007). This is well-illustrated by the simplistic understandings of "union" and "agreement" which pervade global strategic discourse and the outcomes sought -- recently evident in the frustrations of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (2009).

Specifically the challenge would seem to call for a transcendence of simplistic polarized value systems and of the manner in which the "knower" as the "one" engages integratively with "known" reality. This is most evident in the unquestioning commitment to "positive" and the unquestioning rejection of "negative" -- despite the fact that no feedback systems can function without both, nor can light be generated. (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005).

There is therefore a case for engaging in an exploration of the implications of the reminder of the final phrase of the the core poem of The Lord of the Rings:

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Darkness where the shadows lie: Clearly reference to "darkness" is exceptionally challenging for those committed to the "positive" -- although many epic dramas achieve enlightening insight and significance through the encounter with that quality. The reference to "shadows" is vital to many psychotherapeutic insights, including the fact that they may indeed "lie". Failure to encounter the "shadow" appropriately, especially one's own, results in its qualities being projected onto others -- as is now so evident in the post-Copehagen blame game regarding climate change, and as was so evident following the global financial crash of 2008.

As a psychologist, Robert Romanyshyn (Psychology is Useless; Or, It Should Be, Janus Head, Fall 2000) endeavours to combine the traditions of phenomenology and depth psychology, particularly the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, notably in the light of the poet John Keats' famed "negative capability" -- "of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." (1817). It is indeed uncertainties which challenge current global strategic endeavour and the modes of thinking through which tragic suffering is faced, with only limited capability to respond effectively.

Romanyshyn explores Jung's concern late in his life at how much he had sacrificed for the sake of making his work acceptable, namely Jung's question, "Anyway why did it have to be the death of the poet?" (1975) failing appropriately to acknowledge that negative capability, lamenting the death of the poet that he was and was called to be in crafting a psychology in service to Soul and its aesthetic values. Romanyshyn notes the recognition of the extent to which the artist "lies in order to tell the truth". A degree of "lying" may be essential to the art of global governance (Emergence of a Global Misleadership Council: misleading as vital to governance of the future? 2007).

Ironically many would see the challenge of climate change, and other global issues, in relation to earlier lines in the poem:

One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie

On the other hand there is an elegant symmetry with the "Dark Lord", held to be the most wanted man on the globe (Engaging with Osama bin Laden in Swat, 2009).

It is tempting to associate the reference to "Mordor" with the binding function of mordants -- especially in the context of to "bind them" as applied to the set of "rings" as ways of knowing:

A mordant is a substance used to set dyes on fabrics or tissue sections by forming a coordination complex with the dye which then attaches to the fabric or tissue. It may be used for dyeing fabrics, or for intensifying stains in cell or tissue preparations. A mordant is always a polyvalent metal ion. The resulting coordination complex of dye and ion is colloidal and can be either acidic or alkaline.

Civilization has long been committed to "enlightenment" although, again ironically, this has obscured the insights available from the dark -- including any view of the stars (Enlightening Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension, 2005). of him. The descent to the underworld is a mytheme of comparative mythology found in the religions of the Ancient Near East up to and including Christianity. The process typically involves the death of a youthful life-death-rebirth deity, mourned and then recovered from the underworld by a consort or mother. Such a visit to the underworld, known as katabasis, has connotations in poetry, rhetoric, and modern psychology (where it may be associated with depression). In mythology most katabases refer to travel to the supernatural underworld.

Romanyshyn points to the learning from the Orphic myth that the "underworld" cannot be dragged into the "upper-world" of ego-intentions without losing something essential about that underworld (The Wounded Researcher: Research with Soul in Mind, 2007). Research therefore has the character of mourning the impossibility of fully realizing in consciousness what is, inevitably, transcendent to direct, unmediated knowing -- the unsayable and the unsaid. Given the challenge highlighted by John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995), the maturity required to navigate with incomplete understanding is relevant both individually and globally (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008; Unknown Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008; Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid": fFrom myth-making towards a "wisdom society", 2003).

Comprehending the "One Ring" through its embodiment: One of the most insightful efforts to clarify the stages of emergence -- beyond the oversimplification and subunderstanding of the insight into the "union" associated with the "One Ring" -- is that of the classic Zen Ten Ox Herding Pictures -- especially the 9th and 10th images. The relevance to global strategic development for humanity -- given any "shadow of humanity" -- is discussed separately (Progressive integration of the shadow of non-self-reflexivity, 2007). Such progressive emergence may also be understood through the variety of metaphors of "cognitive rebirth" (Varieties of Rebirth: distinguishing ways of being born again, 2004).

Such comprehension might then be understood as enabled by a kind of interference pattern of what Romanyshyn helpfully distinguishes as three complementary "sensibilities" (perhaps to be understood as "elven rings"?) in his discussion of The Imaginal World and Aesthetic Sensibility (Psychology is Useless; Or, It Should Be, Janus Head):

In this essay I have been exploring a difference between three ways of knowing and being. Keats' notion of negative capability is the abyss at whose edge the poet dwells, and where the psychologist as failed poet belongs. On one side of this abyss is the scientist with his or her facts and measurements. On the other, the philosopher with his or her reasons and ideas.

Poet, philosopher, scientist! This alignment is neither a hierarchy nor a value judgment. I speak of them as types, as different styles of presence, different attunements to the world, and different ways of saying what the world asks of us. They are different sensibilities, and it is this issue of sensibility, of how each type senses the world before he or she makes sense of it, which inspires this essay. The facts which negative capability eschews are generated by an empirical sensibility, and the reasons by a rational one. At the abyss, therefore, the poet, and the psychologist as failed poet, are concerned neither with facts nor reasons. At the abyss, poet, and psychologist as failed poet, are witnesses with an aesthetic sensibility for the moment. For the moment, and not for anything beyond it. For the sense of the moment, for sensing it, and not yet for making sense of it. For the moment in its presence and not yet for any explanation of it.

As discussed separately (Present Moment Research: exploration of nowness, 2001), of related interest is the initiative of Francisco Varela (in many papers) to give an explicitly naturalized account of present nowness based on two complementary approaches: phenomenological analysis and cognitive neuroscience. " (The Specious Present: a neurophenomenology of time consciousness, 1997). He provides a valuable review of Edmund Husserl's extensive philosophical studies of "intimate temporarility", noting Merleau-Ponty's concern that "Time is not a line but a network of intentionalities" (1945, p. 479). Varela presents a four-fold model of nowness based on flows and dynamical trends.

With respect to the argument above, Varela's representation of the phenomenological epoché may be fruitfully compared compared to two other representations as in the following table (from Present Moment Research: exploration of nowness, 2001).

Borromean rings
(notable for their topological implications)
Phenomenological epoché
(explored by Francisco Varela)
Traditional Celtic knot pattern
(and its associations to the mythopoeic of the megalithic period)
Celtic knot pattern

The relationship between the three cognitive "sensibilities" to which Romanyshyn refers -- those of the poet, the philosopher, and the scientist -- are then usefully understood as intertwined or entangled as suggested by these representations. Especially interesting is the sense in which any sense of a "ring" is then better understood as a dynamic or process "cycle" (see also discussions in Psychosocial Energy from Polarization within a Cyclic Pattern of Enantiodromia, 2007; Conditions of Objective, Subjective and Embodied Cognition: mnemonic systems for memetic coding of complexity, 2007).

Indicative visualizations of possible relations between the "nine" and the "one"
Nine modalities "threaded" together Nine interlocking modalities "chained" together
Nine modalities "threaded" together Nine interlocking modalities "chained" together
Nine modalities locked together and "touching" Nine modalities together "embodying" the one
Nine modalities locked together and "touching" Nine modalities together "embodying" the one

Interweaving singular metrics

Three interwoven rings: In the light of the cognitive challenge (discussed above) of reconciling aesthetics, philosophy and science, the simplest Borromean ring structure explored in knot-theoretic studies may be used to indicate the strategic challenge for global governance.

Interwoven singular metrics of current relevance to global governance
(adaptation of an illustration in Wikipedia from a 13th-century French manuscript
depicting the Christian Trinity, as reproduced in Didron's book Christian Iconography, 1843)
Interwoven singular metrics of current relevance to global governance

The diagram uses the Borromean ring structure to suggest both the complexity and the coherence of the relationship between three singular metrics of relevance to the challenges of global governance:

The circumferential ring in the diagram above is indicative of the challenge of the binary debate and the coherence to which "unitas" refers. Given the slippery dynamics of the debate (much evident in relation to climate change), the following much-cited text of Chinese culture merits attention -- in relation to the nature of any central pivot (as "Lord of the Rings"?):

Tao is obscured when men understand only one of a pair of opposites, or concentrate only on a partial aspect of being. Then clear expression also becomes muddled by mere word-play, affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest. Hence the wrangling of Confucians and Mohists; each denies what the other affirms, and affirms what the other denies. What use is this struggle to set up "No" against "Yes", and "Yes" against "No" ? Better to abandon this hopeless effort... The possible becomes impossible; the impossible becomes possible. Right turns into wrong and wrong into right - the f