As one of my history teachers once stated, the more unstable a culture or institution, the more conservative it becomes. In an age where people are holding on for dear life, where people are filled with the fear of impending destruction of all that is familiar and dear to them, it is no surprise to find so much resistance, so many clenched fists. People clench ever more tightly to old familiar ways and fight what they do not understand.
Every human institution in existence today, whether political, social, scientific or religious, perceives a change of understanding as a threat. We in the Western world are experiencing nothing short of a crisis of belief.
Biologists Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan have discovered that the earth’s ability to evolve came about via constant mutual cooperation and networking, not by warfare. This suggests then, that survival came within the context of, and is dependent upon, community. The point at which the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts is emergence.
Margulis pointed out that the first cell came from indistinguishable bacteria that through cooperative efforts brought us the first cell. Unlike the bacteria, the cell that emerged was capable of sexuality, birth, and death, Emergence is the result of a gathering of individuals that enter into restricted or limited relationship with one another in such a way that a further function is accomplished. Emergence is the unfolding of the simple to the complex in response to an existing need for further function. Emergence seems to happen “in the dark,” unobserved, until resonating with a pattern or quality of relationship, the quantum leap occurs. There is no going back, as we lose what we gained. Nor can we logically look back upon the process of emerging properties and articulate exactly what was the cause or how it happened. Nor can we look forward to predict what is yet to emerge. The only thing we can predict is that there will continue to be times when individual, generally indistinguishable, characteristics will bond together in certain communal relationships that, unseen and without warning, will leap or emerge into a new, more complex form of being. And we do know that there will be recognizable patterns to this unfolding.
Emergence is not easy and not to be experienced without effort. The effort comes not in force or power, not in working harder, but in working differently, in finding resonance. It is not an easy task to face our fears, or recognize our limitations, and to trust each other’s unique chaotic paths. It is not easy to remember to communicate information, value relationshiop over control, and to keep the vision.
Much of this effort is accomplished on faith, in the obscurity of the moment, in response to a need, in a way that resonates somehow deep in our beings. Not until we truly see our limitations, and acknowledge our needs, can we open the way to solving our dilemmas. In the very act of recognizing our limitations, a new truth emerges. The problem is that it is almost impossible to acknowledge our shortcomings when we have no hope, no faith. Courage, or faith, or imagination—the daring to dream, in the full awareness of our shortcomings—is crucial to the emergence of community.
Arthur Zajonc, a physicist committed to a prophetic vision, has stated: “If we would create the capacities for understanding our future, then we must dwell in the tensions, the paradoxes, the annoying anomalies of our time.”
We dare not minimize, avoid, cover over, or anesthetize ourselves. Zajonc again, “On nearly every front we are being called on to re-imagine the world we inhabit. It simply awaits an act of courage for us to begin, and patient perseverance for us to succeed in the self-conscious education now in our hands.”
Like the Cloudhand, a Tai Ji move similar to the non-linear chaotic Lorenz attractor—a pattern of endless possibilities emerges before us. The world is alive with people living their unfolding, most of whom will never be noticed by any historian, newspaper, or institution. These people resonate with a calling forth beyond themselves in response to a need that they dare to acknowledge. They are the future, practicing the Cloudhand dance. May each of us be equally as bold.