Perceiving complexity (part 1)

Part of the series Perceiving complexity

This is the general part of this series, in which I write about how I see some aspects in the typical human mindset. The classical human thinking tends to be centered on the self that has the power to act in the world, to shape it according to his needs. With this power, the self has the confidence to create a structure of mental patterns that can develop a social human life through linguistic communication. I do this, I accomplish that, I decide to do some thing instead of some other thing, I have the power to organize my life.

This striving for power to make a difference in the environment opens the possibility to develop in your mind a spider web of patterns. And then, if you believe in yourself that you are really making a difference in the world, that you are giving meaning to your life through what you can accomplish, then there is a co-dependence and a need for constant reinforcement between the power that facilitates the development of these patterns and the fact that these patterns are simplistic representations of the raw reality.

The patterns are created through the power to affect the raw reality and they develop the impression of a meaningful world (simplistic nevertheless, these patterns can create for the self a wholesome impression of meaning in everything, with a copious help from the use of the classical human type of language, which is structurally geared to uphold such an impression). However, the passage of time shows that they are not such an accurate representation of the raw reality and the classical reaction is that power is necessary in some way or another to uphold the patternized perception of a meaningful world (whether as power to preserve the current structure or as power to reshape the structure).

Historically, it was the role of the men to live with this constant reinforcement between power and simplistic patterns, while the powerless women were on the sideline left to deal with the raw reality (the men themselves are for the women an unpredictable raw reality they cannot control, at least directly). Life was not so outrightly meaningful for them as it is for the men, they were for a long time precluded from this direct avenue of being in control of the situation.

The classical feminine mindset grew in the long human and prehuman history in a context of lack of power in taking decisions, of relying on men for orientation in life etc. For example, this song of the Uzbek singer Shahzoda, Ayrilamiz, follows the thoughts of a woman when she is about to leave the apartment for a date. Probably she sensed some uncertainties, however, she feels she is in no position to do something directly about it. Thoughts unfold in her mind about what might happen. First, she sees herself trapped in her nurturing impulses, which may make her lose track of the overall situation and may hurt her badly. She resolves that she will be nurturing, but she will also pay attention to the broad picture of the situation. But then another train of thoughts unfolds. She is afraid that his masculine impulses may take her by surprise, make her lose her composure and then the date would be ruined by the time spent until she is herself again. She resolves that she will pay attention to such impulses in order to catch her unfazed and weather them. Then still another train of thoughts. This time she sees herself arriving at the meeting place, only to see him with another woman. So in the end she decides not to go.

The lyrics are about how the steps she wants to take do not obey her will, how she has to open her eyes and look around as though nothing is visible. The official human mindset is that, if you have a problem, you are going to be proactive and do something about it. Well, historically, this was rather the masculine mindset. There was another point of view going under the radar, in which women did not have the prerogative to act directly and to make decisions. They still had to be proactive if they did not want to end up badly and what they could do was to pay attention to what might happen in contexts where they did not have the power to decide, thus noticing all kind of threads of possible developments of the situation.

The polarization between these two points of view may have had an essential role in the development of the human mental structures. These human mental structures are a world in itself, rather disconnected from the raw reality, with the raw reality seen as an environment destined to be shaped according to them. These structures are very schematic and the unknown left outside of them, in the classical human masculine mindset, is integrated through a fast-track recognition of already existing patterns. The classical feminine mindset had a role in introducing some level of awareness about the unknown left out of the schematic structures.

The women were not in a position to shape the raw reality according to these human mental structures, thus they really had to face it. The mental structures are not of much help in such a context, you have to open your eyes and, quoting the lyrics of the previous musical example, to look around as though nothing in visible. What is “visible” for a classical man is what he can see through the patterns of his mental structures. The lack of power to shape the raw reality according to the mental structures means that everything is chaos around you. Plus that women historically acted as cushions for the limitations the structures from the minds of the men have in the relation with the raw reality, by attenuating their inner fallacies and also by imbuing freshness to improve them.

One of the striking surprises I had when I realized the existence of the classical feminine point of view was the richness of accumulated experience in dealing with the raw reality and in the ways the mental structures relate to it. In the song Habeit Ya Leil of the Lebanese singer Nawal El Zoghbi, you can see how the tables are turned, the woman is comfortable with the plurality of possibilities of the raw reality and acts according to them. This overwhelms the man who only follows the track of thoughts of his mental structures. These structures are supposed to shape and master the raw reality, but they cannot cope with the expressivity of the woman (which makes the man notice all kind of unexpected aspects of the raw reality beyond the spider web of his mental structures). The man is lost, he cannot master that. This training in paying attention to what is unexpected, to what is unknown in the raw reality can have its advantages.

The video also shows the classical human female condition, the way the singer has a plurality of mental threads of expressivity and the way these threads are watching in cinema seats how they are projected in the world of the mental structures. Their use of the mental structures is not to employ them to directly shape the raw reality, but rather to pay attention to how her images are projected in the world of these structures. The fact that her raw reality threads can watch in a detached manner these projections enable possibilities to work with the mental structures as… mental structures (not mistaking them for being real, as the official human mindset does). On the other hand, the fact that they only watch shows how his feminine point of view is seen by women themselves as something marginal to the world of human classical mental structures. The women themselves believe in the feeling of “reality” created by the mental structures. So, on the one hand, they see them as just mental structures (but this is only a marginal, informal point of view in their mindset), while, on the other hand, they take them seriously, as if these mental structures were real, the women still rely on the meaning and the social life created by the mental structures.

The official meaningful world as seen from the perspective of a classical man is like a celestial body around whom all the other celestial bodies are revolving, something like the pre-modern geocentric model, in which people believed that all the other celestial bodies revolve around the Earth. Obviously, not all men are leaders in real life, but if they live under some public authority that provides such a geocentric meaningful world, they identify with it, party delegating the central role to the public authority which gives meaning to their lives, partly exerting the central role themselves in their personal lives and behaving like little emperors in their own space.

However, the real life relation between the meaningful world of mental patterns and the raw reality looks rather like the relation between Earth and the Moon. Here the raw reality is the Earth and the meaningful world of mental patterns is the Moon. The Moon is a tidally locked satellite, meaning that in its rotation it always shows the same side towards the Earth (the other side of the Moon is never seen from the Earth). Someone sitting on the Moon’s side facing the Earth sees our planet staying in about the same place in the sky, only with a bit of periodic tilting and closing/distancing from the Moon. If you want to see the Earth in a different place in the sky, you have to move yourself on the Moon. You can get closer to the center of the side facing the Earth to see it right up in the middle of the sky, or you can go in whatever direction towards the other side to experience an earthset. Conversely, when you come from the other side, you see an earthrise (a video of an earthrise, accomplished by moving from the side invisible from the Earth to the side facing the Earth). An earthrise or an earthset does not suppose waiting for a regular time lapse, it is a matter of your personal decision to experience it when and where you want in the area between the two sides of the Moon. Something like the sense of personal power to create meaning in your life.

Someone sitting on the Moon is like a person who believes in the meaningful world created by the spider web of patterns and structures in his mind. He watches the sky, all the celestial bodies appear to revolve around the Moon, he believes that all of them really revolve, that the Moon is the center of the Universe. Only the Earth is sitting still in about the same place and it stands out through its size and appearance. The blue color of the oceans stands out, but it has also white towards its upper and lower extremities, while the land above the sea level has its own variety of nuances.

Quite a fascinating thing to watch, especially when compared to the simplistic and barren landscape on the Moon. It also has some dynamics, you can see local blankets of clouds appearing, they move in whatever directions, only to dissipate after a while. And most intriguing is that the Earth keeps revolving around itself, showing you regularly all the surface of its sphere, while the visibility of its surface regularly waxes and wanes (a video of the Earth, as seen from the Moon revolving around its own axis). When this side of the Moon is in the light of the Sun, the Earth goes dark, when the Sun is going beyond horizon, the Earth is illuminated.

The Earth is like the raw reality that still sticks out amid that “meaningful world” one creates in his mind through the power of some practical control of the environment. In his imagination all the other celestial bodies are revolving around him, they have a simplistic, schematic look, similar to the landscape on the Moon, only this big Earth just sits there, with all its abundance of nuances, information and dynamism. It is by far the main center of attention, but this abundance poses continuous challenges to the mental structures of the Moonie guy. It is like the continuous challenge posed by the raw reality to the “meaningful world” of structures and patterns in the classical human mind.

The sometimes fascinating, sometimes sore presence of the Earth continuously puts pressure on the overall meaning of the spider web in the the human mind. And, the same as in this allegory, he is still under impression he can deal with it, as he feels like he has the power to relate with that Earth as he sees fit. If he wants to see the Earth more to the right, he simply goes to the left. If he does not want to see it at all, he simply goes to the other side of the Moon.

The guy on the Moon will eventually go to the Earth to organize things there, there are lots of things to do and satisfactions to get there. However, he keeps the Moon point of view, as the Earth by itself, with all that dynamism (or “informational mess”, as he would perceive it), does not make sense to him. His preferred place to live remains the Moon and, after some action on Earth, he always like to return to his real home on the Moon.

This Earth-Moon allegory is very appropriate because it also reflects another essential aspect of the classical human mind. When humans are confronted with some glaring aspects that challenge the validity of structures and patterns in their current “meaningful world”, many times they choose to not face directly the raw reality. They seek to find some respite from its complexity in order to try to figure out what to do to stay coherent and/or to outrightly manipulate its perception. In this allegory, it is analogous to a person who, when challenged by what the Earth shows, chooses to go to the other side of the Moon. Here, he is out of the sight of that pesky Earth and he can think about things on Earth as he sees fit.

The fact is that the previously mentioned reciprocal reinforcement between power and simplistic mental structures is sustainable up to a point. They eventually reach a point when the discrepancy between them and the raw reality is too glaring, the accumulated scaffolding of mental structures shows too serious and inconvenient inadvertences. In such moments, a quick way out of the problem is to go to the other side of the Moon and work on something there.

Once on the other side, out of the view of the Earth, the Moon guy can struggle to understand the glaring aspects challenging his current “meaningful world” structure (but he likely does this within the spider web of his current “meaningful world” structure, he does not really face the raw reality and hence it is not easy for him to reach a good understanding of the situation). Or he can simply reinforce the part of his worldview damaged by the contact with the raw reality in a way that ignores the sore issue posed by the latter. Or, very often, some combination of both.

He is inclined to do this because the whole concept of the “meaningful world” is based on organizing the world and asserting personal interest through personal power, which is further strengthened by the way the classical use of the human languages gives a strong impression that a “meaningful world” of simplistic patterns unquestionably exists. It creates the mindset of a “meaningful world first” policy. The consequence of this mindset is a serious lack of respect for the raw reality. This strong belief in the existence of a meaningful world tends to push people to defend the spider webs in their mind even when there are glaring discrepancies in relation to the “messy” raw reality.

The guy then returns to the side of the Moon facing the Earth, he travels to the Earth when needed, but, because the lack of respect for the raw reality on Earth permits this, his worldview about certain aspects on Earth is the one experienced on the other side of the Moon, where he decided how to consider some things about Earth with the Earth out of sight. He may just keep living with this worldview or after some time the sensation that his conceptions around that issue are really meaningful will crumble down.

That is the case when a person or a group of persons choose to ignore for themselves aspects of the raw reality. Another frequent use of the other side of the Moon is to manipulate the perceptions of other people for easy personal gains. An individual or a group of people don’t like how some things appear in the current worldview of the “meaningful world”, something there goes against their personal interests. They go to the other side of the Moon and think how to reorganize the mental structure of that issue in a way that serves their interests. Again, the inclination to do this stems from the fact that the concept of a “meaningful world” is based on organizing the world and asserting your own interest through your own power, reinforced by the way the classical use of the human languages supports the belief in a “meaningful world”. The possibility to do this stems from the impression of an intelligible reality this “meaningful world” creates in the mind of the people, with a life of its own, distinct from the raw reality. Some people use this shortcoming to manipulate other people.

This case is different from the mere cover-up of glaring raw reality aspects done for oneself, in the sense that it requires to pay attention to how other people see that issue, in order to reorganize the mental structure in a way to manipulate their perceptions. Many times a person chooses first to go to the other side of the Moon to cover-up for himself something that is bothering his “meaningful world” and then, if other people do not conform to his rewriting, he may return there to get even more into reorganizing the mental structures around that issue in a way that appears reasonable and meaningful to the other people. In some cases, he may end up as an “other side” junkie, he has to keep returning to the other side every time he has to think again how to patch up something manipulative around new threatening non-concordances that other people keep noticing around the issue.

Perceiving complexity (part 2)