Perceiving complexity (part 6)

Alin Dosoftei
14 min readMay 7, 2020


Part of the series Perceiving complexity

Perceiving complexity (part 5)

To what extent did this glimpse of the raw reality have a role in developing the seemingly unmatched cognitive capacities of the humans, among the other living species on Earth? I don’t know what was the original catalyst for the elevation of the “meaningful world” from what we would consider simple levels at the gorillas and chimpanzees to our level of metaphorization, abstractization and conceptualization. I don’t know about the catalyst, but regarding its ongoing functioning, it looks like the raw reality perspective with the nuances discovered by the female disempowerment has a role.

The human type of “meaningful world” creates a sense of primordiality of its inner environment, a sense that “this is it”, “I am in an environment of concepts obviously true by default”. But in the same time this belief in the truthfulness of the concepts that create this environment is not really a straightforward one like 2 plus 2 always equal 4. It has ingrained the awareness of the complexity of the raw reality existing beyond it, a complexity treated either as celebrated wisdom or as pesky chaos in need of some serious taming or as underhanded plans B that can take you out of problems (and possibly shoving you into worse ones down the line), all depending on how the person feels he is in control of the spider web of the “meaningful world” in his mind.

The humans have some idea of not taking things literally in what is in that spider web, while in the same time being very invested in its overall sense of being meaningful. If they have some personal acumen and experience about the complexity beyond the simplifying patterns in their own mind, then they can afford to be more relaxed about the overall complexity and call it wisdom. If they see the complexity as challenging too much their simplifying patterns and they have no further ideas about what to do, then the basics of the human mental spider web come to the fore: it is a power structure intended to develop meaning in an otherwise “chaotic” world. I put some effort in patternizing the world and the others should better praise me and be thankful for my struggle. From this disdainful view of the raw reality beyond the simplifying patterns, it is not a long road to indulge in misleading metaphorical or, even more, manipulative practices to deal with what the real life keeps revealing beyond the initial patterns (but at least these people are not thoroughly linear and blind to whatever else is beyond the patterns, as a straightforward belief in those patterns would suppose).

The bottom line is that humans are not like, let’s say, a computer, which takes everything so literally and acts so linearly (at least a computer before the era of a really functional artificial intelligence). A specific nuance of the human masculine quest for understanding the world appears to be the peace of mind in having a set of initial patterns that can create a “meaningful world” by itself, with the practical power of being in control of the situation, at least in a piece of the world. There is awareness of what is beyond those patterns (the man does not act like a computer, although sometimes he is not too far from that, at least compared to the informal psychological perceptions a woman can have). And the relation with what is beyond appears to be shaped a lot by the power structure in the relation with the woman. There is some awareness, but there is also peace of mind by mastering the woman as a mediating cushion towards that complexity.

Willy-nilly, the woman has to keep assuming her own informal responsibilities in relation to that complexity of the raw reality perspective, she is aware of that (it is something informal, but it still generates some inescapable awareness). This while she is in a situation in which she does not have a relevant social organization that can really take in consideration all that complexity. The man finds useful her perceptions and her informal (and seemingly inescapable) responsibilities in facing that complexity and, by dominating her, he has a psychological playground like a billiards game. The framework of the billiards table is created by the woman’s informal responsibilities in facing the raw reality complexity. Without that framework, it would have been a too steep learning curve in the human history for men to really face that complexity directly.

And, in the way the gender relations evolved at the humans, the woman too finds peace of mind in the existence of the meaningful world created by that masculine mental control of the situation while taking in consideration the raw reality beyond its simplifying patterns. She identifies with it and thinks too the same as the man by relating to its point of view for a social life organization.

It is a “meaningful world” rather apprehensive about what is beyond it, but the woman has an essential role in sustaining a masculine self-confidence in dealing with that. When the woman is dominated, the man is taking in consideration the complexity of the raw reality in an indirect manner. However, this kind of relation has the specific effect of turning the perception of the raw reality into something that he can master (with serious limiting consequences about the way he takes such perceptions in consideration).

Or rather he is under impression he can master, since the woman is not so psychologically passive as she may appear, she has her satisfactions of an unexpected abyssal type in experiencing the connection with the raw reality in this relation with the man. The fact that the man assumes organizational responsibilities is a cushion for the woman too to be able to face that mental abyss without all the organizational responsibilities it would require an independent full-frontal gaze into it.

The result of this particular kind of relation is an awareness of the richness of possible perceptions beyond the simplifying patterns, but in the same time it turns the human approach to real life into a controlling, self-centered endeavor. The women have their informal perception of the complexity of the raw reality, but they assume too this self-centered endeavor when they act to organize something in their own lives.

Thus, for both genders when they are “in organizational mode”, metaphors connecting to and tending to validate the already existing spider web are the first thing that come to the mind instead of genuine empathy and struggle to understand new aspects, while (self-)deceiving manipulation to defend the internal coherence of the already existing spider web is considered very legitimate in tackling that “chaos” outside of it. This creates specific quirks of the human mind, with people officially believing in the reality of the spider web in their mind, while also having an openness to consider the complexity outside of it and to let their mind divagate in unexpected directions while being in control of the situation, which turns into a tendency for metaphorization.

This gives possibilities for a rudimentary abstractization. For humans immersed in this kind of belief in their own patters combined with some openness, it feels like such a great mental tool, especially when you see how limited are the other animals in thinking. But when you see the situation in the way I present it here, this kind of perception appears so rudimentary. There is an explosive potential beyond it, but it requires assuming personal responsibilities in facing the complexity of the raw reality.

These quirks of the classical human mind make things look simple like 1 plus 1 equal 2 and give you the impression that from this inference you can expand your mind confidently and logically in all directions. In practice, the human type of 1 plus 1 equals 2 immersion in the raw reality expands into further inferences like 2 plus 2 equals, let’s say, 5, or, let’s say, 8, or 19.67, or 2374656, or -17 (maybe I should specify that they are obviously numbers I chose at random, as people who don’t want to face the complexity of real life would quickly jump to find some lazy-minded pattern in them for a conspiracy theory).

See the article about the distinct imagery of India in Europe and in East Asia for an example that may give you an idea about what I mean. There is the European imagery of what is called India in languages west of that land. There is the East Asian imagery that grew distinctly from the European one and also from the self-image those people have about themselves. The European and East Asian imageries grew without paying too much attention to what is really going on with that people. The local self-imagery grew directly among those people (but it has its own fair share of 2 plus 2 equal 5 inferences, especially when under external pressure to define themselves).

You have three imageries about the same thing that grew in three unexpected directions. When they came in contact, they continued to live side by side, since they are practically different patternizations. Like in the self-description of that Japanese restaurant that I gave as an example, titled “Tenjiku dream food. Indian restaurant”. Tenjiku is the local name of what is called in English India, a name that conveys an imagery that grew in a different direction from that conveyed by the word India. The owners sought to use this name in order to convey its cultural imagery that grew there in Japan, and they also added that it is an Indian restaurant, to also benefit from the clear identification in the current global “meaningful world” in which the patternizing system of European origin dominates. Someone in the Western world can make the mental exercise to imagine an “Indian dream food. Tenjiku restaurant” in an alternative history present tense in which the Japanese culture would have become dominant globally.

The practical nuances of these imageries look so random in their distinctiveness when you study their plurality. But if you are immersed in one of the them, it appears to be so wholesomely real by default. And when you meet another imagery about the same thing, the tendency is to do the same self-centered expansion. For the Jesuits arriving in China in the 16th century, it was not that they were mentally blind to the local worldview that gave a very different answer to how much 2 plus 2 make. They learned about it, but they used the information to try to convert the Chinese to their own version of how much 2 plus 2 make.

They were assumed by the Chinese to come from some part of Tianzhu (the original Chinese name that was also borrowed by the Japanese as Tenjiku). The Jesuits were eager to assume this otherwise erroneous yet prestigious identification to make themselves quicker understandable and present Christianity as a better version of Buddhism (which historically arrived in China from Tianzhu). In such encounters it is not like people do not understand each other, sometimes they put effort to understand the other party. But it’s this human tendency to believe that your own imagery is the truth by default, without questioning the substance of its constructs. You have no problem to understand how other party thinks, but only to find ways to validate your own patternization. Much of the human thinking process is not about wonderment, but about being on the edge of the chaos outside of the spider web of patterns you feel in control of. The relation with that fearful chaos has the main importance and the internal coherence tends to have a second place.

And this is not only about encounters between different imageries. The human “meaningful world” in itself as a spider web of patterns tends to be riddled with internal coherence issues because it is based on the personal power (and the fact that it is based on power allows it to function for better or worse even with such issues). People can very easily keep concomitantly contradictory points of view, if this suits their selfish pursuits. They can do this because the “knowledge” in their mind is rather a matter of being in control of the situation than genuine strive to understand things.

For example, from the contact with the raw reality, I notice something not corresponding to how I project that I understand things. Thus I decide to do a reinterpretation necessary to patch up the structure in order to keep it going. Most likely it is a reinterpretation too much focused on the already existing structure, instead of really plunging mentally into the complexity of the raw reality and figure out what to do when facing what is seen there (that is “pesky chaos” according to the classical human mindset). Even if it looks like going against the past, like something new, likely it still may be defined too much by the contrast with the past than by immersing in the situation of the raw reality. Because of this, it may not be such a good quality reinterpretation and thus one of its side effects is that, consequently, now in some other related context this reinterpretation determines that 2 plus 2 equals 5.

This other context may not be so glaring or important for me, also it may not have much social pressure to do something about it. Then, as a human, I have too much the tendency to go to “the other side of the Moon” to figure out how to “prove” that 2 plus 2 makes 5. Officially, my cognitive awareness is limited to my “meaningful world” I rely upon, but, at an intimate, sub-cognitive level, I go “to the other side of the Moon”, where I let unfold the awareness of the complexity of the raw reality perspective. I am not doing it for further investigations, but just to let unfold its fluidity and see unexpected points of view that would permit me manipulate the understanding of the situation in a way that “proves” how 2 plus 2 equals 5. This is way much easier than an investigation into that fluid complexity, plus that this is the classical human tendency, as based on knowledge as control of the situation. But now that you may realize what I try to say here, you may become inescapably aware of that and you need to deal with it. Your knowledge is not based on hard facts, but it is floating on a fluid deep complexity you think you are in control of.

Let me give an example about what I mean by sideline 2 plus 2 equals 5 consequences of reinterpretations. From a certain moment on, a certain human society developed a concept of harmonious relations between its members with some level of respect for the dignity of each individual. This solves lots of problems that became too glaring and unacceptable, plus that this concept can patch up many issues of social life. But in the same time this society also keeps some humans as slaves. This obviously goes against the idea of respect for the dignity of each individual. Historically this was not a big problem for humans, they will go to “the other side of the Moon” to develop a mental structure “justifying” how the slaves are outside of the right to dignity. Nowadays, the specific “justifications” about the normality of slavery are gone, there is progress that needs to be commended. But the general propensity to “prove” in related sideline effects how 2 plus 2 makes 5, whenever need arises to salvage the mental structure as control of the situation, is very much there for lots of people who do not have much qualms about engaging in it.

The humans have a spider web of mental structures in which they seem to be very invested and they seem to believe in them to be true by default. But in practice you see them very disposed to be flexible with that truth if this is necessary in order to patch up the overall coherence of the structure when threatened by contact with the raw reality. The typical human sense of “meaningful world” is a mental structure treated like your own courtyard in which you organize things as you see fit.

It is amazing how shameless and in the same time self-righteous can humans be in defending the current “meaningful world” structure they have in their minds at a certain point in time. Where does this sense of righteousness comes from when the respective person is engaging in manipulative practices to support their already existing mental structure and invalidate an emerging competing mental structure? They are so unexpectedly confident and at ease in defending their current belief system. It feels like it is not so much about the specific concepts of the respective structure that they are so defensive about, but more about the mental abyss opened by the prospect of admitting they are not really in control of the situation. It feels like first comes the sense of control of the situation a certain mental structure gives and second comes what that mental structure is really about.

You see people identifying with a certain religion or a certain nation or a certain whatever structure that gives identity and never really wondering that they may have very well grown up under the umbrella of some other structure. People who are very invested in a certain religion or nation, while never wondering what is going on with other people who are invested in some other religion or nation. People who, if you study them closely, you realize that they really don’t give a damn about what that mental structure they defend so strongly is about. What matters is that they have a mental structure they invested their own sense of self in, this structure is perceived as control of the situation, it creates a “meaningful world” and this makes hard for them to consider whatever else is beyond it.

For example, the Persians were initially mostly Sunni until the theocratic regime of Ismail Safavi forced them to covert to the Shia branch of Islam. Lost of Persians suffered for their current Sunni faith of that time, much of this forced conversion was violent and harsh (itself coming after centuries of harsh support for the Sunni faith by the previous Sunni rulers of the Persian lands).

Then two centuries later came Nader Shah, who wanted to turn the Persians back Sunni. The people were again very resistant to change and were determined to suffer for their beliefs. They defended the Shia beliefs the same as their ancestors some generations ago defended the Sunni beliefs. (In his case, he did not succeed with his endeavor, as he was not a religious person like Ismail Safavi and not so mentally invested in being adamant to determine a change in people. He wanted the Persians be Sunni only for political reasons, he had high political ambitions in the Islamic world, the Sunni are the overwhelming majority and, in order to appeal to them, he wanted to turn the Persians Sunni.)

Another example, the Maltese were initially Sicilian Arab Muslims, they were converted by force to Christianity and now they are staunch Christians, the same as in the past they were staunch Muslims. For such people, it looks like being staunch is what matters first (and in order to keep this staunchness going, they tend to be disposed to “prove” how 2 plus 2 equals 5).

Sure, there are real cultural distinctions between ethnicities, there were historical reasons for the appearance of Christianity and Islam as distinct religions with different takes on the realm of sacrality. There were historical reasons for the Sunni/Shia divide, for the Orthodox/Catholic divide, for the splinter of the Protestants. But for most of the people engaged in these ongoing conflicts those historical reasons don’t really matter, they look like they may very well be born on the other side of the division and be equally staunch in defending that opposing side. What matters is that they ended up mentally invested in a system of beliefs and they keep supporting it solely because admitting that there are issues with its overall structure would mean to admit that the way they understand their mental spider web as a structure of meaning based on personal power is a stupid joke.

P.S. Revisiting this series some years later, it is so salient for me that from the next part 7 to the part 10, it was mostly ad-lib “writing as I am thinking” process. This is in fact a good way to further investigate these topics and, in fact, it turned into an important feature of some other later texts. But, in those other later texts, I became more conscious about how I explore topics as I am writing and the structure of the texts conveys this to some extent.

The structure of the previous parts of this series, up to this 6th one, benefited of long-term development over years. Putting in writing a long-term developed outlook was in fact the only concept of writing I had at that time. These ad-lib parts 7, 8, 9, 10 inaugurated another approach, but without much awareness about this, and they may give the impression I am writing about long-term thought perspectives. Plus that such a lack of differentiation decreases the fluid investigative quality of such explorations on the go.

From part 11 onwards, I am back to long-term thought aspects.

Perceiving complexity (part 7)

or directly to

Perceiving complexity (part 11)