Laurie – Declutter


Do you resonate with any of the four declutter areas listed in this post?

Hi Laurie,

I align with a lot of what you say, and (as usual 😉 ) a few areas of “quibble”.

I certainly agree with the idea of considering what is important in all areas, and I am a sufficiently aware student of complexity and of biology and cosmology that I am aware of several major themes that seem important to me:
1/ that however much we think we know, it is a close approximation to total ignorance in respect of what is possible to be known;
2/ from database theory, that for a fully loaded processor, the fastest possible search is the fully random search (ie, those intuitions can be important);
3/ from neurology and artificial intelligence research, that we tend to embody information and wisdom long before we become conscious of it. And most of that comes from exposure to experience and the making of mistakes (even if we do not consciously recognise them as mistakes at the time);
4/ from evolution (both theory and practical experience) that evolution deals with what works in practice, not with any theoretical optimum. It will tend to optimise for survival (which means use of energy, materials and time in various combinations) but only within the options that a particular line of chemistry and physics and understanding allows. Thus it seems that all understanding is a simplification of reality at some level, and anything that we accept as unquestionable truth becomes a danger to us, even as there is a necessity that we use useful and workable ideas in practice without wasting time questioning things that actually do work. Yet when conditions are really changing, then things that worked in the past can fail in ways that our unquestioned assumptions make us completely blind to.

So in some senses I am a yes to each of your four declutterings, but not in all.

Yes certainly decide what is important and pursue those things, but in making such assessments be willing to question everything. Don’t ignore feelings and intuitions, but don’t be driven by them alone. Maintain a balance between feelings and intuitions, and logic and reason. Find a balance between the deep lessons of the past encoded in many levels of cultural wisdom, and the possibilities inherent in the eternal uncertainty and becoming of our creative potential. Find a balance between culture and science, between lessons from the past and being open to trying out new things.
For me, that means choosing our highest values carefully, and for me that has come down to life and liberty (mine and everyone else’s, every entity capable of recognising and naming itself in language, human and non-human, biological and non-biological). And that demands of every one of us responsible action in social and ecological contexts. It demands accepting a truth of evolutionary theory, that all new levels of complexity and creativity come from cooperative contexts, and that competitive contexts drive systems to some set of minima on the complexity landscape and as such are fundamentally destructive of creativity and individual expression (ie we need to seriously rethink our relationship to markets).

Yes certainly, choose where we put most energy in our relationships. And part of that must be accepting that we have implicit relationships and responsibilities at every level of cooperation that makes our existence possible, family, community, humanity, ecology.
Complexity theory has some interesting lessons about creating and maintaining networks, and information flows through congested networks. Diverse networks are actually required for survival.

Yes certainly, consider what seems the likely impact of our thoughts. Do our best to nurture those which deliver the greatest benefit to the probability of life and liberty for all, and to dampen down the others. Accept that all life, all complexity, demands certain levels of restraint for its continued existence (so liberty in such a suite of contexts is not a simple thing). Every level of form demands boundaries for survival, and rarely are those boundaries as simple as we think them to be. So it is dance we each dance with ourselves and reality (whatever it actually is), as we try new steps, new patterns, to see what actually works best, for us and for others. Sometimes the complexity of reality demands of us levels of complexity that we simply could not see before, and sometimes that can only be gotten to by seeing what is unnecessary baggage from our past (and there are dangers in that, because sometimes there are real treasures hidden in our cultural “stuff”, but not always).

Yes certainly, avoid the cultural traps of acquisition for the sake of profit or status; but also look deeply at the long term risks and benefits, and keep those things that can last and seem likely to be useful over the long term. And for each of us that will look differently, as for each of us what seems probable in our future will be a very complex function of many levels of biology, culture, experience, reason, logic and creativity.

So yes – consider deeply what is of most value.
Question deeply the unquestioned and implicit values of our cultures and our past, and keep only those things that seem, on balance of intuition and reason, to be most valuable for life itself.

And that is very unlikely to be a culturally comfortable experience, as it is likely to take anyone who seriously engages in it far beyond the accepted norms of culture, to question things that most cultures say are not supposed to be questioned.

It is likely to be a deeply uncomfortable and disturbing experience, and it does seem to be what is required of us – all of us.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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