So, if we want to milk what is working, what do we do about what isn’t working any longer? It’s pretty easy to look into the world and identify the reality that not everything we see is working very satisfactorily.
A gross understatement.
All of us are observing this on a daily basis—which is precisely what makes the task of getting to the root of what actually isn’t working so difficult. We identify problems with the conditions around and within us and get caught up in our reactive tendency to fix them. The creative routes we have access to from that vantage point are sub-optimal at best, hazardous at worst.
This compulsive reaction to our initial observation of the problem prevents us from identifying the only thing that actually matters, which is our personal relationship with the problems we identify, collectively and individually.
“Problems” are a manifestation of what we could describe as states of incohesion that result from weak-emergent expressions of human creative power in the environment. Climate change is a problem, no doubt about it. So how are we currently trying to fix it? We ignore the underlying, objective socio-emotional realities that currently govern human creative endeavor and instead try to mitigate the conditions they are generating. This isn’t bad, it’s a good start, but it’s as pragmatic as putting a bandaid on a gaping, festering wound and hoping for the best.
Climate change is primarily about attitudes: shifting the socio-emotional environment that humans are creating in. If you are angry at an oil company for its impact on the environment and demanding that the oil company change its ways, then you are not in a creative framework that will help you make any real lasting change. You’ve taken a first few baby steps along a creative journey, where the destination is completely foreign relative from where you began. In short, your own personal climate, your personal cohesion, is as unsustainable as the heedless management of resources that you are railing against.
Humans have been using environmental resources in unsustainable ways precisely because we’ve been creating within a social framework that is historically, officially, past its expiration date.
We can’t think our way out of these problems.
We have to feel our way.
One person at a time.
That’s how we effect climate change, because that’s when the climate of our thoughts, our ideas, our solutions, improve.
In part one of this essay I defined spirituality as “social cohesion, stratified layers of expanding social conversation”:
Relational cohesion (one-to-one)
Small group cohesion (families, teams, etc)
Community cohesion (local, religious, socio-political, etc)
Non-physical energy cohesion
In terms of humanity, human consciousness, there are two modes of social cohesion and like quantum particles we’re all wavering, wobbling, blinking in and out of both modes to varying degrees and with varying degrees of consistency.
One mode of social cohesion is codependence, where we rely on others to help us define ourselves, shape our identity, our guiding principles or morality, our values and the narratives we share about the nature of the world, its people, and our place within it. Whether we do so by identification with or reaction against the discursive frameworks of others, one way or another, we cannot stabilize our sense of who or even what we are more objectively or independently.
The other is interdependence. When we are interdependent, we are self-stabilizing. Who we are is defined and shaped from the inside, and we are connected to internal sources of wisdom, values, guiding principles, and inspiration—which are in and of themselves interrelated with the deeper sources of wisdom, values, and inspiration of others. We are sensitive to the interdependent nature of all of our relationships, beginning with our relationship to ourselves, moving on to our relationships with others, with our social structures, our communities, our society, and our place in the grander scheme of things in the global evolutionary whole.
Carl Jung refers to this sort of self-stabilization as “individuation.”
When we are self-stabilizing, we still require structures, other people and beings to cooperate, create, and be in relationship with, but we no longer require others to distort who they are in order to compensate for our personal instability—and we are not swayed by others’ attempts to distort us as they try to compensate for their personal instability.
We are in touch with, attuned to, mutually subjective truth.
In every single moment in this body we are either behaving codependently, or interdependently.
Some things really are as clear and definitive as black and white, up and down.
“I don’t like to see things as black and white. I tend to see things as more of a spectrum.” That’s a popular response.
Even the spectrum of a rainbow, though it has many beautiful transitional moments where colors blend within and yield to one another, is nevertheless composed of definitive layers: purple cannot be green and orange cannot be blue. They are morphologically different: each “color” we perceive in the spectrum of a rainbow, no matter how close it may appear, however blurred two colors seem to be, every single infinitely minute transition in the spectrum has a distinct wavelength—a discernibly, quantifiable absolute truth. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to perceive any of the diversity in the spectrum at all. In that way, even the rainbow itself spells everything out in terms of “black and white.”
Rainbows are part of an electromagnetic spectrum of data—of light. When identifying the contents of stars, we look for the bands of color, the light: data in the dark.
We tend to pit the idea of “black and white” thinking as rigid and defined against the more open-minded “gray area.” The “gray” area, though absolutely necessary for the development of our personal and collective consciousness, is just another way of referring to obscurity, confusion. When we know that, we can use it to our advantage by understanding that whatever is “gray” is something that is in a state of migration: on its way from unconsciousness, unknowing, darkness, or previously unquestioned presumption, into the light of clarity. If we don’t know that, if we fix the “gray” area as a penultimate state, as the “good” versus the “bad” of black and white thinking, then we remain content with a state of obscurity and confusion. We are easily swayed by the “gray” areas of others into beliefs that are based themselves on insensitivity and confusion rather than clarity–and our own insensitivity makes it impossible to detect the actual “black and white” thinking that shapes the ideas, obscured in a mutual confusion, that foster the frameworks that perpetuate this fog of gray area to begin with.
Clarity delineates things in black and white. It brings the gray area into full-color relief.
The “gray” area is the cave, clarity is the light, and it isn’t only accessible by a select few.
We are all born sensitive. We are all born philosophers.
Moving from black and white into gray is a sort of emotional-cognitive exercise, an expansion of thought. Likewise, moving from the nebulous gray area into the clarity of color and light requires another expansion.
We tend to think of evolving consciousness as a matter of the mind only. In fact, we often say this literally: mind over matter. All expansion happens through experience: we can’t simply push our way through one level to the next with logic. Expanded reasoning is born out of experiences that challenge our previous thresholds. Without allowing ourselves the experiences that expand us, logic can only run around in repetitive circles.
When our experiential thresholds are challenged, it isn’t just the mind that expands in consciousness, so does the heart. In fact, the heart is the first responder, expanding its threshold in vital adaptive response to the experience we are having. Our heart, a more sensitive and responsive vital organ, is conscious of more, sends more signals up to our brain via the nervous system than the brain sends down into the rest of the body. The heart is informing, inspiring the brain, and we think, act and believe according to how responsively expanded our mind is in concert—how well it receives data from the heart and translates it into thought and impulses. “Mind over matter” isn’t nearly as expansive or “evolved” as it sounds. Fully conscious expansion requires the mind to be in a dynamic, consciously responsive relationship with matter.
Like the planet itself, both the brain and the heart generate their own electromagnetic field. Our hearts expand not only in response to our own conditions, but they expand responsively to one another, as well, whether we like it or not. We are all connected, via the vagus nerve, in a network of nervous-system responsivity. Like the mycorrhizal network that connects trees we have a similar silent, subterranean network of mutual connectivity. If one tree falls ill or is under attack it sends signals to other trees who respond by directing resources to it. We do the same, and our ills are more than just physical, they are psychological and socio-emotional, too.
When the heart signals the brain and the brain doesn’t have the cognitive framework to accurately interpret and effectively respond to the data, the result is confusion. The nervous system stimulation of confusion drives the brain to grasp at whatever frameworks (delineated in black and white terms) are readily available in the environment—frameworks that match the same signal pattern of confusion—so that it can stabilize itself and regain a sense of control; bring the nervous system back into its homeostatic comfort zone.
When one person enters into homeostatic imbalance, into a state of confusion that they cannot stabilize on their own, they signal others to come to their aid. This happens often on a very obvious level of words and body language, but it is happening on a much more subtle level, too. The vagus nerve connects our brain stem with all of our major organs, so your livers might be in communication, your spleens, your kidneys. In codependent systems, when this “sos” signal goes out, those who receive it cannot stabilize themselves in response. So we borrow external frameworks to use as handrails in an attempt to reactively restabilize others so that we can restabilize ourselves, which often results in programmed default behaviors. The data from the heart is suppressed by the rigidity, the restrictive nature of the framework whose sole purpose is to slave-rig, synchronize and automate our cognitive functions so that we can divert our now limited creative resources to our basic survival and our role in supporting the basic survival of others, as well as the survival of the social model that is designed to enable codependent transactions.
Divide and conquer: it happens externally in response to internal division. And we’ve made it largely invisible.
Essentially, we are all playing one another in the dark on a sub-to-semi-to-fully conscious nervous system level, and in a codependent system there is no access to the more whole picture—the more we look to each other, the less we can find ourselves—the less we can find ourselves, the less there is to find in each other, and so the more anxiously we look to one another for something that isn’t there. We actually are the Borg collective, assimilating one another on a level as deep as our vital organs, our blood, into frameworks that keep us within a threshold that prevents others from breaking through their own confusion—until we begin to consciously break free.
Since most of us look and behave pretty much within “normal” thresholds, our borgish truths go under most people’s radars. And the people whose nervous systems do not assimilate as readily are labeled as bad, or wrong, or broken, or they are pathologized. As if they, not the social dynamics at play around them, are insane.
It’s a sort of social black hole—with real governing psycho-emotional physics. And, like a black hole there is an event horizon. There is a point beyond which we lose all sight of ourselves.
In a codependent social system, being “in the black” is not a good thing.
Fortunately our own personal vitality—you could say, our spirit—activates observational quantum touch points that have the potential to bring us back within range of our whole selves.
We all feel it when things “come together” in a group of people, when the spirit of fun and delight of harmony begins to unfold, even just small moments of it before we often innocently and inadvertently toss one another back into the fine-tuning seas of discord. Codependent frameworks aren’t bad, necessarily. They do provide stable structures that allow people to come together in all kinds of positive, beautiful interactions. They are adequate and beneficial for early stages of consciousness. They are necessary, even. We all require creative limitations, platforms, containers, cradles within which to create.
They just aren’t expansive enough for many people to really thrive beyond a certain point. They are by nature bound by their limitations. And as a species, as a global community, we have outgrown the limitations of codependent frameworks. The degree of cohesion available within such frameworks cannot sustain our continued existence on the planet. Many of our systems are not bad, but vital: they are still useful, they are still necessary, and they are stabilizing in a way that promotes rather than inhibits human creative evolution. But as a species, as a member of a much larger collective organism, we require greater cohesive harmony.
We just can’t all dive into it all at once. Even if we want to. Even if we stew and simmer in the angry frustration that we aren’t nearly as harmonious as families, communities, or countries as we know we want to be—as we intuitively understand we are meant to be.
Humans have to build a nervous-system threshold for experiences of harmony. We also have to have cognitive frameworks for integrating expanding experiences of harmony—or rather, if we have cognitive frameworks that are flexible, conducive to an expanding threshold of harmonic experiences, the less fragmented our expression of self will be: the more personal harmony, personal cohesion, self-stability, we will have. And so, the more of it we will create in our external environment
Flocking birds and schooling fish have a very high threshold for harmony and a very low tolerance for disharmony—it’s how they do what they do. They have no cognitive frameworks, none whatsoever, to interfere with their reception of and responsiveness to heart-transmitted data. Their impulses are minutely and instinctively attuned to the environment exactly as it objectively is.
We aren’t always (or even very often) doing the same. Codependent cognitive frameworks have a low threshold in either direction, so they require distortions of objective data in order to maintain themselves: a codependent cognitive framework has a low threshold for both harmony and disharmony, so it must generate illusions of harmony.
The codependent need for expressive suppression is where all of our power dynamics and systems for behavior coding come from: dress codes, discursive codes, behavioral and relational codes—all are intended to create an appearance of harmony for the purpose of keeping both harmonic and disharmonic expressions—within and among individuals—in check.
Even if we’ve lost touch with in inside ourselves, we all know this on some level or another. I’m not saying anything new. We all imbibe these systems at a very young age, while still in more vital connection with the whole of who we are. And many people are, in various ways, trying to buck the systems we sensibly feel stuck in.
All of us begin in this world both completely, consistently in touch with our own personal truth and completely dependent on the adults in our lives. If these adults are working with a social framework of codependence (and almost all of us are), it’s what they will train us into, too. This is completely innocent—frameworks have gravity and we get unconsciously bound up in this gravity, unable to do anything differently. Nevertheless, in responsive codependent participation with these systems at a very young, impressionable age, we develop a high tolerance for disharmony, for suppression, that allows the adults in our lives to remain stable enough in their own framework to keep us alive and growing.
It requires some serious resources to maintain this suppression, and to manage or compensate for the effects of it on the body, the heart—the spirit. So this effort of repressive conservation itself robs us of energetic resources that, if freed up, could be better applied toward conserving and channeling our resources in more sustainable, effective ways that would no longer require the codependent maintenance systems that deplete us of our resources in the first place.
Our entire society has been largely, exactly, built on the coagulated confusions of interlapping gray areas, confusions that must keep falling back into the same basic structural frameworks, because they cannot break through into the next stage of clarity. It’s been created and in most part continues to be created from the matrix of a holding pattern—codependence.
That isn’t to say that there’s anything essentially wrong with the matrix we’ve been historically working with. Holding patterns are helpful, and sometimes absolutely essential. We don’t try to bring 747’s down in a storm. We hold out of harm’s way until the conditions have improved.
Anyone who has sat on a plane in a holding pattern waiting for the weather to clear understands that it isn’t where we want to stay indefinitely. We want the weather to clear. We want landing clearance: clarity. We want it without more delay than necessary. It gets boring, uncomfortable, and sometimes excruciating, to sit for too long in a plane going nowhere.
And so, sometimes we become aware that we have been in a holding pattern and we need something new—our old frameworks are no longer as satisfying as they once were. We get bored enough with them that our opportunistic little spirit has an opportunity to drive us, even if only temporarily, in a different direction. Even if that direction results in pain or confusion.
Moments and experiences of pain, of confusion, when we are receiving heart-data that has expanded enough to exert enough pressure that we become aware of our discomfort, can have the effect of launching us out of old frameworks into a gray area. You could call this a sort of nihilistic experience. Different people at different moments in their lives enter this nihilistic state to varying degrees—it might be utter and completely disorganizing abyssal terror. It might be a slight but nagging, persistent disquiet or discomfort with a set of ideas, behaviors, or a discursive framework that used to seem logical and right, but has now grown too tight.
In some cases, if we continue to set aside the more mild, subtler hints, fail to take action to move away from old ideas and face situations that no longer serve, we may end up on an unanticipated dive headlong into the deep-dark, so that whatever-it-is finally has our undivided attention.
It’s worth heeding the subtler stage of these internal promptings, even if it just leads to confusion for a while. The confusion is worth it.
At any degree, these nihilistic moments are potential catalysts for the evolution of consciousness. Potential, because, many of us have been trained into high levels of tolerance for our own discomfort, our own disconnect. We’ve been trained to misinterpret our fears, both the mild and the deep. Our resources are preoccupied with the social labor of responding to false alarms, leaving very real threats indiscernible and necessarily ignored—in the gray. Our entire relationship with fear itself has been short-circuited, so when invited into a nihilistic state by whatever life has brought into our experience, we have a tendency to grasp reflexively and prematurely after something that looks like a new framework—one that appeases the brain enough with its novelty to even temporarily release the old framework—but is based on the same pattern of confusion that was activated in the nihilistic state, the gap of the gray area. When we haven’t sat with it long enough to allow the new pattern wanting to emerge within us to ripen and mature, then we continue to act out of confusion and cling to socio-cognitive frameworks that our heart is steadily outgrowing.
Hey, I’ve learned all this through experience. I’m not calling anyone out.
Aaaand I’m calling everyone out.
Every single last one of us.
Born out of confusion rather than clarity, even a new pattern will follow the same basic codependent paradigm, and create the same sort of cage and restriction that distorts the brain’s ability to interpret the data it receives from the heart. It might be a bigger cage—it might have to be a bigger cage, because the heart has, in terms of its electromagnetic field and capacity to receive and process enough data to keep us alive, grown bigger, too: a smaller cage would literally kill us and is often what nudges us with whatever degree of force necessary to get us moving through the gap between one framework and the next—like moving along the monkey bars.
But even a growing cage can create more restriction, not less, if the cage, the framework, hasn’t grown proportionately enough. Sometimes we can’t afford to linger on the bar for long.
Do you have a newfound appreciation for children swinging, swift and deft, gleefully, from bar to bar?
This “cage” as a sort of poetic metaphor isn’t just a fanciful abstract image. It’s a very literal bio-chemical, neurological, quantum mechanical reality. Everything we know as “poetic” is the literal symbolic music of the human heart. It is metaphor. It is real. We have been speaking to each other about what is happening very literally in our bodies ever since humans have recorded literature. All poetry there ever was is us now, syncopated across time, slipping into moments of synchronicity: pulsing this crux, this beat, this moment, life.
The frameworks we use dictate not only the way the brain manages thoughts, but the way it manages the body and its impulses as well. The framework itself has to be of an interdependent nature, an entirely different paradigm, to securely accommodate the increasing creative and socially cohesive capacity of the responsive and evolving heart.
But how do we create such a framework? How do we even know when we’re in one framework or another?
It takes a lot of resources to repress and distort the spirit. The spirit is a great contortionist. If you’re lucky (we’re all lucky), it’s an infallible Houdini.
“Spirit?” Some may ask, eyebrow cocked. Some new age nebulous hippy crap. This girl did listen to Enya, after all, and openly admitted to tree-hugging.
Have you ever described someone, or heard someone else described as “spirited”? What does that mean? Where does happiness, liveliness, exuberance, fun, come from? What about curiosity? Music? Art? Philosophy? Poetry?
What is it, exactly, that drives the curious, amusing, occasionally baffling and inane-seeming antics of children?
Codependent frameworks, based on what both Hegel and Jung identify as something we might call a three-dimensional matrix, have a specific gravitational—or emotional—range.
Spirit is the force that gives us lift.
When we allow enough of this emotional upliftment, enough of our own spirit to express, to flow through us, to inspire, move, and guide us, then we achieve a sort of escape velocity. We escape, even if only temporarily, the denser gravity of codependent frameworks. We experience freedom. This is a natural part of the three-dimensional creative experience. It’s the “third” dimension of it, you might say, and we all achieve it, one way or another, at various moments of our lives. It is the opposite and equal reaction of the nihilistic moment.
We could draw a sort of triangle, where the two lower points represent transactions between two different points of focus, two distinct concentrations of consciousness, each revolving around their own locus. The third is the specific point at which the gravitational pull generated by these binary transactions is sufficiently weakened to lose their hold as a dominant attractive force—governed by the electromagnetic field of the heart.
You could call this third point “hope.” When we achieve the emotional escape velocity of hope, we become capable of receiving the little (or large) pulses and flashes of data, of light, of cognitive and emotional clarity, that represent the opposite-and-equal quantum potential generated by the nature of, the gravity of, the codependent transactions unfolding in the bottom two points of our creative matrix. We very sensibly refer to this as gaining a higher perspective. This higher perspective isn’t just a flight of fancy or empty optimism. Rather, removed from the restrictions of our cognitive frameworks, it offers us purely objective data: the most clarified objective data available in your current state of consciousness.
How we interpret this data as it moves through the data-receiver and transmitter of our heart to the brain—the bars, the lenses and filters of the mind and its frameworks—depends entirely on our belief systems and the distortions present in them. So are our ideas and inspiration about potential routes of action or expression. Ultimately, what we accomplish in our lives is entirely dependent on what thoughts and actions are enabled or disabled by our cognitive framework—our creative matrix.
A codependent, or three dimensional, matrix offers a relatively much more restricted creative outlet for the expression of the data we receive in these moments of access to higher perspective, elevated awareness, or inspiration. A codependent matrix can and does operate so as to keep as many people bound up within it as possible, because its unsustainable drain on resources cannot be satisfied. This is a matter of morphology, of shape, of nature.
It’s also its own work of creative genius. Ceaselessly—you might say faithfully, infallibly—generating the quantum reality of its opposite and equal reaction, interdependence.
Codependence and its inevitably unsustainable fall outs give us catalysts—reasons to hope for something better. Interdependence empowers us to move beyond hope into the emotional states that allow the realization, the actualization, of that something better.