My Take on Emergence
Let it be...
Emergence is one of those words that can start to spread and be quickly co-opted by a cause or movement, so I want to help create some clarity.
Emergence is something coming forth, a happening, an alchemical reaction as a result of stirring the pot or nodes coming together to see what comes forth and reveal something that the individual properties held.
If you think of an emergency, it’s something unexpected that you need to attend to following a series of events. Something emerging usually references something coming forth.
The dictionary definition states: “the process of coming into view or becoming exposed after being concealed.” or “the process of coming into being, or of becoming important or prominent.” or “unforeseen occurrence.”
So, emergence isn’t making something known MORE known, it’s an awakening of something new that you wouldn’t expect an individual property to be capable of. Ants forming colonies and bridges or humans developing the internet. Nothing known can come from emergence.
What we humans tend to do, and what I’ve tended to do, all our lives are to control every situation we encounter to produce a result to suit our individual needs. This is all fine and good for the sake of individual survival but for a very long time in our development we’re not thinking about the ripple effects of that need, we’re just trying to get ours. Or we’re trying to make the outside world stop impeding what we want.
Our sibling is talking and we yell at them to stop.
Our boss is too assertive and we form a coup with other coworkers to get them out.
Our cat keeps stealing the cookies so we train the cat.
We deploy tactics and strategies to mold the outside world into what we want. We often call this a search for peace. To make life go the way we want it to. But peace, in my experience, takes a whole lot of work. Organizing, deploying, strategizing, vigilance, and timing.
The outside, especially other organisms, are constantly shifting, changing, moving, and are also concerned for their own needs. Let’s say you get those things done and you’ve created peace for yourself, your people, your friends, and your family are all behaving like the perfect little angels you’ve assigned them to be…did those efforts solve everything for everyone forever? Do you know that everyone is truly on board? Are they doing what THEY want to do? Or are they walking on eggshells now in fear and fawning for their own survival? And are they now stuck? And now to keep the peace you’ve gotta be vigilant of everyone’s movement and keep them there to keep the “peace.”
I think of it this way: peace isn’t the natural order of the universe.
If you take a moment to listen to your environment, you’ll find that everything is noisy. Listen closely and you’ll hear every little noise, creak, wind movement, and even your own breath and heartbeat. Everything alive, the universe itself, is constantly moving.
Even if you practice meditation, the idea isn’t to swim against the tide of your mind and make it all stop…it’s the opposite, allowing for the natural rhythms to flow.
What we really want to do, if anything, is remove obstacles that are limiting growth. This is because growth and movement happen naturally. It only stops when something is in the way. This “something” could be physical, rampant insecurity, an unrealized internal complex, or panic to save the world or create a legacy before time runs out.
We attempt to control the outside world due to our discomfort with our own biology and the reactions within our body to outside happenings.
“I can’t eat my cereal in peace in the morning because I’m constantly thinking about the world’s madness and my heart is racing, so it’s time to go on a crusade to make it all stop!”
Emergence is difficult to fully grasp when in this state of desiring control because then it gets transformed into an idea used for that control, which isn’t emergence. We want the emergent outcomes to fit our individual survival ideal. Those two things contradict each other. You want to plant specific things in specific places to create specific outcomes. You want emergence but you want the emergence to be “nice.” That’s not emergence. Emergence requires protecting the natural rhythms and flows of existence by letting go of a need for control and a need for specific outcomes to feel safe, secure, happy, and fulfilled. Survival of the fittest really means survival of the most adaptable and you can’t be adaptable with a set ideal in mind.
Ideals are nice-to-haves that we treat as must-haves.
Emergence is an awareness that there is always an alchemical dance happening among crashing materials in the universe, psyches interacting, and shared experiences combining via collaboration. Adaptability is responding to what emerges, and accepting its reality creates the ability to properly respond in whatever ways we need to which gets our needs met without stifling the opportunity for continued emergence.
I don’t know if there’s a grand vision of the universe but if the principle of emergence is a universal law then there is no vision or ideal for the universe, an ideal singular vision would squash opportunities for emergence to have to happen…things would just happen. The only goal I can perceive is to see what emerges as properties combine and reproduce.
So, how do we contribute to emergence as humans? What’s our role in all of this?
I don’t know, because emergence is inherently unknowable, but as I’ve mentioned before…the internet is an emergent property of our ability to encode meaning and information into symbols and material, for example. The only rule I abide by when it comes to allowing for emergence is to support and honor sovereignty. This doesn’t mean anyone or myself can do whatever we want. It’s about honoring sovereignty within myself and others. That means the sovereignty of a person can’t impede the sovereignty of another person.
This means allowing opportunity for my inside space to become calm and present and to enable circumstances that support others being able to become calm and present, to get out of the mud and into their genius.
If we or they or I or us have to make a mess in the process then so be it. Mistakes and messiness is part of life and evolution but encapsulation of the outside of world, imprisoning people, ideas, thoughts, etc. to make ourselves feel better, important, significant, relevent, or permanent only stifles the emergent possibility of whatever comes next.
Any healthy organism will automatically purge viruses and we must always do our part to make sure we bring health to the table for healthy, diverse, emergent possibilities to evolve and explode into the next eras of existence.
It’s not a matter of whether or not we choose to take part in the human organism. You already are a part of the big picture of humanity by simply existing. We all need room to play and grow as a child, we all need space to rebel against our culture and parents to test the boundaries and integrity of culture, we all need to find a system to fit into where we can develop skills and find our contribution, we all need to find our way to cast a vision for ourselves and explore what this world has to offer, we benefit from getting to know other humans and their stories and learn about their journeys and perspectives. This opens up the seeing that we are all an emergent of our own stories, programming, circumstances, culture, desires, and upbringing.
Start to combine that all together and the fun of emergence begins.