Speaker and Listener

September 24 2021

I suppose the thought I had here was that the two things — speaker and listener — co-evolve and co-arise. I thought about Joanna Macy’s use of the term dependent co-arising, which is from Buddhism and discusses how phenomena arise together. Another term I heard the other day was reciprocal causality. After all, everything influences the things in its field, and the things that are influenced, influence it.

In the world of things that are made for someone, there is no work that is made outside of the context of those who it is for. It is an artifact, and it is a part of a conversation between two people. Some conversations are very successful, and some are not successful. In fact, some are enraging, and some spark whole new movements. The world continues in endless flows of influence upon influence, back and forth, forever.

But I guess the place I was going with this the other day (when I spawned the title here), was the intimate relating between creator and audience. This is so possible in the Internet age, but also it is harder. Harder and easier. It is harder, because Internet can created separation between people at such long distances. Easier because you can be so quickly in touch with people. You can find out very quickly, if you want to, how people are feeling about what you have made.

Caring and not caring. Both can be valuable. In systems thinking, every organism has a membrane that keeps things in and things out. That membrane fails if it cannot let the organism control what comes in and out, to maintain homeostasis within the structure. This might be a cell, a starfish, a liver, a human being, a fern, or a planet. And at the same time if this membrane cannot let things in properly, then it also does not flourish, and withers and dies. As humans we like to pretend we are impervious but really we are not. (This is just a defense mechanism.)

In the same way, we can look at the need to say what you want to say, and not worry about it. And, we can look at the need to be in conversation with others. Harmonious, concentric circles of interaction. (Or not; maybe disharmonious field operations that create dissolution.)

I was trying to think about this, and then I realized that what I should Google is called living systems theory. When you Google this you get some very weird and totally intriguing looking pictures, such as these:

Source: https://web.nmsu.edu/~dboje/TDholons.html

Source: https://www.mu6.com/consciousness3.html

I guess I came upon Ken Wilbur’s 20 tenets of holons (here). This seems kinda interesting, along the lines of what I was thinking about.

Holon Tenet One (From the TDholons page cited above), if you start to look closely at the things and processes that actually exist, it soon becomes obvious that they are not merely wholes, they are also parts of something else. They are whole/parts, they are holons"

Holon Tenet Two - Each Holon has both agency and communion. Holons can decompose into subholons or emerge in the case of organizations into transorganization systems and networks. “If a holon fails to maintain its agency and its communions, then it can break down completely. When it does break down, it decomposes into its subholons: cells decompose into molecules, which break down into atoms, which can be “smashed: infinitely under intense pressure”.

Holon Tenet Three - This is not the stuff of gradual Darwinian evolution; it is what I call co-evolution. Applying our model from Table One (explained below), human systems (contextual nestings: person, family, society, etc.) coevolve with ecology (organicism) and technology (mechanistic) along with various mythic and metaphoric idea systems (formistics). You may prefer the term-punctuated evolution. Wilber (1996a: 23) refers to this as “radically novel and emergent and incredibly complex holons [coming] into existence in a huge leap, in a quantum-like fashion-with no evidence whatsoever of intermediate forms.”

Wowie!! Well, this kind of sort of ties together with the learning I am making from the [much maligned] Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning. It is a very deep book and his big point so far, is that human beings are as much meaning-makers who live in a mind-world as they are being living in a world of space and things; and so we need to understand and appreciate the depth of this story-made world which we live in every bit as much as we live in a physical one. So, as the quote says above, the only way you can really understand the human experience well, is to somehow appreciate its complexity, and find some way of talking about this complexity. What I love about stuff like this Ken Wilbur stuff (not that I understand it deeply, but — is this even more important somewhere, perhaps? — I understand it intuitively), is that he is finding some way of describing it that can somehow speak of the complexity, without reverting to a statement such as “it’s all so complex, who could ever think about it?” Actually, I see in that quote by him that he is actually quite good at this.

*Holon Tenet Four* - Wilber pushes his own theory of self-transcendence (1996a: 23), 1996b: 64). “Because all holons are whole/parts, they are subjected to various ‘pulls’ in their own existence. The pull to be a whole, the pull to be a part, to pull up, the pull down: agency, communion, transcendence, dissolution”For Wilber transcendence is part of the evolutionary process “And in the novelty, in that emergence, in that creativity, new entities come into being, new patterns unfold, new holons issue forth”


Check this out:

*Fifth World Hypothesis -Narrativistic* - I see organizations as storytelling systems, with people a part of their own and others' stories, which are part of storytelling embedded in transorganization networks of stories. We are holon stories, between mythical whole stories that are part of microstories. And there are no whole stories, and no autonomous local story parts anywhere, there are only whole/part or holon stories.

I am not sure what he is saying quite here, but it is super interesting especially in the light of what Jordan Peterson was saying just around the exact same time (1999), about us as storytelling creatures that live in stories, but this guy talks more about all these kind of interrelated web kind of ideas!

I suppose what was interesting to me about all this, that got me to write this title “speaking and listener”, is the idea that speaker-listener is itself a holon. That the two co-exist as a new sense of meaning. When you meet someone and they affect you, a new thing is created. Yes, you could say that when a couple come together, they create a new self that is kind of a thing that enwraps them both. But of course really all relationships are like this; we influence one another. And with the speaker and the listener, the significance of the artist’s work is, somehow, because there is a listener there to hear it. All at the same time that it exists very much independent of the listener. In other words, I am somehow more myself because of my interaction with you. And, it feels to me, that when those interactions are profound and deep, it could even be a small “dose” of you, that will have a major impact.

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© Alexander Feller 2018