Status Quo

Life                           -                      Death
Solid                         -                      Liquid
Certain                      -                      Uncertain
Permanence              -                      Change
Rigid                         -                      Flexible

Every system must have a 'steady state.' The steady state is what we describe as 'normal.' For instance, part of our body's steady state is to be somewhere around a temperature of 37°C. This is a normal temperature for the human body. To deviate from this temperature is to risk being 'unwell' (i.e. 'not normal')

It is only through steady states that we are able to recognise and experience things at all. A steady state implies a lack of change. The appearance of steadiness may only be an illusion - after all, nothing is truly able to stand still - but it is an important one; the illusion allows us to detect a world, and all of the things within it. It is only when things are still enough that we are able to see them and grasp them.

Thus, many philosophers have described our world as one of illusion, pointing to the notion that, whilst things may appear to be steady, they are, in fact, constantly changing.

We must, then, take our steady states seriously; but not too seriously. They are both real and illusory. To get too caught up in either story - all real, or all illusion - is to lose sight of the balance. Stay too still and you become a statue, unable to move at all. Move too much and you become a formless spark, visible only in flashes.

As ever, context is key. In some instances we may be seen as too-steady, as 'stuck in a rut.' Perhaps our sediments have settled at the bottom of the glass, and we need 'shaking up.' Yet in other contexts this selfsame attribute may be seen as 'reliable', 'devoted' or 'committed.'

If we are not steady enough then we may be described as 'wishy-washy'; as 'unable to commit' or 'averse to devotion.' People may see us as 'neither here nor there.' Yet at other times we may be seen as 'flexible,' 'mercurial,' or 'creative.'

We could describe life as a neverending to-ing and fro-ing between opposites; life and death; 'no-change' and 'all-change'; statue and spark. We let air into a stuffy room; stir things up when they become too settled; expose ignorance to new information; unstick what has become stuck. In doing so we attempt to keep a balance; which is another way of saying that we attempt to stay healthy.

Disagreement shakes us out of our slumbers, and forces us to see our own point of view through contrast with another person who does not share it. But we resist such confrontations.

... our intolerance of different fundamental structures of experience.

We seem to need to share a communal meaning to human existence, to give with others a common sense to the world, to maintain a consensus.

But it seems that once certain fundamental structures of experience are shared, they come to be experienced as objective entities.

A social norm may come to impose an oppressive obligation on everyone, although few people feel it to be their own.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.65

Hillman: I know I'm interrupting you, Stan, but that's the whole point. Two people talking is, at least conceptually, open to the community. Open to interruption.

Passy: Are you saying that's a function of community?

Hillman: We see it as interruption, as annoying, but the interruption takes you out of yourself, out of what you're doing, breaks the rhythm, breaks the isolation.

So interruption has a value, is important, because getting taken out of yourself is important; it lets air into a stuffy room. 

That's part of writing-as-dialogue, the important interruptions each makes into the other's thought, the sudden turns. So the page is more alive in that it's more like life, it moves like life.

[James Hillman]
with Stan Passy
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.186

Inviting dissent into the conversation is how we show respect for a wide range of beliefs [...] in a patriarchal world, dissent is considered disloyalty. Or negativism. Or not being a team player [...]

Hospitality is the welcoming not only of strangers, but also of the strange ideas and beliefs they bring with them.

When we think we have to answer people's doubts and defend ourselves, then the space for dissent closes down. When people have doubts, and we attempt to answer them, we are colluding with their reluctance to be accountable for their own future.

All we have to do with the doubts of others is get interested in them. We do not have to take them on or let them resonate with our own doubts. We just get interested.

Listening is the action step that replaces defending ourselves [..] get interested in people's dissent, their doubts, and find out why this matters so much to them.

[Peter Block]
Community, p.130-2

Last year I tried to get out of the Schreibstube, that closet of introversion, sitting and writing and practicing. I went around America, talking and listening to questions.

The questions forced me to think new things, say things. 

Things came right out of my throat, and I was fascinated listening to what was coming up, like the throat could say new things and different things than what comes from my hands when I'm writing.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.1

And there's a second reason you are convinced that you're more yourself when you're alone: because it's more familiar.

You are in a habitual, repetitious rut. 

"This is me, because I'm in the same pattern"; it's recognizable. When you're with another person you're out of yourself because the other person is flowing into you and you are flowing into them, there are surprises, you're a little out of control, and then you think you're not your real true self.

The out of control - that's the community acting through you. It's the locus that you're in acting through you.

[James Hillman]
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.41

Dr. Laing noted that the obvious can be very difficult for people to see. That is because people are self-corrective systems.

They are self-corrective against disturbance, and if the obvious is not of a kind that they can easily assimilate without internal disturbance, their self-corrective mechanisms work to sidetrack it, to hide it, even to the extent of shutting the eyes if necessary, or shutting off various parts of the process of perception.

Disturbing information can be framed like a pearl so that it doesn't make a nuisance of itself; and this will be done, according to the understanding of the system itself of what would be a nuisance.

This too - the premise regarding what would cause disturbance - is something which is learned and then becomes perpetuated or conserved.

[There are a number of these] enormously complex systems or arrangements of conservative loops. One is the human individual. Its physiology and neurology conserve body temperature, blood chemistry, the length and size and shape of organs during growth and embryology, and all the rest of the body's characteristics.

This is a system which conserves descriptive statements about the human being, body or soul. For the same is true of the psychology of the individual, where learning occurs to conserve the opinions and components of the status quo.

[The society in which the individual lives] is again a system of the same general kind.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.435-6

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

[Upton Sinclair]

Another reason that class has become less visible even as it's become more determinant is social networking.

The internet has allowed us to filter our contact with others to such an extent that we're seldom likely to encounter anyone who thinks or feels significantly differently online -- unless we consciously seek them out.

And why would we do that? To "challenge our own values"? Because "it's good for us"?

From Click Opera, here.

We've seen time and again how the identity politics movement of the 60s and 70s was about making class conflicts visible, bringing them to the surface, whereas the PC inheritors of those same conflicts, in the 80s and 90s, tended to want to hide and bury them by policing language and appearances.

Now, a lot of class struggle -- not to mention education, foreign aid, progressive taxation, charity and activism -- is precisely about people from more privileged positions helping people from less. One class or group helping another is not necessarily "condescension", and "condescension" is not to be confused with mistrust.

In classic Marxist theory, for instance, the intelligentsia can be "in league" with the proletariat, pressing their smarts into the service of the workers. Is that "condescending"? Should it stop?

Difference exists, in cyberspace and in meatspace. To acknowledge it is not to shaft anyone. What matters is what you do with that.

From here:

The better and more embracing the old theory, the more difficult it is for men to adjust their minds to embrace the new.

For the average person, the undermining and destruction of a cherished vision of reality can be a shattering experience. Such an upheaval is comparable to the disturbance a man suffers when a person in whom he has had 'basic trust' turns out to be unfaithful or untrustworthy.

Schemata, philosophies, religions, scientific theories, and even aesthetic prejudices, can all act as bulwarks against the basic, cosmic anxiety which we all suffer when we realize how large and how indifferent the world is, and how small and helpless is each individual in it.

No wonder we resent having our cherished illusions shattered, our traditional way of looking at things challenged. When the Impressionists first tried to exhibit their works in Paris, they were greeted with storms of abuse. We can only understand such intemperance if we realize that their new artistic vision must have mobilized intense feelings of basic anxiety in the artistic establishment.

[Anthony Storr]
The Dynamics of Creation, p.147

Only through experience do we become aware of the inflexibility of other people's characters

[...] till then we childishly believe that we could succeed by representations of reason, by entreaties and prayers, by example and noble-mindedness, in making a man abandon his own way, change his mode of conduct, depart from his way of thinking, or even increase his abilities;

 it is the same, too, with ourselves.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.304

The persistence of custom, its slow response to change, is a distinctive feature of the Amish people. 

The pervasiveness with which the Amish literally adhere to their traditional religious practices is carried over into the social and economic aspects of their lives.

Sociologists call this slow pace of change cultural inertia, cultural lag or formalism. Through it we can observe how Amish society has remained relatively stable while the dominant society has changed radically.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 49

[...] he was a most inconvenient and indigestible component in a community whose idea was harmony and orderliness.

But because of this very troublesomeness and indigestibility he was, in the midst of such a limpid and prearranged little world, a constant source of vital unrest, a reproach, an admonition and warning, a spur to new, bold, forbidden, intrepid ideas, an unruly, stubborn sheep in the herd.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 271

I don't particularly care about the usual.

If you want to get an idea of a friend's temperament, ethics, and personal elegance, you need to look at him under the tests of severe circumstances, not under the regular rosy glow of daily life. Can you assess the danger a criminal poses by examining only what he does on an ordinary day? Can we understand health without considering wild diseases and epidemics? Indeed the normal is often irrelevant.

Almost everything in social life is produced by rare but consequential shocks and jumps; all the while almost everything studied about social life focuses on the 'normal,' particularly with 'bell curve' methods of inference that tell you close to nothing.

Why? Because the bell curve ignores large deviations, cannot handle them, yet makes us confident that we have tamed uncertainty.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, p. xxix

What I think happens is that the dominant system ends up eating psychology and saying that the psychology that supports the dominant system is healthy psychology and anything that is dissenting is not healthy.

It ends up eating spirituality, and virtue, and ethics, and academia […] to basically say that the behaviours that support the system are good - so the thinking that supports those behaviours is good, and anything that is dissenting is bad.

It’s so easy to see it in the Crusades, or in Jihadism or even in the Victorian time period - it’s just very hard for us to see it about ourselves, now.

You have a self-perpetuating system that includes the perpetuation of the memes that support the system.

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'Daniel Schmachtenberger on The Portal (with host Eric Weinstein), Ep. #027 - On Avoiding Apocalypses' (1:27:45)

Organizations and social systems operating within a chaotic environment are being continually challenged to maintain their purpose and structure.

The paradox, however, is that larger and more established structures are usually less able to change.

The inertia resulting from their size (e.g., number of people) makes it difficult to introduce planned organizational or social change. Large institutions generally encompass well-established patterns. The stability of these structures makes them less able to adapt to environmental and internal system changes.

All other things being equal, small structures can adapt to change more efficiently than larger ones.

[David S. Walonick]
'General Systems Theory'

Organizations settle into stable symmetric relationships in known space and fail to recognize that the dynamics of the environment have changed until it is too late. The longer the period of stability and the more stable the system, the more likely it is for asymmetric threats or other factors to precipitate a move into chaos.

The decision makers in the system don’t see things that fall outside the pattern of their expectation, and they continue not to see them until finally the system breaks and they find themselves in chaos.

The final stage before the break point is witnessed frequently in history. A good example is the trial of Galileo, in which the Catholic Church accepted that the earth went round the sun for the purpose of mathematic calculation, provided no one said it was actually the case. In retrospect, this was an untenable position, which only delayed and made worse the inevitable collapse.

This phenomenon of grasping at order is common in people, governments, academia, and organizations of all shapes and sizes. Often the strongest dominant player in a market will continue with behavior long after its utility, perceived from a different perspective, is exhausted (Boisot uses IBM as an example of this).

Also, senior decision makers and their policy advisors will find ways of fitting reality into their existing models rather than face the fact that those models are outdated, and they will punish dissent (the history of science and business provide examples). 

Galileo is tried afresh in modern organizations on a regular basis.

[Cynthia Kurtz & Dave Snowden]
'The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world'

We can make good use of the Gaussian approach in variables for which there is a rational reason for the largest not to be too far away from the average. If there is gravity pulling numbers down, or if there are physical limitations preventing very large observations, we end up in Mediocristan.

If there are strong forces of equilibrium bringing things back  rather rapidly after conditions diverge from equilibrium, then again you can use the Gaussian approach. Otherwise, fuhgedaboudit.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 236

What is critical about the concept of The Dreaming is that it denies creative significance to history and human action, just as it denies the erosions of time. It represents all that exists as deriving from a single, unchanging, timeless source.

All things have always been the same, forever deriving from the same basic pattern.

In the Pintupi view, things as they are—the familiar customs of male initiation, death, cross-cousin marriage, sorcery, and burial, for example—were instituted once-and-for-all in The Dreaming. Human beings neither made it so nor invented these practices. Like everything else of the cosmos, people and their practices are simply part of a single, monistic order of existents established long ago.

It is [...] a world view that implies continuity and permanence. The historicity of hills unchanged through time proclaims that the cosmos has always been as it is and that, indeed, it cannot be different.

The Pintupi, like other Western Desert Aborigines, sometimes mark this quality of “life as a one-possibility thing" when they describe The Dreaming as "the Law." In doing so, they emphasize not only the norms or precedents established in The Dreaming, but also the sense of moral imperative it embodies.

People must continue The Dreaming and preserve it, making first things continuous with last, by "holding the Law" for coming generations. Thus, human beings play a role in the maintenance of the instituted order.

Pintupi explain about The Dreaming that it is not a product of human subjectivity or will. It is, rather, an order to which all are subordinated: "It's not our idea," men told me. "'It's a big Law. We have to sit down alongside of that Law like all the dead people who went before us."

Indeed, not only do the Dreaming narratives tell how the world came to be, but the raw material of the stories, the symbols themselves in the form of the landscape, signify the same concern on another level. 

Human life and being, they imply, are as permanent, enduring, and unchanging as the land itself.

These concepts are subtle and complex. In Western historical terms, changes have always taken place. The evidence of new customs and new cults is unassailable; life is not static. The Pintupi understandings of the historical process are not totally static either, but the concept of the The Dreaming organizes experience so that it appears to be continuous and permanent.

For the Pintupi, the dynamic, processual aspect of history seems to exist as one of discovering, uncovering, or even reenacting elements of The Dreaming.

[Fred R. Myers]
Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self, p.52-3