Today’s wake-up word is Orenda: It is the concept of spiritual energy thought to be inherent in all natural things to various degrees – the collective power of nature’s energies expressed through the living energy of all natural objects believed by the Haudenosaunee Native American Nations. (The Iroquois is what Europeans called the Haudenosaunee, which was actually a confederation of Native American nations who had found peace and prosperity by way of cooperation with each other). Orenda was thought to be a transmissible spiritual currency that, if one was able to harness it, could be channeled according to the will of the individual.
The Seventh Generation Principle was born in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) culture. It was the philosophy that decisions made in the present should result in some beneficial dividends at least seven generations into the future.
From my current perspective, the concept of leadership in our world is rooted in the solemn responsibility to cultivate the progress of the community we live in and depend on over time. It is to point our talents toward contributing to a higher quality of living experience now and in the long run, as well as to continuously renew this commitment with each generation both in word and deed.
Here’s some additional background on the Haudenosaunee
Since the podcast I am working on developing is called – Things That Matter – starting off with the nature of a thing seems fairly appropriate. This video concentrates on outlining a map of how we map things. As always, feedback and suggestions on how to make this a more useful tool for sharing “things that matter” are welcome.
For any organization (including biological organisms) to persist over time, a certain balance between what might appear on the surface to be competing priorities determined by environmental context must be expressed. Safety vs. the need for food, for instance. Regular patterns of structure and behavior are surrounded by increasingly dynamic and less frequent ones that work together to maintain coherence in the context of the environment. This is the bone and flesh of coherence that applies to any coherent system. Out of this pool of necessities emerges a particular structural-behavioral form. The more persistent patterns form a “bone structure” architecture of the system. This is the grammar from which increasingly dynamic flexible elements of structure and behavior appear. These more flexible elements of structure are more suited to contend with wider ranges of environmental variables. This is the essence of persistently coherent systems in the context of the environment.
One of the most useful lenses to make this grammatical pattern of structures more visible and able to be acted on is the Wardley model. It parses organizations into pioneers, settlers, and town planners. Using this lens, the town planner types are the bone structure of an organization and the pioneers are the flexible explorers who contend with the future and embrace discovery. A specific blend of each that is proportional to contexts such as marketplaces and social economy environments is required for organizations to persist over time.
This model of persistently coherent organizations also applies to civilization. How well we manage the embrace of traditions and innovation that are relevant to successfully navigating our present and future environments will determine whether we persist or not. Negotiating in this nuanced multifaceted context is key.
Pioneers, Settlers, Town Planners – How Innovation Works
Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure. Leo Tolstoy, an author that gained fame and fortune in addition to having a magnificent family and good health sank into a profound state of anhedonia. He had it all but not only could not enjoy it. He began suffering from a shrinking sense of purpose. It seemed as if everything he accomplished was going to be ultimately meaningless. He became so depressed that he was on the brink of suicide. In an attempt to cope with his profound sadness and despair, he began to try to trick himself to stay alive while he tried to figure out what was driving this. During this dark period in his life he wrote this:
“As presented by the learned and the wise, rational knowledge denies the meaning of life, but the huge masses of people acknowledge meaning through an irrational knowledge. And this irrational knowledge is faith, the one thing that I could not accept. This involves the God who is both one and three, the creation in six days, devils, angels and everything else that I could not accept without taking leave of my senses. My position was terrible. I knew that I could find nothing in the way of rational knowledge except a denial of life; and in faith I could find nothing except a denial of reason, and this was even more impossible than a denial of life. According to rational knowledge, it followed that life is evil, and people know it. They do not have to live, yet they have lived and they do live, just as I myself had lived, even though I had known for a long time that life is meaningless and evil. According to faith, it followed that in order to understand the meaning of life I would have to turn away from reason, the very thing for which meaning was necessary.”
To contend with the fact that nature is the fire that both breathes us into existence and will ultimately consume us is not an easy proposition to face squarely. We could easily wither under this terrifying proposition if we were to boldly stare at its face. The realization that the best we can muster in the context of our brief time as torch-bearers is to take solace in the planting of trees, whose shade will be enjoyed by our descendants, as we fearfully await our inevitable fate or despair that all we build will someday crumble. We might try to avoid the topic altogether by fiercely burying ourselves in mundane routines elevated to sacred ritual status, not because they are important, but because they keep the persistent and inevitable monster that looms closer every day and rages whenever we dare look at a greater slice of the temporal landscape and we see our lack of presence there, when we peer past the boundaries of our own lifetime with the keen awareness that all things will end, including us.
We could attempt to avoid our mortality by never living at all. We can endlessly distract ourselves with trivia. Perhaps we will mind-numbingly inflate the importance of ultimately meaningless things in a frantic attempt to distract – even delude – ourselves… to believe for brief moments that we have meaning – that we have a purpose. For those of us who brave the naked cosmic fires that breathed life into us and find the wherewithal to navigate without being consumed along the way – we may find ourselves refined by those same fires that birth us and ever threaten to consume. If we endure we may come to understand that our existence is in the context of a larger body of life, of which we are part, and from which we cannot be separated. We may find that we get to have a voice, to craft meaning out of the stone – to breathe meaning into the object, and indeed into the larger body of life – to leave an indelible mark as we burn but are not yet consumed, passing through this thing from which we came, to which we will return, and paradoxically, from which we can never leave. If we cultivate lasting meaning, something that helps contribute to the integrity of the body of life – that is what will be cherished and treasured because of its value in stitching the bonds of integrity that stem the tides of chaos, rather than wither from the challenges that face us, it is only then in that cultivation of meaning from the stone that our life will have had meaning, that we will have become more than the object – more than just the stone.
There is an essential property of the various biological rituals we express from heartbeats and breathing to the search for food, ingesting, and transforming it into useful service with respect to our biological form. We also hunger for the right environment and fitting in socially in the context of the broader human community – this obit of rituals is built around a central theme: to nourish and protect coherence in the context of the environment. This is the principle axiom for all objective forms in nature. Otherwise less defined concentrations of energy condense into objects and spacetime. This is the defining principle of the body of relationships we call nature.
As humans we are situated as a node in one of many networked branches of this broader relationship economy that defines all things – sometimes called the cosmos or the universe. This matrix of relational bonds that has defined elements of structure that dance their way forward through time, culminating in the tapestry of forms that define nature’s current state of being. Our particular branch of the journey from the nuclear ash that formed in stellar wombs giving birth to the raw elements and the canvas of spacetime on which these forms are painted – to our current state as biological organisms, like all things, we too are a network of relationships between energetic forms. The selection process based on what is possible in local environments of space and time spawned coherent forms in an ever-changing environmental pool of influences.
We are a product of the successful negotiation of a journey through space and time. Our nature, like nature itself, is one of the expressions of coherence based on consistently nourishing and defending our form along the varied way. This penchant to nourish and defend ourselves in the context of a variable environment is the defining fire current forms are forged and future forms depend. As a consequence of this unfolding journey, we are not a static form, but a dynamic dancers in a cosmic mist, obligated to either bow to the light that defines us, or be extinguished into an incoherent dark. We are fated to continuously negotiate an ever-changing environment, attending to our form. This attendance to coherence in the context of the environment is the grammar on which structures are born. As a result of the development of this “language of being”, over time we have stratified into multiple layers. At the center is a vital core of adaptive capacities. This is surrounded by increasingly less vital but still useful and variable capacities such as arms and hands that help us negotiate the knowns and unknowns that unfold in and around us. Along the way, we have accumulated this nested architecture of traits oriented around nature’s supreme currency of value – to devote ourselves to the necessities of being, defined by our local environment, that are required to continue forward in time.
We are players in nature’s defining story, part of a broader pageantry of the necessities of being sometimes called survival. We exist as a massive collection of chemical and behavioral rituals that are obligated to pay sufficient homage to these necessities of being. This relationship between our local sense of being and the inseparable defining womb that spawns us is what we experience as life. Each of us is a perception and response engine nudged by environmental necessities to act proportionally in service of the nourishment and defense of our form.
Our role in nature’s broader journey of the search for greater coherence currently fates us to consume morsels of other biological matter, absorb things like light, air, and water and stitch all of these into the metabolic maintenance of our structure. We have both short-term hungers like that of air and water as well as other longer-form cyclic waves of hunger-seeking satisfaction in our arc of being that are also oriented toward coherence. The drive to reproduce is one of these longer-form cyclic waves – we must successfully plant our seeds to carry our form forward into the future. This can be in the form of children or something of value toward coherence that we bring to the community we live in and depend on – this larger body of life that services its own coherence continuing on beyond our individual lives.
A blend of self-sacrifice and reward spiced with enough penchant to adapt to the variables of a changing environmental womb is what we pass on, or find our form transformed back to the ashes from which it came waiting again to discover its place in the unfolding journey toward greater coherence. This is the context in which each of our journeys unfolds. Our inherent story is to find the signal in the noise and to refine the noise into an increasingly coherent signal.
In the Summer of 1947, behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner discovered that pigeons could develop what he came to call “superstitions”. When the birds under his care were hungry they began performing random behaviors in an attempt to satisfy that hunger. He found that he was able to draw out certain behaviors by controlling when the food was dispensed. Through this, he was able to make birds dance and even learn to play ping pong.
There is a connection between B. F. Skinner’s pigeon experiments with classical conditioning and the way the pollution of false assumptions that begin to reside in our individual and cultural maps affects our behaviors. Pigeons develop ritual behaviors that are not directly connected to the satisfaction of native biological drives but have been connected because of their expression during the drive’s presence. Biological drives such as hunger for food or social connection can become fused with whatever behaviors or properties are present while these hunger drives are engaged.
Because of our dependence on acting out specific behavioral rituals in order to satisfy native biological drives, these drives (hungers) make us more susceptible to looking for patterns. In aroused states where we become interested in satisfying drives, we are also more tuned to forge connections between environmental artifacts and that particular drive. These correlated events become erroneously perceived as causal. This “noise in the signal” becomes part of the basis of how our individual and cultural maps of the world are formed.
The connection between ritual and biological drive is like a map legend when comes to understanding animal psychology, including our own. This same effect has been shown to occur in human psychology. For instance, if a person becomes ill from a previously unknown infection right after visiting a particular restaurant, the type of food they ate can become connected to the experience of getting sick. This bond between illness and food will affect future behaviors. It can tune what the organism is attracted to and or repulsed by.
Neuroscience and biological behaviorism professor Robert Sapolsky describes a situation where a couple of students unattracted to each other decide to walk together to their dorm after classes. They stop for coffee and decide to get decaffeinated because it’s the end of the day. Due to an error, the female accidentally gets caffeinated coffee. She begins to feel the stimulation but is unaware of the source. She assumes she must have feelings for the male she was previously unattracted to because she conflates the stimulating effects of caffeine with the current social situation.
Other experiments reveal that we can be influenced by people planted in experimental conditions (called confederates) who ask a passerby to hold a warm cup of liquid vs. a cold cup while they pick up some “accidentally” dropped items. When these people are later questioned about the person they encountered, they will describe them in warm or cold terms depending on the temperature of the liquid they were asked to hold. In other words, disassociated items are mapped as patterns in our minds and these become the roots of what comes to shape how we behave. Our behavior quirks, preferences, beliefs, and so on are powerfully shaped by corresponding events that are not necessarily causal. This happens even if we never frame the influences in words and even if we are unaware of the origins of our perception. Local experiences and what we come to believe is forged when our biological drives are aroused and other events just so happen to be in that environmental context.
Marketers and propagandists use this arousal-connection technique to manufacture the thoughts and behaviors of people who consume mass media information. These bonds are literally forged by delivering high-test emotional content and connecting it to specific persons, groups, nation-states, words, brands, and so on.
As of late 2022, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary had 9 definition categories, almost all of which with subcategories, to define the various conditions in which we use the word “thing”. A word with so many uses might be considered versatile but versatility comes at the risk of being vague and easy to misunderstand. Words with such wide ranges of meaning can become tokens of confusion, not clarity. Context is one of the ways we fortify the meaning of ambiguous words but even this has limited reach. Verbal language only has so much carrying capacity even in the best of conditions.
It’s important to understand what our abstract tokens refer to as precisely as possible if the goal is to effectively communicate and or understand concepts. This is especially critical because we use these abstract maps to render and navigate various environments from physical to social. Merriam-Webster’s first definition of a thing is “an object or entity not precisely designated or capable of being designated. So we use “thing” to refer to something ill-defined but also something well-defined. As in; “Is this a thing?”, “What’s that thing?” and “Use this thing”. We use it to refer to objective forms that we classify as inanimate objects, to distinguish these things from what we call living things.1 Ironically we use the word for the reverse too. We call biological organisms living things to distinguish them from what we classify as non-living things. As in; “Not a living thing in sight.”
Thing is also used to refer to separate and distinct individual qualities, facts, ideas, or entities. As in; “The essence of the thing.”, ”Love is a thing.” It can be used to refer to a concrete entity as distinguished from its appearances. “The substance of the thing.” Spatial entities are also referred to as things. “Space is a thing.” It can refer to a quality like; “The most important thing.” It can be requirements as in “Things to do.”, the state of affairs, as in; “How are things?” or “Things are improving.” and “This thing can be looked at another way.” A thing can refer to an event. It can be possessions, articles of clothing, equipment, utensils, or associated items like; “Bring things for the party.” It can be actions, a reference to purpose, or entire sets of behaviors. “Doing your own thing.” It can refer to an emphasis, a personality quirk, or the object of the quirk. “It’s his thing.” It can be a detail, a material, a substance, an idea, a bit of information, and the proper or fashionable way of behaving, talking, or dressing.
Two young fish are swimming together when an older fish swims by, nods, and says; “Good morning. How’s the water?” The two fish nod back and swim on for a while when one looks at the other and says; “What’s water?” Deeper truths about nature’s architecture and the profound value hidden inside these truths are easily missed when the gateway to explore these domains is heavily disguised in plain sight. The following is an attempt to uncover some of these treasures hidden in plain sight and unlock the value waiting there to be discovered.
Nature is a canvas of space, time, matter, and energy that forges the patterned dance between energies that we experience as objective forms. In addition, nature defines the relationships between these forms. This relational dance also tells a story that flows from conception through a developmental journey toward greater maturity over time. In this sense; nature is the archetypal mother of mothers – the environmental womb that not only conceives and gives birth to all objective forms but also guides their development through space and time to their fully realized state.
Every object born of nature’s defining matrix is the archetypal child. Concentrated patterns of relationship are forged from nature’s inherent grammatical forces that influence energy to condense into what we experience as objective forms. The structural membranes that form from this process are nature’s children. As children, objects depend on nourishment and protection from the environmental womb to continue forward through time. The necessary relationships objects must have with the environment to remain coherent is the mother’s milk of “being”. The archetypal mother and child begin to define each other as the process unfolds. Parent and child is the primal relationship type – it is the essence of “being”.
Nature tells a story. The unfolding arc of the story told by nature through objects in relationship with each other1 is a tale of the journey toward increasingly coherent expressions of form over time. The dynamic complex adaptive relationship patterns that define biology are part of this story of movement toward higher resolution expressions of coherence. The elements of structure begin forming a nested architecture of mutually nourishing and protective relationships that serve the purpose of remaining coherent in the context of the environment. This developmental process is an expression of increasingly refined forms of coherence. This blend of form and function is also the birthplace of meaning.
As a whole, the biological relationship economy produces expressions of the value of coherence. This collection of structures and activities we call biology communicates that there are certain “necessities of being” that are defined by nature. Specific structures and relationship behaviors must happen to nourish and protect coherence. These are “valued” for their contribution to coherence. Biology is built around this hunger for coherence theme. What emerges from this value proposition is an expression that separates constructive from destructive. Certain structures and relationship behaviors have value toward coherence and certain others do not. Nature states that it favors certain structures and behaviors that produce a coherence value. Objects that remain coherent over time are expressions of this value.
An object born in the defining specifics of an environmental womb begins to develop patterns of structure and behavior that facilitate its continuing existence in the context of that environment.2 These structures and behaviors that have value toward coherence are selected over those that do not. Nature defines which structures and behaviors, in which contexts, result in higher forms of coherence. Ultimately that which is useful toward coherence survives. That which does not produce coherence goes extinct. In this way, nature determines what relational forms will have greater permanence and which will pass away.
The objects born of the interplay of the selective values inherent in nature generate the emergent language of “being”. The statement made by way of nature as a process can be translated into meaningful statements like; “Nature is telling us what can and cannot exist. She tells us that what contributes to a sustained state of coherence over time is valuable, what does not, is not.”
The increasingly complex expressions of information that spring from the fundamental grammar of defining forces establish the patterns of relationships we experience as objects.3 This process also communicates a meaningful story of the journey toward increasing coherence. A journey that composes the symphony of relationships we experience as us. Nature speaks, and we are but one of the many expressions of thought. By nature we are defined, but also like nature, we can become definers. If we carefully listen and constructively apply these lessons spoken through the structures and behaviors expressed by nature we also become a more resonant and coherent voice in this choir of living fire.
1Objects in relationship with each other is the grammatical foundation of the communication of meaning – the origin of language.
2This natural relationship dynamic is the origin of the abstract map tokens we see as a global property of human cultural conceptualization in the form of notions such as good and evil – attraction and disgust as well as the more complex abstract architectures that stem from these more direct sources. Structural and behavioral activities that have adaptive value in the context of the environment are repeated are duplicated as a function of the hunger for and the refining of processes that lead to coherence. This natural expression of form is the source of abstract concepts like replication.
3Nature as a language situates objects as nouns and relationships between them as the verbs. This relationship economy tells a story with a developmental arc over time – from infancy to a point of maturity. A story of emergence that renders more than the sum of its parts.
Generally speaking, it’s the media’s job to get attention and sell access. It’s their business model. There are a few authentic people in the industry but journalism is by and large a pious fraud narrative put forward to cover the otherwise parasitic and predatory industry. They manufacture the topics of discussion by hyping various fears and twisting words. This is followed by a self-propagating circle of repetition to reinforce a certain narrative. The industry erodes social integrity and the capacity for individual sensemaking for the sake of its existence, which is based on control.
The “profession” is practiced by dividing people into camps and selling access to those “market segments”. There is an incestuous relationship between the media, politics, and industry. The latter two depend on the media to advertise their “products”. The media lavish support on, and-or destroys, persons, public personas, or companies based on the goal of servicing or growing the power and influence. Media companies are cultural butchers and the public is the meat source.
Our job is to take responsibility for what we support and reject so that it shapes what is valuable to put in front of us. It’s us, the third estate (the common people) that have both the power and responsibility, even if we give it away to the fourth estate. (the press) We need to treat the information for what it is; commercial, which is the science of getting people to think and behave in specific ways – also known as manufacturing consent.
We are far better off as a community cultivating abundance by having each other’s backs nourishing and protecting each other’s full potential. This is not what the institutions of media, politics, and industry feed on. The point is that we have to do it ourselves. If the commitment to each other does not flow from the bottom up, it will never come from the top down. The roots feed the fruit.
We’re responsible for the values we cultivate through our actions. Our collective actions shape what we experience as a society. We all swim in the same pond. Whether or not we are kind in heavy traffic or look out for the people on our streets is as important as whether or not we take a leadership role as a means to serve ourselves or as a responsibility to serve the common good. A mutual stake in each other’s success is a recipe for a better world as far as I can tell. Parasitic and predatory behaviors are a recipe for self-authored poverty and suffering.
In this context, how we respond to an industry attempting to invite us to dinner as the meal and not as a guest is important. I think disinviting ourselves from the media’s table as much as possible is better than becoming part of the ecosystem by applying all our energy to pushing back against parasitic and predatory agenda pushers. While some attention must be paid not to be caught in parasite’s and predator’s traps, we also have to be careful not to fall into the trap of devoting all our energy to push back. It depletes the energy we need to do something better. Do something better on whatever scale is possible. That’s what changes the world.