The Theory Of Relationships
What I am about to say will not make any sense to a lot of you because you see things as solid. In truth, all things are patterns of energy. Iím not talking about the spiritual concept, although it might be the same thing or part of the same thing. Iím not qualified to speak to that. I am talking about quantum physics.
To me, it is like that scene in The Matrix where Neo first sees past the image to the underlying source code. Once you see that everything is a pattern of energy, you see that the patterns are organized into structures that participate in a dance of energy flows. You no longer categorize things into good and bad. Patterns are patterns. A particular structural pattern will affect the pattern that concerns you either positively or negatively. To get rid of the negative you must change the pattern.
That is the point. We, as a species, have the power to rearrange the patterns.
No thing is important in the universe:
Nothing in the universe has inherent importance. Any significance anything has derives from its relation to other things. Therefore, we can look at all natural phenomena as systems. Systems of energy and matter forming atoms, molecules, solar systems, galaxies, ecosystems, families, governments, enterprises. These are all related things significant for there relationships to one another.
There is no substance in the universe:
Nothing in the universe has substance. Rather, what we think of as substance, is sets of relationships of increasing complexity. Energy radiates through the universe and sometimes rolls up into little balls we call quarks. Quarks are somehow attracted to form protons, neutrons and electron, which are attracted by a strong and a weak force into atoms, which are attracted by electric forces into molecules, which are gathered together by gravity into suns, planets, solar systems and galaxies and under certain circumstances come together in connection with a DNA molecule and start reproducing themselves. These reproducing assemblages of molecules interact, producing and consuming energy and matter, in ecosystems where they grow, die, evolve and the ecosystem grows, contracts and evolves, held together by the attraction of each species to the food it needs. At some point, one particular form of reproducing assemblages of matter developed the capacity to think about itself and its relationship to other things. These conscious assemblages of molecules began forming yet more complex sets of relationships.
The love of parent and child holds together a family, the need for physical security builds nations, the need for emotional security builds religions, the need for economic security builds businesses. Love, loyalty, obedience, and self-sacrifice, hold together human systems and they have as much substance as any of the other forces holding things together.
Sets of relationships have structure:
The key to designing systems lies in understanding the forces that hold the system together and how each component relates to the other components.
Buckminster Fuller taught us that the first stable geometric structure is the tetrahedron. Four things where one thing is not in the same plane as the other three. Four cannon balls in a stack. Again, it is not the things themselves that are important, it is what holds them together that makes a structure.
The universe that we know is a tetrahedron of energy, matter, life and consciousness. An ecosystem is a tetrahedron of energy, matter, plants and animals. Human systems can be studied in terms of their internal relationships. A family is at a minimum a parent and child with access to nourishment. To be stable the family will need another connection, usually to other families. The more connections a family has to other systems, natural and human, the more stable the family can be. The fewer connections a family has, the more likely it will be dysfunctional.
The elements of successful human structures:
Human structures that will be stable and successful for the long term will link a group of families with an ecosystem, a renewable source of energy, and an enterprise. By enterprise, I mean the production of some good or service that can be traded with other groups of humans.
Any such structure could be more stable by increasing its complexity. That is, work to increase the complexity of the ecosystem with which it is associated, tap additional sources of energy, increase the number of goods and services it produces, or increase the number of transactions that it has with other groups.
Sustainability is a function of the level of the design:
Most design discussions take place at the national or international level or conversely, at the individual or family level. Neither of these levels easily lends themselves to design of stable structures. Except perhaps in the case of the family farm, the family is too small to establish the necessary relationships with an ecosystem for long-term stability. The set of relationships that make up national and international systems is too complex to be able to implement an effective design. (Note the failure of most "utopian" schemes). At the national level, any proposed change will benefit some subcomponents of the nation system and pose hardship for other subcomponents.
The current system we live in is not stable. We rely on fossil fuels and we know we will have to change that. Huge numbers of human beings do not have the necessary relationships to lead stable productive lives and we know we will have to change that. The question is how?
Stable complexity is based on stable components:
Entire galaxies are based on the accumulation of individual atoms. Complex living creatures like human beings are cooperative structures of individual cells. A stable ecosystem is a complex assemblage of individual species. A stable human system will consist of stable component systems.
For conceptual purposes, I use an organic model for thinking of structuring human systems. For example, each structure needs a skin, a way of identifying those who are a part of this structure as opposed to a part of a different structure. (employees of a business, residents of a town) The real problem with designing on the national level is that each of us is a part of many different groups; family, community, church, profession, avocation, political persuasion, state, nation. Any proposed change will be good, bad, or neutral for each of the groups in which we participate. The purpose of the theory of relationships is to give us tools to design new sets of relationships that are stable and that can grow and/or multiply. In the current state of affairs it is hard to gauge whether any change will be overall positive or negative because the structures are too large, too complex and too unstable.
Why this point of view is important:
Too much time is spent identifying what is bad. The set of potential relationships approaches infinity. If the existing set of relationships does not suit you, it is incumbent on you to create a new set that produces what you need.
Too much time is spent fighting over (struggling for) existing resources. New sets of relationships hold the potential to increase available resources to the point that there is no need to fight over resources. If your have inadequate resources it is up to you to create those relationships that will produce the resources you need. Destroying someone else's relationships that produce resources for them only decreases total available resources.
Where to begin:
The two biggest problems facing the earth today are environmental degradation and poverty. Both problems are a result of a lack of stable relationships. Through our failure to recognize the importance of our relationship to living natural systems, we are busily destroying whole ecosystems. When traditional sets of relationships break down, whole groups of people lose the relationships they need to live safe and productive lives. Often, the break down of traditional relationships leads the poor to strip the life out of their local ecosystems, which adds to the destruction from industrial pollution. Therefore, it seems to me, that the place to start is in helping poor people establish new relationships with the ecosystem.