Consciously Whole
The idea that complex order arises through self-organization of simpler components is a new current in scientific thought. In the sciences of complexity, the view is maintained that order in the universe arises spontaneously — that it is an inherent property of nature. We observe a self-ordering process wherein individuals, be them cells, organisms, or populations, develop complex networks of relationships. What is intriguing and of profound significance is that nature's networks form solely on the basis of the individuals' propensity to interact. They are self-organizing.
Simple components interact and as the extent of their interaction exceeds a threshold value, they become organized. The newly organized components then exhibit novel behaviors or activities — in other words, they exhibit an emergent property. The now organized components continue to interact with other organized components giving rise to higher and higher levels of order and exhibiting additional emergent properties. The net result is the development of a complex and interactive system capable of evolution through adaptation.
Workers in the sciences of complexity speak of living organisms and their organ systems as complex adaptive systems. The human brain, which is widely believed to be the seat of consciousness, is a complex adaptive system par excellence: the multitude of interconnecting neurons and the endless interactions among them across the synapses creates a neural network that is capable of creating novelty, of emergence. Learning would be an example of this sort of brain emergence - the capacity to learn is not present in the individual neurons but arises as a result of their interactions.
Perhaps consciousness itself is an emergent property of the brain. Perhaps human consciousness is a complex adaptive system and as such, has the capacity to self-organize and create emergent order. That is to say that our minds have the capacity to organize themselves and thereby our world by their own accord. What are dreams if not the expression of a self-organizing consciousness?
At this point, a broader question is raised: if the physical world outside of us is self-organizing and complex and our internal, mental world is also self-organizing and complex, how is it that our behavior is so out of sync with the essential features of these two worlds? Or put differently, why is it a struggle for us to cooperate, to share, to safeguard our environment and its life forms when we, ourselves, are the embodiment of the principles of cooperation and interdependence?
We are reflections of self-organized complexity. We are its embodiment as well. I believe that visual imagery that embodies this fundamental principle can stir us to wakefulness; that our own self-organizing consciousness will recognize itself in the imagery and remember; as a result we may unconsciously succeed in rekindling a connection to our own nature as beings — irreducible, interdependent, and an inextricable part of a much greater whole.
© copyright 2017, Jim Modiano