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πŸ“š Book: Presence - Human Purpose and the Field of the Future

This book describes the U theory, which provides a mental model for working through complex problems in a way that is deeper and more permanent than a surface level solution.

"Completing the U" means going down the awareness on one side and carrying through to embodying change. This is something that I've felt a lack of courage to do in my life, and having the reference points the book creates is very powerful. Β 

This framework resonated with me in how it applies to both Design and life. The pieces below are by no means a good summary of the book, but are excerpts that felt important to me.

The connection of the whole and parts

A recurring theme in the book is the connection between the whole and its parts. Seeing that connection is an essential first step to "presencing", which is the transition point between the downwards and upwards movement along the U.

The book quotes Goethe:

The whole exists through continually manifesting in the parts, and the parts exist as embodiments of the whole. (6)

And Fuller:

"What you see is not a hand," said Fuller. "It is a 'pattern integrity,' the universe's capability to create hands." (6)

Focusing on the connection rather than either whole or the part

What is important is not the seed or the tree, but the ability the seed has to become a tree. That is the potentiality of a possible future. A future will happen, but that future will be like depends on that potentially and how it is acted on.

On agency of of potentiality:

Rather than attributing the changes sweeping the world to a handful of all-powerful individuals or faceless "systems," we can view them as the consequences of a life-form that, like any life form, has the potential to grow, learn, and evolve. (8)

Awareness can inform actions:

If awareness never reaches beyond superficial events and current circumstances, actions will be reactions. If, on the other hand, we penetrate more deeply to see the larger wholes that generate "what is" and our own connection to this wholeness, the source and effectiveness of our actions can change dramatically. (12)
The key to the deeper levels of learning is that the larger living wholes of which we are an active part are not inherently static. ... When we become more aware of the dynamic whole, we also become more aware of what is emerging. (12)

The feeling of self-ness and how it ties to creativity

As W. Brian Arthur, noted economist of the Santa Fe Institute, put it, "Every profound innovation is based on an inward-bound journey, on going to a deeper place where knowing comes to the surface." This inward-bound journey lies at the heart of all creativity, whether in the arts, in business, or in science. Many scientists and inventors, like artists and entrepreneurs, live in a paradoxical state of great confidence and profound humility knowing that their choices and actions matter and feeling guided by forces beyond their making. (13)

That same sense of Self-ness can be constrianed by judgement

There is nothing inherently wrong with the collective Voice of Judgment, any more than there is with our individual internal censor or critic. In the jargon of social psychologists, groups are naturally coercive: they need shared norms and shared ways of thinking and seeing to function effectively. But, like our individual internal judge, problems arise when the collective censor goes unrecognized. (32)

This quote is in some ways a summary of the U theory, related to how actions can come from inner meaning as opposed to reacting to external factors:

the U theory suggests a different stance of "cocreation" between the individual or collective and the larger world. The self and the world are inescapably interconnected. The self doesn't react to a reality outside, nor does it create something new in isolation--rather, like the seed of a tree, it becomes the gateway for the coming into being of a new world. (92)

This concept can also be extended to systems, where we can view them as the consequences of a life-form that, like any life form, has the potential to grow, learn, and evolve.

Burnout tangent

Burnout tangent: This part reminds me of the points brought up in The End of Burnout

[There is a danger in] becoming an instrument of will that's not your own... You can become some kind of robot. You're not in the generative matrix. You're dehumnized ... we're describing the life of most of us working in most organizations: when we're used as an instrument to serve something other than life, we lose our feelings and our capacity to sense. We just go through the motions. (230)

Design process tangent

Design process thought/tangent: An interesting thought on protyping and taking action: it rings true to both taking action in one's life, and of prototyping in the design process. 

... the action is not just on action."It is the by-product of participating more consciously in dialogue with an unfolding universe. (162)

On art vs science, and fragmentation (it reminds me of the book The Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Science and art-two of the oldest activities in human culture are both dedicated to investigating reality. Art, wholly dependent on the direct experience of the artist, deepens our understanding by asking, as the painter Gauguin put it, "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" ... Bohm called fragmentation- in our view of the universe and of ourselves as separate from one another and nature "the hidden source of the social, political, and environmental crises facing the world. (190)

On society and technology, and how the easy way out doesn't work (related to the book Design for Dasein)

Western culture's growing reliance on reductionistic science and technology over the past two hundred years fits the shifting-the-burden dynamic remarkably well, revealing a play of forces that create growing technological power and diminishing human development and wisdom. (206)
This is the technical definition of complexity in systems thinking, when cause and effect are no longer close in time and space. As complexity increases, the need for wisdom grows, even as our wisdom atrophies. (209)

On that aliveness (reminds me of lifegams blog post)

In extraordinary moments ... we break out of the story. We encounter a world of being one with ourselves, others, nature, and life in a very direct way. It's beautiful and awe-inspiring. It shifts our awareness of our world and ourselves in radical ways. It brings a great sense of hope and possibility but also great uncertainty. It can also be hard suddenly finding ourselves outside the story that has organized our life up to that point. It's wonderful to be free, but also terrifying. (216)

On page 222, an act of committment must occur (again similar to agency and taking action). This breaking down of habits and patterns to reframe one's Β understanding of oneself reminds me a many aspects of queer theory.

Inner freedom is more subtle. It concerns the extent to which our actions are governed by our habits. We can appear free in the sense of no one is controlling us, yet our actions are completely predetermined by our habitual ways of thinking and acting in reaction to our circumstances. [...] that movement and intention, that willingness to surrender, actually creates the field in which presencing occurs. (223)

On fighting the social prison and moving forward now:

It's as if we must be conscious and aware that every choice we make has the power to affect things one way or another. And those choices are a direct result of how deeply we're sensing and presencing. (234)
What if we have something distinctive to contribute-something to give rather than just take?" ... "What you're saying is that no alternative path forward may exist without rediscovering why we're here because only then can we start to see what we actually have to give." (238)