Time, energy, and matter must exist in a constant flow that provides a medium for transformation. Evolution is change. Humans are witnesses to change and we are agents of change.


How do we account for the convergence of time, energy, and matter into a coherent representation of meaning or universal principles?

synchronicity: a “meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia / Unsplash

For example, how can we account for Einstein’s theory of special relativity and his equation relating time, energy, and matter?

Our recent Design Science Studio event, Dissolve & Bloom, speaks to the forces of entropy and syntropy as manifestations of the whole of universal reality and particular experience. According to a scientific, analytical, and objective approach to observation of empirical data, the universe is a form of clockwork that is in a process of winding down, a decay into disorder. However, the progression of increasing order, complexity, and coherence that we seem to be witnessing is in contrast to this tendency toward separation, disorder, and atomization that the human mind associates with breakdown and death. Living systems seem to manifest a different form of reality that describes a trajectory from simple organic lifeforms to more complex forms with greater capacities for self-consciousness, self-awareness, and self-organization.

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As human populations are increasing and rates of extraction and consumption are straining the physical limits of the Earth’s resources, we are asking questions about ways of living that are sustainable. According to Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, economic growth is driving human activities that are crossing social and planetary boundaries, causing multiple systemic crises. We are witnessing the breakdown of biological, personal, social, economic, political, and ecological systems. Lynne Twist, inspired by Buckminster Fuller to lead The Hunger Project, recognizes a need to honour those who came before while we empower a new generation to shape the future. We hospice the old military-industrial complex to midwife the birth of new living systems. We are effectively beating swords into ploughshares. As Bucky might say, we are transforming education from war games to world games, from weaponry to livingry.

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Synchronizing with the Nonlinear Living World with Mansoor Vakili

The questions I asked of Mansoor Vakili were in regard to the challenge of changing personal behaviours in social systems designed for conformity to maintain the status quo.

“If the movement is away from self-assertive to self-organizing, would it help to reframe this as collective-organizing?”

“Typically, we are given a political choice between the self-assertion of individual rights or the power of the collective: i.e., free market capitalism vs collective socialism.”

“How do we flow with the living systems around us in a social, economic, and political environment with architecture and infrastructure that is designed to train and enforce linear thinking?”

Mansoor Vakili’s answers were to consider the collaboration that we find in living systems, such as an orchestra’s ability to manifest the synchronization of many parts in the creation of the whole that is more than the sum of its parts. He also refers to the technology of lasers.

The term “laser” originated as an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”.

The light of the sun radiates outward from the center of the sphere. The energy of a laser is focused in a particular direction.

Natural phenomena tend to diffuse and spread. Living systems tend to focus and create coherence. The tensions between life and death, gravity and space are summed up in these differences and similarities. The breath of life is symbolic of the processes that are able to navigate the tensions between stasis and motion that enable the experience of life and consciousness.

Time, energy, and matter must exist in a constant flow that provides a medium for transformation.

Evolution is change. Humans are witnesses to change and we are agents of change. We recognize that life and death are integral to this process of change. Without death, it is not possible to focus. However, because of constraints on time, energy, and matter, we must edit, we must focus, and we must prepare for what comes next. We do not exist for ourselves. We exist as a medium of exchange, a flow of energy from the past to the future through the conduit of the present.

Rob Bell explores cultural evolution from the perspective of a book compiled over thousands of years to document human struggles in self-organization and collective organization in a podcast episode titled, Then We Will Be Like All the Other Nations.

“The political is the personal. The personal is the political.” (4:23)

“There is something universal in that particular.” (5:23)

“The universal needs a particular. It needs an incarnation. It needs flesh and blood.” (6:00)

What we discover in the records and documents of our social and cognitive evolution are recognitions of our failures and limitations and the constraints of living systems that provide opportunities to focus time, energy, and matter to create art, such as a symphony, or to create tools that focus energy in a way that facilitates complex communications systems, such as a mobile phone or laptop computer.

Time, energy, and matter are the raw materials of life that can be used to focus on linear processes that drive the process of extracting value from human beings and concentrating that value as accumulations in monetary wealth for a few people at the expense of the whole. That linear process reinforces a social and political paradigm that concentrates power in the hands of a few, at the expense of the influence, capacity, and agency of the whole.

Tristan Harris and Shoshana Zuboff are pointing to manifestations of this same linearity within the social architecture of our technological infrastructure, which is designed on old models of extraction and consumption. The focus on growth for its own sake has been at the expense of the health of the whole system.

We might forgive a lack of political will to change on mere ignorance. However, we have clear evidence of malice and intent to benefit at the expense of others as a feature designed into the system.

These are the systems that Bucky referred to as obsolete. These are the systems that are in the process of being replaced. Living systems have a built-in process of designed obsolescence. If the parts no longer serve the whole, a self-defence system, an immune system will eliminate the threats to the viable processes and reproduction of a healthy living system.

This is the story of love overcoming the power of empire. Love seeks the good of the whole. Empire is a cancer that undermines the life of the whole. Living systems favour diversity and creativity. As artists, we are the living, growing edge of change that is able to manifest the exchange and flow of time, energy, and matter as the life that sustains the whole.

Rob Bell contrasts the self-organizing principle of empire with the self-organizing principle of spirit by comparing status quo with innovation. Even ancient texts reiterate a message of living systems. The future is not prescribed. The future is an action of a living system to bear witness to the focus of time, energy, and matter on bringing new life into existence to manifest greater complexity, coherence, conscious awareness, and compassion. “Love your neighbour” must be interpreted.

We are recognizing that one’s neighbour is limited only by one’s ability to conceive of a circle of influence wide enough to encompass all of life. What if that circle was able to encompass the universe itself, both the physical and the metaphysical? To love one’s neighbour as oneself is merely saying the same thing twice.

Eric Chaisson’s major research interests are twofold: His scientific research addresses an interdisciplinary, thermodynamic study of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena, seeking to understand the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, planets, life, and society, thus devising a unifying cosmic-evolutionary worldview of the Universe and our sense of place within it writ large. His educational work engages master teachers and computer animators to create better methods, technological aids, and novel curricula to enthuse teachers, instruct students, and enhance scientific literacy from grade school to grad school.