Monday, December 14, 2009

Systems

In college, I studied psychology and, just after graduating, I studied a little bit about family therapy. Later I got interested in computers and something called 'cybernetic modeling'. I was also intrigued by the branch of philosophy of science called General Systems Theory. And I was influenced in the eighties by feminist theory and things like ecofeminism and feminist process.

If you've followed this blog for a while, you're probably aware that these days my interests are more in the nature of ecology, complexity theory, intentional communities, permaculture, and transition towns. I've been also studying a bit about Buddhism. One book in particular really wrapped all this stuff together for me. It's a quite academic book, written by Joanna Macy, with the dry title of Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory. I'll talk more about the book in my next post.

What do family therapy, cybernetics, General Systems Theory, feminist process, ecology, complexity theory, intentional communities, permaculture, and the Transition Initiative have in common? Not hard to guess with the title of this blog--they are all about systems. Family systems, cybernetic systems, ecosystems, and complex adaptive systems. Feminist process has often been about creating group (ie, systemic) leadership rather than individual leadership. Permaculture is all about systems design. An intentional community is as much a system as an ecosystem. The Transition movement is all about systemic change. And Joanna Macy makes it clear in her book that Buddhist thinking has a lot in common with systems theory.

I think that most of my life I have felt drawn to systemic ways of looking at things. One of my mantras is "It's all connected." This is why I can go from talking about love and compassion to peak oil to poverty and social justice to barnraisings and gardenraisings to relocalization. I see the connections; I can even dimly see the whole system behind it all. What I can see clearer, what's generally always on my mental peripheral vision, is a vision of a different way of living. I know that another world is possible and it is a world that recognizes systems and interconnections. Systems theory, as I am relearning, has talked about self-organizing and emerging systems for quite a while--complexity theory is just the latest incarnation. That's why I spend so much time pointing out that there isn't a single most important problem to deal with and there won't be one simple solution to it all. It is a systems problem and it requires systemic thinking and systemic change.


Quote of the Day: "The way to build a complex system that works is to build it from very simple systems that work." - Kevin Kelly

2 comments:

ViolentLove said...

I read this post a couple of days ago and I've been wandering back to it since...

Very nice thoughts here...

MoonRaven said...

Thank you. I guess we are learning from each other.