Sunday, June 8, 2014

The intelligence that pervades

Buhner's 'Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal‎ Realm' asks that we see the world in a radically new (old) way. With our sensory gates widened, we will find ourselves immersed in the scenario that is the world, unfolding as a bit player in self-organising, intelligent systems, no more and no less important than any other organism, with work to do that is ours but never at the 'apex' of evolutionary development. 

Unlike the world of reductionist mater‎ialism, this is an intelligent, purposeful world intent on fulfilling expression and full of continuous innovation. Unlike the world of the religious fundamentalist, it is not a world made for man to which everything else is merely supporting background (to be stewarded or exploited according to taste).

It is a beautiful vision of the world that can be explored through renewed organs of feeling, as well as mind, and by learning to genuinely perceive it's unfolding and listen to its purposes, mostly expressed in the non-linear‎ language of sign and feeling.

On the way we learn a great deal about how intelligence is carried by expressed meanings and that such expression is carried in self organising systems, not only brains. Trees, for example are constantly modifying their behaviour within a living systems to sustain themselves as their embodying environment changes. Using, as they do, many of the same chemicals passed through nodal systems that we normally associate with brain chemistry - like for example serotonin. Trees communicate with their surroundings as purposefully as we do, in languages that are understood and respond to and is as concerned at creating a sustaining environment around itself as we are (and none of that description is seen by Buhner as an anthropomorphic projection)!

We are reminded too that our reason fashioned maps are never the territory and our ignorance always outstrips our presumptive ‎knowledge.

The world is returned to us through this journey as wonderfully strange and the invitation to each of us is to recover our ways of seeing and feeling that would give rise to a more humble, more compassionate knowing in which our expertise would be primary. We would not keep passing the buck for solutions to our challenges to top down expertise. We would be asking continuously as to what the world needs in this particular place and together with the other inhabitants of that place venturing a solution.

A refrain that runs through the book is Einstein's remark that we cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that caused them. Einstein's way of knowing is just one of the examples that Buhner cites as exemplary of what we need - childlike, imaginative, participatory that asks the world what it feels like to be it (in his case what does it feel like to be travelling as a beam of light) and listens to the answers, often as Goethe noted, delivered as analogies.

This kind of thinking is not prevalent in our schools and universities and Buhner notes that innovation tends to come from the outlier, the maverick and the barbarian. This is what he wants each of us to reclaim for ourselves - a revolution from below, achieved one person at a time ceding from the 'normal'.

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