Science is telling us that each single cell is a ‘self.’ An entity, sentient enough to make the decisions it needs to make to keep living and even to reproduce. In the real world, these are not simple or easy choices to make. Each choice involves, at the most basic level, answers to the question, is this good for me, does it serve me to maintain an interaction, or can this harm me? If it is harmful, do you move away or protect yourself, and if protection is desired, then how. That’s a lot of fancy thinking for a single cell, yet the realization that there is something that is not self, and the information gathered to answer the simple yet complex questions above, is the start of the autopoietic process of self-making – for BOTH parties. That interdependent self-making is how Interbeing happens. Together, the choices both parties make from the information gathered, determines the kind and extent of the relationship they form. Enough of these experiences with the same or similar selfs, creates a pattern of behavior, over time. These patterns, over time, become automatic processes that become enacted when that same kind of ‘other’ is encountered. If the experience is continuous enough and often enough, then structures may be created that ensure the process will happen with less energy and attention. Structures can also be created when enough of similar selfs have made the same decision about similar ‘other selfs’ and they decide to stay together to deal with the situation. If enough connections are made, then networks can be formed to better facilitate the desired interaction. Over time, the new information gathered by all of these still independent selfs, may generate enough information to inspire a new set of choices that will generate an innovation – perhaps surrounding another desired self, who also recognizes the benefits of the relationship.
This process occurs with simple organisms as well as with larger organisms, like humans. For humans, the recognition of another person inspires an openness to information from and about the other that also answers the very same questions, but perhaps at different levels. The answers to those questions will determine the willingness to engage further, as well as the shape and kind of relationship that will be developed. If developing the relationship further, is chosen, then, over time, there will be developed a pattern to that relationship. If the relationship continues, then processes might be developed to make the relationship easier – say texting every morning. As the relationship continues, it may be that structures start to appear, such as expectations about response time, for instance. It can be that, over time, there arises a desire to bring in others and a network is formed. The addition of others with similar and compatible interests increases the flow of information, and this can inspire a shift that will create a novel and new expression of the group.
This process can be expressed as: Identity, Relationship, Information, Pattern, Process, Structure, Network, Emergence. In this model, no other can be recognized until a sense of self is clear. The acknowledgement of a ‘not self’ is a relationship that is codified by additional information and additional choices to respond to the experience of that interchange and the choice to deal with that experience. We speak of it from only one viewpoint, but there are always at least two parties, each doing the exact same thing. Each is making choices that the other will have to respond to and in so doing, each is making both their own world and the contributing to the making of the other's world at the same time. This is interbeing as an autopoietic expression of life. This is what Ubuntu means – I am because you are.
As we move into a new world where each of us is consciously contributing to the richness of life and is consciously working to ensure that all life is vibrant and vital, this recognition of our ability, responsibility and gift that is given and received in every interaction can become a deep experience of appreciation, gratitude and even reverence for the interdependence and reciprocity that envelops us every day, in so many different ways. As we learn to cherish the results of other’s choices, we also become much more cognizant of our own responsibility and power in making the world for others. To be engaged in world-making in ways that bring life to oneself and others, is to engage in co-creating a vibrant, robust, and thriving world, one we all want to live in.
Humans, in particular, world create on a daily basis through language. The words we use and the stories we tell are constant world-making tools we use without thinking. The words we hear and the understanding we make are yet another example of how our interbeing creates through our autopoietic actions. In English, in particular, our focus on nouns creates a separation that we don’t even see. The constant recreation of separation dismisses, makes invisible the connection that interbeing points us to.
We are doing this now, but with no consciousness or attention. We make choices without any recognition of the response of the other and how that will impact our own life. We assume that each action is independent and stands on its own. By recognizing this interdependent self-making, we gain more control and agency over the kind of world we are making, together. The autopoietic choices I make and in how I respond to your choices is the interbeing aspect of the world we are creating together. Together we create stories that explain and justify our actions, but without recognizing the world that is the result of these decisions. By paying attention to the effects of interbeing and the results of each of our own autopoietic choices, we can begin to artfully impact and design the world we want to live in.
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Kathryn Alexander MA has been absorbed by trying to understand how we should live. Is there some way to actually determine right from wrong and ensure a moral life - and there is. It does not conflict with any religion, creed or ethnic culture. It clarifies and strengthens them all, and at the same time can be independent of them, as it stands on its own. Live in connection with the Earth.