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What Is Theory

the Emergence Explorer

Questions for the Week of February 26, 2007






Emergence Character Type Babies 9-AI-2


This Week's Questions


[posed by John F.]
  • Is a theory, "truth," or just a more truthful picture?
  • If I do not walk around with my guard up, how do I defend myself?
  • How does an Emergence Practitioner live among people who still blame?

Do you know?



For as long as I can remember, I have not felt safe in the world. Because of this, I constantly walk around with my guard up. Recently, my wife put her foot down about this, at which point, I realized not everyone could hurt me the way I thought they could. Or more important, that not everyone wanted to hurt me the way I thought they might want to.

In the end, I realized I feel more comfortable being myself with my guard down. I feel less threatened, yet demand more respect for my feelings. I also feel less tolerant of blame and value more moments in which I feel connected to others. Here are my questions.

[Question 1] I work with my family. They are very blaming people. How am I supposed to tolerate them? Moreover, if I do not walk around with my guard up, how do I defend myself? I guess, my question is, how does an Emergence Practitioner find a place among people who still blame?
[Answer] John, these are very good questions. And very painful conditions. Let's start with your first question, how do you tolerate family members who reject the idea that aspiring to blamelessness is the key to a good life?

Honestly? John, it's hard. In fact most folks do not even see the difference between being angry at people and blaming them. Babies get angry and moments later, love you. Blamers get angry and see this anger a license to hurt others.

What do you do then? What I can say is, when you walk around with your guard up, you are more likely to blame. Thus, being guarded impairs one's ability to see past blame. Including your own.

The question then becomes, so if you do not walk around with your guard up, how do you defend yourself? Perhaps the key here lies with the word, "defend." Very simply, your question assumes the very need which you say your wife has been lobbying against.

Do people hurt people? Yes. Of course. And do they sometimes act in ways which make you believe they have done this to you purposely? Yes. However, if you were to picture the most basic teaching in Emergence, it is that flat eyes mean the person is not picturing. You or anything else. Moreover, no normal person hurts another without having flat eyes.

Translation. People who hurt people are in shock, not bad. And while it is necessary and your obligation to protect yourself from harm, assuming people will harm you is inviting trouble. Why? Because while not being open is less painful, not being open renders you incapable of non blaming responses. And more likely to harm others because your detachment renders you unable to see this as blame.

As for your family, remember, the most spiritual people often have the worst family relationships. Not all, but many. Seek the middle ground here John and I'm sure you'll feel better. About you and about the world.

[Question 2] Learning has now taken over a large part of my day. For instance, I now listen to courses during my commute rather than to talk radio, which for obvious reasons (it's filled with blame) has now become intolerable. In fact, to protect my dash board from my urges to pummel it in response to this sort of thing, I purchased an audio physics course. My question is, how do I enjoy the course with the knowledge that I need to personally perform experiments in order to truly? In other words, how do I learn physics without external momentum?
[Answer]
Two questions really. Let's begin with the first one. How do you truly learn physics if you, yourself, do not do the actual experiments? John, believe it or not, that may be one of the most important questions a learner could ever ask. The quick answer? Do thought experiments, just as the great physicists do.

For instance, were you to read Einstein's own words on how he discovered relativity, you'd find he was doing a thought experiment. One of many, if you read his own words. In essence, he was trying to imagine himself riding on a beam of light. Which, of course, is a physical impossibility. Thus, we can say with certainly, Einstein made this discovery while doing a thought experiment.

Newton, too. Thus, while people often assume he discovered gravity by seeing an apple fall, no one can see an apple fall. This event happens much too quickly for us to actually see much more than either a bit of the fall or a blur. Which in all likelihood means Newton saw this apple fall while doing a thought experiment.

My point? Doing thought experiments is a way in which you can reinvent the wheel of physics and in doing so, become a real physicist. It is also the way you can bypass the need for external momentum, including literal experiments. At least, the external momentum of real world physical observations.

[Question 3] Is it possible to learn physics, or is the theory of physics merely potential pictures for how things work?
[Answer]
Yes, it is possible to learn physics. In fact, I believe the best courses on physics involve a teacher who uses real world physical objects. At least, while teaching the basics of the visible world.

Even the basics of the too small world (quanta) or the too big world (black holes) are best taught with visible pictures. For instance, the movie "What the Bleep" includes a wonderful animation on light being both a particle and a wave. Here we see what might be called an "external thought experiment." Something which mirrors the kind of thing which could only occur in the theater of the mind, to use author Jacob Needleman's metaphor.

As for physics theory being merely potential pictures which explain how things work, this too it true. Which means the real trick is to do what the best of the best of physicists do; learn by doing thought experiments.

Interestingly enough, Da Vinci and many like him used a combination of both. In effect, Da Vinci did thought experiments on paper. Which sounds like an oxymoron but is not. This I know personally as it is the way I myself discover things; first by doing a thought experiment, then by fleshing out what I saw by creating a drawing of what I saw.

[Question 4] Is a theory, "truth," or just a more truthful picture?
[Answer]
Answering this question requires we leave the realm of physics and venture into the realm of the philosopher. You see, the word "truth" is in fact more a philosophical state than a literal physical fact.

So why do most folks see these two things as the same? Or at least as the truth and the proof of truth? I'd guess, because, we ourselves are physical beings whose consciousness is based in light. We literally know things because we see pictures. Thus, we have a hard time believing in the things we cannot picture.

Conversely, we can believe a whole lot of false things just because we can picture them. For instance, believing the world is flat and held up by four turtles. Or by an Arnold Schwarzennegar type character. Obviously, today, we know these things to be untrue. However, because they could easily be pictured, we once mistook them as true.

This, in fact, is what makes the famous picture of the Earth as seen from one of the early satellites so important to our sense of truth. We finally could see with our own eyes that the Earth is round. And blue.

As for "theory," what might help here would be to know where this word comes from. Years ago, a young doctor taught me that in ancient Greece, medical doctors studied in amphitheaters. Something like the operating theaters in which modern medical students learn.

Similar to what we do now then, in ancient Greece, the doctors "in a teaching hospital" operated on the patient in the center of the amphitheater, down on the ground level. Then the more experienced doctors sat in the seats and observed. In fact, where in the seats these doctors sat was determined by their level of experience. The more their experience, the higher they sat. Which meant the most experienced doctors had the greatest overview, as they sat in the highest seats.

The word "theory" comes from what they called these seats. They called these seats, the "theoria." Which, in Emergence Personality Theory, relates directly to what is contained in Layer 2 of personality; explanations, excuses, and "logical" why's.

Can you now see what theories are? In effect, they are what you see of life as seen from the highest seats, far from the blood and suffering of the world but with the greatest potential for generalized insights. Which is just another way to say, they offer us the greatest potential for developing explanations, excuses, and logical reasons for whatever happens in our world.

By the way, can you now see what makes me so like Jacob Needleman's "theater of the mind" metaphor?

[Question 5] How can an Emergence Practitioner learn outside of the emergence community?
[Answer]
Emergence has no monopoly on spiritual living. People from differing communities learn to live together and contribute to the world. What makes us different is that we base all our theories and practice on fractals. Which means we have blameless theoretical insights others do not yet have.

These insights however, do not rule out that we can learn from anyone who openly intuits and has a good heart. In fact, I frequently learn very valuable stuff by watching babies. Talk about blamelessness.

Then there's the grandmothers and grandfathers of the world. As well as the loyal dogs and incredibly alert cats.

My point? John, we have much to learn from everyone. Mostly from those who are both different from us and yet, can connect to us in spite of these differences. Said in more pragmatic terms, people from widely differing backgrounds can get along, but only by learning to see the beauty in each others' differences. Seeing the beauty in each others differences is what connects us all, as individuals to each other, and to the world at large.

Which makes us all both students and teachers to and of each other. In theory, anyway.


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