Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Perpetually Shifting Paradigms are Fractals

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn introduces the phrase 'Paradigm Shift' to popular culture, a phrase that articulates the process by which cultural transformation takes place. Not as a linear, gradual process, he says, but as a dramatic turning inside-out and upside down of the status quo, a static equilibrium that loses its center of balance and is both creatively and destructively transformed, revealing a transcendent synthesis of polar opposites which ultimately stabilizes into a new state of equilibrium. Kuhn posits that paradigm shift takes place not only because the old paradigm is dangerously inadequate but also because a new, better paradigm has evolved to replace it. Kuhn stresses that the arrival of the workable new paradigm is the prerequisite to paradigm shift - people won't leave a sinking ship until a floating one comes to the rescue.

This is relevant to the present age, the present crisis of economy, ecology, psychology, policy, spirituality, and all the other -ologies and onomies, because we are imprisoned in an outdated, dangerously inadequate paradigm. Yet within this obsolete paradigm we remain, for as yet, we do not see a meaningful alternative to shift into. This is not because the new paradigm does not exist, but rather, because the new paradigm has not been publicly revealed. It remains bottled up and hidden, hiding in the shadow of the old paradigm, which refuses to acknowledge its failures, its inadequacies, and its inability to maintain order or meaning in this post-competition era.

This is the fundamental irony. The old paradigm is competitive, while the new paradigm is cooperative. The old paradigm is war, and the new paradigm is peace. do you see? As such, the new paradigm does not push and shove its way forward, but waits patiently until it is asked to join. Meanwhile, the old paradigm does everything it can to maintain its power, preventing the new paradigm from being discussed or even known. The old paradigm represses the new paradigm, and the new paradigm allows itself to be repressed.

Until now. We are witnessing a strange loop in cosmic history where cooperation is actually more competitive than competition. To put it another way: Competition is competing against cooperation, and losing. Strange, this.

The new paradigm of cooperation is here, available. Do you know about it? Perhaps it has not yet reached the publicly recognizable tipping point. Perhaps it has been growing silently, against the grain, invisible, not yet a flood flowing downhill but a trickle whose current is following the contours of the land. Yet this new peaceful paradigm has radically evolved, from passive acceptance of suffering (naive love) into fiercely engaging and sophisticated peaceful warriorhood, stepping into the arena of combat and fearlessly cooperating, out of compassion and the desire for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

This is the trial by fire: the new paradigm reveals itself by being tested, and proving itself workable. As it becomes effective, so does it garner support. The new paradigm learns to be effective by entering the marketplace of competing ideas, and capturing the old paradigm's market share of public attention. This does not mean it competes against the old paradigm - the new paradigm, being cooperative, chooses not do so. But it can cooperate, so gracefully and so smoothly as to earn the admiration of the spectators, passers-by, and skeptics: it can yield and turn and move so gracefully and so engagingly with the old paradigm that the old paradigm soons reveals itself to be - old, stiff, clumsy, awkward, dangerous, ineffective, and terminally exhausted. By cooperating with the old paradigm's rules and harvesting attention within the old paradigm's acceptable parameters, the new paradigm succeeds in winning admirers and putting the old paradigm to rest. This is the Art of War - captivating attention, capturing market share. It can learn to be effective in no other way. The new paradigm must defeat the old paradigm in the arena of competition, yet because of its very nature, it must do so without opposing. The new paradigm does not engage in conflict - the new paradigm ends conflict, for the new paradigm is the end of conflict. In other words, the new paradigm will sell cooperation in the marketplace.  No army in the world can stop an idea whose time has come.

In very specific terms: the new paradigm will not be revealed in newspapers, talk shows, mainstream media, academia, or politics. No. For mainstream media, academia, and politics are all in themselves creations and defenders of the old paradigm, which is inherently competitive and heirarchical, and does not consent to the relinquishment of power. Therefore, the new paradigm, as it chooses to reveal itself, must actively attract attention by working outside of mainstream. It must begin by attracting countercultural, grassroots, fringe attention online.

Maybe this is you.

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