(This article is a chapter from my future book, Butterfly Communities – the Heroes of a New Metaphysics)
It is not easy to maintain your generosity and kindness while communicating with someone who reduces you or rejects you or is unfair to you etc. It’s not easy to let your “guard” down and not fight back, when someone undermines your rank in society, makes others doubt you or simply puts you in situations you don’t want. So, what is to be done in such situations?
I noticed that I can remain a “kind observer” only for a while, without retaliating aggressively, while someone else undermines me or puts me in unpleasant situations. But suddenly I find myself the “blind actor” “fighting in the arena”, fighting back aggressively… My preconditions hijacked me again, defending myself in the old way. Indeed, they succeed in hijacking me when it seems to “them” that my survival is at stake, when my boundaries are violated and my identity is called into question.
I am perfectly aware that my preconditions are not my enemies: they have been shaped by what has meant success in the past. But I don’t want to live in this logic anymore (even if it could bring me some apparent success at present). I am at a threshold between a world built on the logic of competition and self-centeredness and another built on the logic of interbeing. I am trying to cross this evolutionary threshold and build around me a world based on the logic of interbeing.
For doing this, I need to root myself better in the new relational reality that I want to bring to life around me. I need more grounding to stand the logic of my old mentality (my metaphysical preconditioning) and especially the logic of my old emotions (my biological preconditioning). I need a different understanding of myself within the social fabric; another understanding of my values/ my social security/ my connection within my society – to be able to stand the old logic of my social preconditioning.
This different understanding of myself within the social fabric is the very definition of a different consciousness.
Our old preconditions reduce us to the level of “actor” – short-sighted, narrow-minded – fighting blindly in the arena for a small success, to the detriment of others, far from the success that loving understanding, correlation, cooperation and symbiosis can bring. This is (in general) our world: drastically limited by the short-sightedness and narrow-mindedness characteristic of self-centeredness.
What can I do to get out of these preconditions? I think Margaret Mead said something like this (quoting from memory): “Evolution is conscious emancipation from a certain preconditioning”. It is a true miracle that a living being is able to emancipate itself from its preconditions. I am aware that relational self and symbiotic behavior are truly steps forward in the evolution of life on this planet.
Now I’m looking for ways to imagine a world beyond these preconditions and in which I can “take root” – to be able to bring it into our midst.
Sometimes I try to “see from above”, as an “observer” and I like to consider that we are all playing a game. Usually, we forget that this is just a game and that it is not necessary to go to war with each other, even if in the game we are apparently part of enemy groups: we can understand that it is only a game, and we are not enemies in reality. We can be a little more detached, we can see a little in perspective in time and space and understand that we are not each other’s enemies. A broader picture in time and space makes the stakes of our everyday struggles no longer seem so important and certainly not the ultimate reality.
A larger picture in time and space makes cooperation seem like the best strategy. We are not just individuals fighting each other, but symbionts of a great superorganism. There is no need for us to be enemies and for one’s gain to be at the expense of another. Cooperation and symbiosis can fulfill everyone’s needs.
That’s how it is for the “observer”. But for the “actor”, its entire reality is that of “The Game”. There is nothing above or outside the game: it all boils down to the battle in the arena. “The Game” is the ultimate reality.
An Actor could say: “If everyday life is a “game”, what is the “real world” of the “observer”? If the “real world” is something different, why were we playing this game? What is beyond this game? If I lose in this game and end up being marginalized in society – which is real after all, it is the place where we live, where we raise our children and where we fulfill our destinies, what is left for me outside of this “game”? The actor could say: “It is absolutely normal and healthy to identify myself with the player who loses or wins in this game. I am ready to fight for my well-being, because no one will do it for me. “Symbiotic behavior” is nonsense, a utopia, a losing strategy. The rule and logic of the game is that of competition.”
But what would the Observer say? “I don’t deny that the society in which we live is the ultimate reality – it is, indeed, where we live, where we raise our children, where we fulfill our destinies. But the way we relate can be considered a game. In which – yes – we really lose or win and, in general, the gain of one is at the expense of another. But I say that the way we relate is a “game” and not the only reality of our world, because nothing stops us from changing the rules of the game and making them more favorable to everyone’s well-being.“
What the Actor does not understand is that the competition is only a modality in which we can play the game. But we can also stop and choose to play in another modality, called “cooperation”. Calling the world in which we live a “game” – and not the ultimate reality, I want to emphasize that it is not the only reality, that we can engage it differently, creating another game, another reality. Through the lens of competition and self-centeredness, we are enemies. But we are not enemies in the ultimate reality, but only in the game called “Competition”. We can change the game in “Symbiosis” and suddenly, we – the same players – are no longer enemies, but symbionts.
So, here I am: an “Observer in the bifurcation point” – between “Actor” and “Cultural Creator”. As long as I, as an “observer”, am still playing the game of competition (I am still under the laws/logic of the “competition” game), I am not a true observer. Or, at least, I am not at a “bifurcation point” where I can really choose. Being under the logic of the “competition game”, the moment I notice that I “lose” in this game (according to my old preconditions), the moment I feel that something from my identity, from my safety is threatened, I feel compelled to act to regain my position. When the “observer” (being still caught in the logic of competition) considers that his survival is at stake, he entrusts the management to the “actor” (or better, to “gladiator”), who acts energetically to defend my borders, to regain my rank and my position, etc. This is the moment when I “switch” from “kind observer” to “blind actor”. Actually, if I am not in that “bifurcation point” – where I can really choose, I am not a true “observer”. That is why, even being “aware” (with the help of my attunement practice -“with kindness and generosity”) is not enough because I am still under the rule/ spell of competition.
But if I (as an observer) could really emancipate myself from the logic of competition, I could continue to play the game of cooperation (as the “Cultural Creator” in me really wants). I could continue to “stand” for the values I chose. I could finally remove the ego from the game and really transform the game around me from competition to cooperation.
So, what is the “real world” in which I can retreat to resist the logic of competition and find meaning in this decision and in its inevitable outcome in the social fabric I am embedded in? It is that “sweet spot” where I can be a real observer – emancipated from any logic or spell – and truly choose between “competition” and “cooperation”. This true “bifurcation point” can be a real world for me, if I can detach myself from the consequences (psychological but also practical) of the game of competition that is generally played in our society.
It is all about perception. A different perception will bring forth a different logic and different emotions/physiology.
If I manage to detach myself from the logic of the competition game, it means that, even if in the eyes of others (in the eyes of society, according to its logic) I will “lose”, in my eyes I will not feel any loss, because I consider myself that I don’t play this game anymore. (How can I lose in a game I don’t play?). If I no longer feel that I am “losing”, the “Wise Observer” will not be forced to hand over the leadership to the “Competitive Actor” but will entrust it to the “Symbiotic Cultural Creator”.
At that moment, the “switch” will not be to the old preconditions but to the new edifying lines that I consciously chose. From “observer” I become “creator”. Now, if I continue to act from this inner state, freed from the tyranny of the logic of competition, of the fears generated by it, I give the others the chance to respond according to the logic of cooperation and symbiosis. Only now will I be able to bring out the best in others – because only now will I be able to act with love, generosity and trust – far beyond the logic of competition.
The others will feel this generosity and will feel freed from the pressure of the competition. They will feel free to act in their turn more generously. They will feel encouraged to reciprocate, to respond with the same”kindness and generosity”.
So, how can I change the rules of the game around me, in my relationships? “By removing the ego from the logic of the game, I change the rules of the game”. (Stephen Denning) Everyone is then free to answer as they wish: with those who continue in the logic of competition, I stop playing, and with those who open up to play under the new rule of symbiosis and cooperation, I continue to play.