Slowly I grow better at letting opposites be true.

There is evolution where processes can be explored in detail and there is spiritual experience informed by an understanding that consciousness or a deep sense of play informs all levels or all scales of experience. They seem to be opposites when viewed from a post-modern, reductionist point of view, which maintains that consciousness is an emergent, contingent feature of evolution.

The three P’s: pattern, process and paradox seem to keep me dancing to the music while I’m moving through the day. Pattern is about recognizing connections. Process is about learning to view the world from the present, which means honoring behavior over words by focusing on transparency, horizontal communication and diversity or integration. This view is the activist’s process perspective. Exploring paradox is to examine the transition between world views. Surfing societal transformations reveals paradox like a sudden sandbar demanding immediate attention to two not thoroughly integrated perspectives.

Things can be connected, things can be offered attention and more than one thing can be true at the same time.

Stephen J. Gould, the evolutionary biologist, was a pluralist among reductionists. He didn’t subscribe to science theology, which demands that simpler means better or elegant is more likely to be true. Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been described as a tautology. “Whatever survives survived because they are better at surviving” is how Darwin’s theory has been denigrated. There is truth in the criticism. A principle can be so elegant that its meaning evaporates. Gould and others have sought meaning in evolution anyplace that suggested something new, useful, interesting and fun.

As a proponent of neoteny, Gould was also neoteny’s practitioner.

In evolutionary theory, there are reductionists and pluralists. Reductionists, like fundamentalists, hold to very specific words or points of view. Pluralists, like mystics, are comfortable with unanswered questions, using them as maps to hidden insights.

By demanding that a theory or story be elegant or simple, the reductionist or fundamentalist honors a principle by ignoring what the principle represents. There is what is called honoring the meaning but not the word. The reductionist/fundamentalist honors the word but not the meaning.

Mystics, when crossing the line to understanding, cross into a wordless world. One moment, you are in a place characterized by questions with no simple solutions. The next moment, you experience resolution with no answers and no words.

There is nothing simple about evolution. Imagine 100,000 music prodigies, six-year-old geniuses, teaching each other melodies, harmonies, instrument-making and recording technologies while devising as many ways to break the rules as they make up music schools to represent the overriding patterns in their productions. Then imagine the kinds of choices they’d make if they all went deaf.

You would get evolution.

The world is so profoundly complicated a place that words, particularly few words, can’t serve to reproduce its nature. Go beyond words, where simplicity exists.

Paradoxical. Opposites, both true.


Name (required)

Email (required)


Share your wisdom