Complexity, Creativity, Contemplation, and Maybe Other Words that Begin with “C” for Marketing Purposes, such as, Calligraphy

I’m going to begin writing about a stack of articles I read in the Spring. They have been taking up space in my file cabinet and in the back of my mind. These articles are loosely connected. By Christmas I hope to have them synthesized somewhat. Why Christmas? That’s when my tiny Christmas break might provide a few spare moments to write an essay.

So, for the next several blog posts, I will be writing about the following themes as they pertain to Education: Creativity, Complexity, and Contemplation. I swear, they do not all start with “C” on purpose, unless there is some underlying linguistic voodoo brewing.

First, Alfonso Montouri’s wonderful foreward to Edgar Morin’s Path of Complexity outlines Morin’s career and introduces his key concepts. (I’m currently reading Edgar Morin’s Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future, and should have something to report on that book soon.) For Morin and Montouri, complexity can initially be defined in negative: it is not reductionism, which “isolates phenomena from their environment” with a “disjunctive logic of either/or.” Morin argues for a systems theory approach that sees phenomena as the result of “dynamical systems, also known as chaos theory” or a “self-organizing process.” Morin’s term for this is “self-eco-re-organizing systems.” Montouri explains Morin’s term by arguing that “a system does not merely organize itself, independently of its environment. The environment is the system, which is in the environment.”

This is all a bit abstract, of course, but Montouri uses it as a way to discuss one of his central causes: transdisciplinary studies. That is, if phenomena cannot be studied by isolating particular causes and reducing events to particular fields of study, but instead through a wholistic viewpoint which sees the phenomena arising within a complex ecosystem of biology, history, psychology, and so on, then it makes no sense to divide subjects of study into regimented departments.

The end game is the cultivation of a meta-perspective from which various subjects can be viewed, including the actual subject of the thinker him or her self. This is akin to Kegan and Lehay’s self-transforming mind, described in the book Immunity to Change.

Little of this would have mattered to most humans 100 years ago, but the world has changed. We are living in a more complex, dynamic, unstable world. Less people stay in their village for life or stick with the worldviews of their ancestors. The world is a swirling, chaotic fusion of multiple viewpoints and rapidly changing technological interfaces. We must teach students to be flexible, open, and creative in order to respond to the state of affairs.

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