Unify Overcoming Constraints

Discovering Non-Duality

Bina­ry think­ing only looks at part of a more com­plete pic­ture. To expand our scope of aware­ness, we must look beyond our oppos­ing views and focus on what uni­fies us through­out life.

“Our abil­i­ty to reach uni­ty in diver­si­ty will be the ­beau­ty and test of our civ­i­liza­tion.” — Mahat­ma Gandhi 

We feel that wedge issues with strict oppos­ing posi­tions con­fis­cate too much atten­tion in pop­u­lar dis­course. We can appre­ci­ate the sim­plic­i­ty of how cat­e­gories like lib­er­al and con­ser­v­a­tive can eas­i­ly cre­ate sides for peo­ple to choose between. Yet, this divi­sive­ness fails to address the nuances and com­plex­i­ties that exist with­in each individual.

Rigid rules and bound­aries dic­tate expec­ta­tions and con­trol con­di­tions, but they also put up big bar­ri­ers. When it comes to com­plex, mul­ti-faceted prob­lems, sin­gle-use solu­tions won’t be suf­fi­cient. To work with intri­cate­ly con­nect­ed, and often invis­i­ble, issues, the best approach­es involve agili­ty and adapt­abil­i­ty (a port­man­teau of these two strengths could be called adapt-agili­ty).

“If you iden­ti­fy with the ego plane, you’ll find you’re in time, you’re in space, you’re a lit­tle body. But go to the spir­i­tu­al heart, and there will be a door­way to the next plane of con­scious­ness: soul land.” — Ram Dass

Non-dual­i­ty refers to a spir­i­tu­al aware­ness that tran­scends dichotomies such as “me” and “you”, or “us” and “them”. In non-phys­i­cal, form­less terms, a spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion to supreme com­plex­i­ty emerges through non-dual­i­ty. Root­ed in Vedic, Hin­du, Bud­dhist, Islam­ic, and Judeo-Chris­t­ian tra­di­tions, the notion of non-dual­i­ty speaks to an evolved, and per­haps pri­ma­ry, state of con­scious­ness that many spir­i­tu­al prac­tices have sought to describe. There are, by neces­si­ty, count­less ways to arrive at non-dual­i­ty. There is not even one uni­ver­sal­ly accept­ed def­i­n­i­tion of non-dual­i­ty. This lack of defin­i­tive­ness also feels appro­pri­ate. There’s room for everything.

“I’ve walked the future, I’ve looked at a record, I’ve seen a place, I have all the data.” — Paul Atreides/ Muad’Dib, Dune, p. 32

“The Prin­ci­ples of Light and Col­or”, Edwin D. Bab­bit, 1878
“Hand with Reflect­ing Sphere”, M. C. Esch­er, 1935

This notion of vari­ety gives rise to a uni­fy­ing prin­ci­ple inher­ent in tran­scen­den­tal aware­ness that we can apply to our search for glob­al sys­temic trans­for­ma­tion. Vari­a­tion and rep­e­ti­tion are key ingre­di­ents to achiev­ing whole-sys­tems inte­gra­tion of diverse ele­ments arranged seam­less­ly like a knit­ted fabric.

Our incli­na­tion is to give atten­tion to the dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed space between dual­i­ties, bina­ries, and even dou­ble-enten­dres. Because these inter-zones func­tion like waves between fixed points, they can offer fer­tile ter­ri­to­ries for pos­i­tive trans­for­ma­tion. Of course, con­tra­dic­tions will inevitably occur. Oppo­si­tions will pop up. What can we do? Cer­tain­ly not just drop our con­vic­tions. Yet, we can also learn to see that our con­vic­tions only tell a small piece of a sto­ry. With­out com­plete con­text, there’s only so much that can be under­stood. Oh, and how much more there always is to experience…

You are at the cen­tre of every­thing.” — Adam Curtis

Josh Apple­gate, 2019

The notion of non-dual­i­ty sym­bol­izes the eter­nal: where every­thing exists at once. The akashic record and quan­tum holo­gram are two names for the idea that every­thing in existence—past, present, future—is inte­grat­ed with­in a whole sys­tem in which all infor­ma­tion and meta­phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­na are stored.

Philoso­pher and sys­tems the­o­rist Ervin Lás­zló dis­cuss­es the “Akashic field” in his book, Sci­ence and the Akashic Field: An Inte­gral The­o­ry of Every­thing, pub­lished in 2004. László’s work pro­vides an under­stand­ing of the “Akashic field” as a “con­stant and endur­ing mem­o­ry of the uni­verse”.3 This field rep­re­sents a way of see­ing past, present, and future all bound with­in the same sto­ry. The acknowl­edge­ment that every­thing we ever encounter—whether in a cur­rent moment, after the fact, or even in the future—is avail­able in this field has the effect of open­ing our minds and vision to a pro­found field of expe­ri­ence. Imag­ine look­ing around. In each direc­tion, you see mul­ti­ple ver­sions of your­self extend out­ward in the field: younger ver­sions, old­er ver­sions, alter­nate ver­sions. Each ver­sion silent­ly acknowl­edges the lim­it­less­ness of expres­sion of who you feel you are or might wish to become. Each stage of life is irre­place­able and inte­gral to the nar­ra­tive we each cre­ate and live out.

How might we learn to access a field of expe­ri­ence that accounts for the ele­gant com­plex­i­ty of who we are or might become? Rather than live with the belief that chance encoun­ters shape the con­tours of our lives, might there be a way for us to inten­tion­al­ly expe­ri­ence non-dual­i­ty as a means for lever­ag­ing the pow­er of serendip­i­ty? Do coin­ci­dences real­ly occur by chance and con­tin­gency? Or do they reveal a larg­er, poten­tial­ly unknow­able, field of coher­ence? We believe that by pur­su­ing these ques­tions, we might dis­cov­er far-reach­ing answers that guide our jour­ney into unknown futures with grace and the wis­dom of immense experience.

Unify Overcoming Constraints

Unify Attention, Intention, & Action

The cur­rent dig­i­tal space has been built around the assump­tions that atten­tion is a resource to be mined, that there are only so many poten­tial users, and that those users have a finite amount of time to spend on a par­tic­u­lar ser­vice. It’s time to reclaim how our atten­tion is defined and solicited.

Evgeni Savchenko, 2019
Tyler Las­tovich, 2018

The seem­ing­ly unstop­pable march of dig­i­ti­za­tion is exac­er­bat­ing the prob­lem of uni­for­mi­ty. A far cry from the ear­li­er, Wild West days of the Inter­net, the mono­lith­ic tech cor­po­ra­tions now act as gate­keep­ers to vast repos­i­to­ries of infor­ma­tion. The way these com­pa­nies see fit to dis­trib­ute infor­ma­tion through algo­rithms is unavoid­ably linked with what is ben­e­fi­cial for their bot­tom line: user reten­tion, eye­balls on screens, and the accu­mu­la­tion of profit.

The ad-dri­ven mon­e­ti­za­tion struc­ture of the Inter­net cre­ates a sim­ple cause and effect: the more clicks you get, the more mon­ey you make. Hence the rise of click­bait. Click­bait is noth­ing more than a dig­i­tal ver­sion of a prac­tice that’s exist­ed with­in human soci­ety for cen­turies: dis­tort­ing the truth to attract atten­tion. But this orga­ni­za­tion of online con­tent is espe­cial­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to manip­u­la­tion. Shrewd cre­ators rec­og­nize what con­tent receives the most atten­tion and con­fig­ure their aes­thet­ics to appeal to these baser instincts. Pre­dictably, it is, time and time again, the most shock­ing and provoca­tive con­tent that draws in the most views.

There is much talk of the atten­tion econ­o­my. Net­flix CEO Reed Hast­ings iden­ti­fied his company’s users’ need for sleep as his great­est source of com­pe­ti­tion. But atten­tion is much more than a resource to be lever­aged against us. And it does not always need to be a means to an end. How can we redesign dig­i­tal sys­tems to try to reverse this detri­men­tal trend and reestab­lish atten­tion as a shared human value?

Punch Magazine’s por­tray­al of iso­lat­ing tech­nol­o­gy, 1906
Ajeet Mestry, 2017

One answer may lie in explor­ing the con­cept of pres­ence. To be present, men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly, means to feel deep roots with­in your cur­rent moment of con­scious­ness. Pres­ence means being aware of your bod­i­ly sen­sa­tions, being con­nect­ed to what sur­rounds you, and hav­ing the abil­i­ty to per­ceive the world with focus. Ath­letes speak of being “in the zone”, a state of exis­tence where­in time seems to slow down and every com­plex move­ment comes nat­u­ral­ly. Many types of med­i­ta­tion are essen­tial­ly con­cen­trat­ed efforts to feel this height­ened lev­el of mind­ful­ness. Yet, our dig­i­tal sys­tems seem to be man­u­fac­tured to achieve the very oppo­site of pres­ence. They often seem designed to leave us in a state of per­pet­u­al distraction.

The stream of expe­ri­ence pass­ing through our per­cep­tion, sec­ond by sec­ond, is our win­dow to the very nature of being itself. It is all we are and all we will ever know. If we allow our­selves to just be, we can feel time ebb and flow. And this feel­ing can take us down untrod­den paths. Per­haps even excit­ing ones. The con­cept of pres­ence can also allow us to grasp the intan­gi­ble and unquan­tifi­able. It can become a mode not just for analy­sis or con­sump­tion, but for explo­ration. As well, pres­ence is a help­ful way to detach from the unre­lent­ing urge to accom­plish and progress. And it is a strat­e­gy to allow our­selves to have a moment of peace from stress-induc­ing forces. This is absolute­ly vital for our well­be­ing. When we are calm, we are able to access a more pure mode of exis­tence, feel­ing the enthralling blend of all our sens­es as they come togeth­er with­in the full­ness of a moment.

Unify Overcoming Constraints

Mine the Depths of Inner Experience to Instill Presence

Gen­er­ate authen­tic action rather than reac­tive respons­es based on dis­tract­ed expe­ri­ence. Restruc­ture the frac­tured infor­ma­tion­al land­scape into a con­tex­tu­al­ly rel­e­vant uni­fied whole.

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Uni­verse’, a part lim­it­ed in time and space. He ex­periences him­self, his thoughts and feel­ings as some­thing sep­a­rat­ed from the rest—a kind of opti­cal delu­sion of his con­scious­ness. This delu­sion is a kind of prison for us, restrict­ing us to our per­son­al desires and to affec­tion for a few per­sons near­est to us. Our task must be to free our­selves from this prison by widen­ing our cir­cle of com­pas­sion to embrace all liv­ing crea­tures and the whole nature in its beau­ty. Nobody is able to achieve this com­plete­ly, but the striv­ing for such achieve­ment is in itself a part of the lib­er­a­tion, and a foun­da­tion for inner secu­ri­ty.” — Albert Ein­stein, 1950

We think of the screen as some­thing that reveals. But screens can just as well be under­stood by what they obfus­cate. There is much infor­ma­tion that is con­cealed for the sake of coher­ence, ease of use, acces­si­bil­i­ty, or for more insid­i­ous pur­pos­es. Those of us who use data-track­ing plat­forms could cer­tain­ly be put off if we were ful­ly informed as to exact­ly what was being done with our data. But we often don’t look beyond what­ev­er infor­ma­tion first meets our attention.

Some research sug­gests that the very first page of search engine results cap­tures 95% of the traf­fic for online search­es.4 Is that a sign that the first page con­tains the best pos­si­ble answers to what peo­ple are look­ing for? It seems unlike­ly. Rather, the first page of a search engine has tak­en on an air of author­i­ty. It feels infal­li­ble, as though it can serve as an arbiter of truth and relevance.

Image through stretched glass, Dasha Yukhymyuk 2018

Depth adds com­pli­ca­tion, but User Expe­ri­ence (UX) and User Inter­face (UI) design has spent the last years try­ing to erase com­pli­ca­tion. Depth doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly lend itself to the most seam­less user expe­ri­ence. To process depth takes ener­gy and time, resources that we don’t always have in the appro­pri­ate pro­por­tion. How­ev­er, this doesn’t mean we should avoid com­pli­ca­tion. On the con­trary. Com­pli­ca­tion is good. It adds nuance, it cre­ates oppor­tu­ni­ties for new ideas. With­out it, all we can do is con­tin­ue down estab­lished grooves. We can­not real­ly learn from lists of bite-sized insights. Ours is a fran­tic, life-hack­ing cul­ture in which we labor under the mis­ap­pre­hen­sion that opti­miza­tion always means doing some­thing quick­er than before. But when is fast ever fast enough? Going slow can root us to a feel­ing of pres­ence. Rather than adapt all inter­ac­tions to a scarci­ty of time, we must be afford­ed more time to expe­ri­ence inter­ac­tions at their fullest.

Hyper dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­i­ty is, for bet­ter or worse, here to stay. The trend is even accel­er­at­ing, as the Inter­net of Things extends ever fur­ther. Rather than a full-blood­ed rebel­lion against these tools in search of a return to a myth­i­cal “pur­er” time, we must address the dig­i­tal world on its own terms. It must be built in a way that it serves us, not uses us or sees us only as users. The dig­i­tal domain must not play on our fears and exploit our weak­ness­es. It must not have gate­keep­ers. It must not become a way to reduce our com­plex­i­ties into a sin­gle, algo­rith­mic state. It must not inter­fere with our abil­i­ty to feel present with­in our­selves and our envi­ron­ments. It must reflect the ambi­gu­i­ty of the real world. All these things will help to pre­vent us becom­ing a writhing mass of same­ness caught in an illu­sion of choice. Restor­ing our dig­i­tal auton­o­my will serve to give us access to a wider spec­trum of pos­si­bil­i­ties as gen­er­at­ed not exter­nal­ly, but from within.

“Aes­thet­ics of Unre­al­i­ty”, Designed Real­i­ties Studio
“Ent­deck­un­gen über die The­o­rie des Klanges (Dis­cov­er­ies in the The­o­ry of Sound)”, Ernst Chlad­ni, 1787
Unify Overcoming Constraints

Dissolve Mono-Cultures So Biodiversity Can Flourish

The unique and price­less qual­i­ties of human­i­ty require space to exist at the full poten­tial of expres­sion. Mono­cul­tures are vul­ner­a­ble. Diver­si­ty cre­ates strength.

We live in a time of unprece­dent­ed cul­tur­al sim­i­lar­i­ty. The creep of glob­al­iza­tion has dis­sem­i­nat­ed an increas­ing­ly uni­form set of cul­tur­al mark­ers and val­ues across our plan­et to such a degree that a vis­it to almost any cor­ner of the world will yield some air of the familiar.

The ubiq­ui­tous­ness of McDonald’s gold­en arch­es is almost a clichéd rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this very phe­nom­e­non. Both the years of sus­tained con­tact between coun­tries, and the easy move­ment of dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion, has led to the adop­tion of many shared pat­terns of behav­ior and con­sumerism across all con­ti­nents. That said, it is still large­ly West­ern hege­mo­ny that has dic­tat­ed the glob­al shifts of recent decades.

It could be sug­gest­ed that homog­e­niza­tion of the human brings us clos­er togeth­er as points of com­mon­al­i­ty become more numer­ous. Ide­al­ly, this would reduce the poten­tial for con­flict across bor­ders and help us to uni­fy along shared goals. But it doesn’t work that way. Face­book is a prime exam­ple of how peo­ple group togeth­er with those of sim­i­lar inter­ests and end­less­ly repeat what­ev­er sound­bites are most pop­u­lar with­in their par­tic­u­lar echo-chamber.

The nature of the cul­tur­al sys­tem that is being spread via glob­al­iza­tion is, at its core, adver­sar­i­al. The accom­pa­ny­ing insti­tu­tions of cap­i­tal­ism do not serve the pur­pose of col­lec­tive uplift or equal­i­ty, they demand win­ners and losers. Adver­sar­i­al­ism bleeds into the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness and, sub­se­quent­ly, social ties atro­phy, and mass coop­er­a­tion becomes more difficult.

The impo­si­tion of uni­for­mi­ty robs us of a qual­i­ty we instinc­tive­ly rec­og­nize as cen­tral to our being: the expres­sion of our dif­fer­ences. Author­i­tar­i­an regimes com­mon­ly enforce prac­tices designed to restrict any poten­tial devi­a­tion from an estab­lished mean. Far too many peo­ple con­tin­ue to suf­fer under these oppres­sive con­di­tions. Near­ly a third of the glob­al pop­u­la­tion lives under author­i­tar­i­an regimes.5

“Vielecke und Vielflache: The­o­rie und Geschichte”, Max Brück­n­er, 1900

In a dra­ma­tized inter­pre­ta­tion of this issue, in the 2002 film Equi­lib­ri­um, a theo­crat­ic gov­ern­ment has sought to stamp out con­flict through the chem­i­cal elim­i­na­tion of emo­tions them­selves. In addi­tion to the erad­i­ca­tion of emo­tions, they’ve also banned all works of art out of fear of it kin­dling any form of pas­sion in the human soul. The inter­nal life of humans is deter­mined to pose a threat to soci­etal sta­bil­i­ty and is thus snuffed out. Now con­sid­er how our pris­on­ers are treat­ed in today’s soci­ety. They are each assigned a num­ber instead of a name and giv­en uni­form jump­suits to wear, all in an attempt to dehu­man­ize them and destroy their indi­vid­ual will. This is a form of col­lec­tiv­i­ty, as enforced from above. And this pol­i­cy is a very dif­fer­ent, and much more harm­ful, par­a­digm than that of col­lec­tiv­i­ty formed through bonds of shared pur­pose and respect.

If our free­dom to express our dif­fer­ences is sup­pressed, then our capac­i­ty for hereti­cal thought is reduced and, in this process, a valu­able foun­da­tion for insight is lost to us. The rejec­tion of dom­i­nant ideas and the free­dom to pur­sue alter­na­tives, has the poten­tial to trans­form our entire con­cep­tion of our place in the uni­verse. If we want to con­tribute to empow­er­ing soci­etal change, then every­one should have the jus­ti­fi­able right to self-expres­sion. It’s imper­a­tive we all be able to raise our var­i­ous con­cerns and work toward our dreams for our shared state of existence.

Sze Siang Chong, 2019