“It‘s not just that ecological systems are more complex than you think they are, but that they are more complex than you can think.”
We often prefer simple certainties over the sometimes confusing richness of life. It has been said of the complexity of living systems that “it is not just that ecological systems are more complex than you think they are, but that they are more complex than you can think”.
This is true of the whole of life. Complexity can be bewildering and disorientating. Most of us need to consciously train to work effectively with complexity. Failure to do so will severely limit our capacity to act usefully and responsively. Our grasping at the reassurances of simplistic, black and white positions can perpetuates polarisation and underpins many entrenched conflicts. Being able to recognise the conditioned nature of our position and that of others can support creative solutions. This does not mean agreeing with our adversaries, but developing the capacity to be more responsive and act on a more widely informed basis.
Recognising the partiality and provisionality of all views can free us up to grow and develop through testing out our assumptions and learning from an inquiring encounter with the world.
Complexity challenges us both emotionally and cognitively:
- At an emotional level we find that the world will never conform to how we want it to be.
- At a cognitive level we find that the world will never be reducible to the way we think it is.
This recognition need not tip us into futility and relativism. With time, such insights can underpin an increasingly mature, wise and compassionate response to the challenges of the world.
Transformative Education integrates complexity, non-linearity and systems thinking into all of our work – helping us all to live well in a world of systems