BY: T. Franklin Murphy | February 2019
What is a Complexity?
Life is complex, full of unpredictable moving parts. Our successful navigation of this wondrous existence demands flexibility and creativity.
Innumerable particles move, interact, and dance through our lives. Life is more than complicated—it’s complex. A complicated organization is one with many moving parts; but each part follows predictable patterns. Our lives have any predictable elements but also many undefined elements interfering and changing patterns. Life flow in unpredictable ways. Life is complex.
Because of complexity, we must adapt with flexibility, developing skills to respond to the vast array of possibilities. Life complexity renders traditional tactics of manipulation and control ineffective. We try to simplify life with all-encompassing theories of cause; but our limited capacity to evaluate the trillions of impacting factors limits accuracy, and we often are disappointed. This requires that we stop, expend cognitive energy reevaluating the circumstances and the resume our movement in a new direction. Our growing experience and developing complexity of responses reduces the fear of the unpredictable, providing a larger selection of tools to draw from when faced with adversity, leaning less of on protective mechanisms for stability.
"Organized by the three billion bases of our genome and shaped by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, the brain is a network of unimaginable intricacy: a hundred billion neurons linked by a hundred trillion connections, woven into a convoluted three-dimensional architecture. Humbling, too, is the complexity of what it does." Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate
Embracing complexity, instead of denying it, prepares our minds for the possibility of re-evaluations when life charges unpredictably in a foreign direction. Instead of growth-delaying blaming, we seek creative responses. As we become better acquainted with complexity, we gain in wisdom, seeing life with a wider perspective, less willing to jump to silly and simplified solutions. These changes create the flourishing life we seek. Protecting the ego through continual internal nudges to be perfect seem foolish in a world where we can never be an expert. This humbleness smooths the road to seeking advice from experts in knowledge domains outside of our limited exposures.
Flourishing is more than simple biological survival. It means to live in fullness, without wasting time and potential on the pettiness, while participating intimately in the complex cosmos. Complexity strikes fear for many; but for those desiring to flourish, it unleashes great moments of awe.
FLS Website search:
Visit: Complexity Article Archives
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1994) The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium. Harper Perennial; Reprint edition
- Pinker, S. (2003) The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Penguin Books; Reprint edition
- Valiant, G. E. (1998) Adaptation to Life. Harvard University Press; Reprint edition.
You may enjoy these timeless articles from FLS: