Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Our World Changes

Available for Kindle and Nook

In early October, 2001, when we were all still reeling from the attacks of September 11, I put pen to paper, to deal with my sense that the world had fundamentally changed. I started to write, because that's what I always do when faced with events in my life that I don't understand and am not coping with. I'm a writer, and writers write to make sense of their world.

And before long, I realized that the reason I felt the world had changed in fundamental ways, was because it had. I had a strong feeling that we were in the midst of a world-wide transition of such dramatic proportions that it might be the type of change complex systems scientists refer to as a bifurcation.

During a bifurcation, the attractor that characterizes the dynamics of a system changes abruptly and discontinuously, and the forces that governed the behavior of that system also change in fundamental ways. What used to organize the systems workings and operations, no longer does, and what has replaced that previous organizing force is not immediately obvious.

Because I knew that bifurcations are extremely disruptive but also indicate that a new organizing principle is coming into existence, I realized that the chaos and confusion we were experiencing was only temporary, as was the sense of unity and singular purpose that many of us also felt. A new world was coming into existence and we didn't yet know what it was, although those first few weeks held many clues about the new reality we would soon come to refer to as the "post-9/11 world."

Now, almost ten years later, it seems as if we might be closing a chapter in that post-9/11 story. The death of Osama bin Laden has brought to a conclusion one of the defining characteristics of the new world that came into existence that day, and just as it was nearly ten years ago, we really have no idea what the new world that awaits us will be like. The ongoing popular uprisings in the middle east and north Africa provide more than a hint of evidence that our world is going through another bifurcation.

A few days ago, I re-issued the essay that I wrote in those early weeks following September 11, 2001, this time in electronic form for the Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook e-readers, formats that didn't even exist at the time this essay was first drafted. The essay, originally published by the Institute of Noetic Sciences in their print publication, IONS Review, was widely distributed, and even translated into Spanish at one point. 

The scientific language has changed somewhat (the field was known as "nonlinear science" or even "chaos science" back then, but most people now refer to it as "complexity science") but I have decided to leave the old language intact. Despite the slight change in language, the concepts remain extremely relevant, and can help us navigate through turbulent times in society as well as weather the dramatic upheavals we all experience in our personal lives. 

If you don't own a Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook reader, you can still read this essay using one of the free Nook apps or free Kindle apps available for almost any computer platform.

Finally, I would like to send a big Thank You to IONS for publishing my essay in the first place and for permission to re-issue it at this time. Check the IONS website for more details about their ongoing work in the juicy interface between science, spirituality, religion and consciousness studies.